Sánchez scores big comeback win in Socialist elections

Pedro Sánchez (center) in post-election photo Sunday with Susana Díaz and Patxi López. Photo: EFE/Javier Lizón via Público

• Ousted party leader relies on Socialist bases to win 50.2% absolute majority
• Sánchez beat rival Díaz in all regions but one, puts party old-guard on back foot

In a remarkable comeback following his ouster from the top leadership post of Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE) in an internal coup last October, Pedro Sánchez on Sunday won re-election to the post of secretary-general of his party with an absolute 50.21 percent majority vote, revindicating his staunch opposition last year to returning Spanish president Mariano Rajoy of the conservative governing Partido Popular (PP) to power and providing Sánchez with a clear mandate to counter the maneuverings of the party’s old-guard leadership and regional powerbrokers that dogged his previous stint leading the PSOE.

In a record 79.90 percent turnout of the 187,949 registered Socialist party members nationwide, Sánchez polled beyond all expectations to capture 50.21 percent of all ballots cast versus 39.94 percent for his nearest rival, Andalucian Socialist party leader and regional president Susana Díaz. Finishing third, as expected, was former Basque regional president (Lehendakari) Patxi López, with just 9.85 of the vote. In the final vote count, Sánchez beat Díaz in every one of Spain’s 17 regions and autonomous communities, with the sole exception being Díaz’s home turf of Andalucia, where Sánchez nevertheless managed to capture 30 percent of the vote.

In what was a tough, uphill battle following his ouster in October, Sánchez fought his way back against the serious disadvantage of having no regional or central party apparatus at his disposal, campaigning as an outsider reliant on the support and enthusiasm of the party’s bases to overcome the solid backing from the party’s historic old-guard leadership and regional Socialist power-brokers that had lined up behind Susana Díaz.

Sunday’s results are also effectively a defeat for the regional presidents and powerbrokers in each of the regions that lined up to support Díaz in the internal coup that ousted Sánchez last year, including Javier Fernández, president of Asturias and head of the interim caretaker committee that succeded Sanchez; Javier Lambán, president of Aragón; Ximo Puig, president of Valencia; Guillermo Fernández Vara, Extremadura; and Emiliano García-Page of Castilla-La Mancha.

The results are also being seen as a rejection by the Socialist bases of former party leaders and Spanish presidents Felipe González and Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Both of the historic old-guard leaders of the party broke their silence last autumn and came out strongly against Sánchez for his refusal as then-secretary-general to mandate an abstention by PSOE deputies in Congress to enable a return to power by Rajoy. Following the coupt against Sánchez, both González and Rodríguez Zapatero were joined by a handful of other former party leaders, including ex-secretary general Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, in endorsing Díaz and campaigning on her behalf and against Sánchez in the PSOE leadership contest.

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