• Sánchez collects surprise 57,369 signatures of support against 63,610 for Díaz
• Ousted Socialist leader relies on activists across Spain in bid to return to power
As Socialist party (PSOE) candidates Pedro Sánchez, Susana Díaz and Patxi López enter the final stretch in the run-up to leadership elections on 21st May, Díaz partisans received a shock at the weekend when the recount of signatures of support from party militants presented by each of the candidates’ teams revealed that expected widespread support for Díaz candidacy is lagging against a surge of support for former PSOE secretary-general and leadership rival Sánchez.
In her campaign to become the next leader of Spain’s Socialists, Díaz has marshalled the backing of important regional PSOE leaders as well as the party’s old-guard leadership, including former Presidents Felipe Gónzalez and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. In an effort to demonstrate the strength of her candidacy, the Díaz campaign team had been boasting in recent weeks that in the collection of the requisite minimum number of signatures from among 187,000 registered PSOE members needed for any candidate to stay in the race, they would collect as many as double the number of signatures as Sánchez, who was ousted from the PSOE leadership last October in an internal party coup engineered by Díaz and other regional party bosses.
Instead, an initial count of signatures on Thursday showed support from militants nationwide for Sanchez had narrowed the gap dramatically and the final recount of signatures presented by the candidates’ campaigns showed Sánchez with a total of 57,369 signatures against just 63,610 for Díaz, with the third leadership candidate Patxi López lagging far behind with just 10,866 signatures, barely clearing the minimum number required to remain a contender.
Sánchez actually bested Díaz in 11 of Spain’s 19 regional circumscriptions, including Asturias, Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Canarias, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia, Navarra, the Basque Country and Melilla. Díaz might well have lost the signature contest had it not been for support from her political stronghold of Andalucia, where as regional President she holds sway and manged to collect 26,551 signatures, accounting for 43 percent of all the signatures she managed collected nationwide.