Sánchez, critics face-off set for Saturday meeting

PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez arrives to party headquarters on Thursday. Photo: El Pais
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•Sánchez hangs on, despite attempted coup by critics led by Susana Díaz
• Federal Committee meeting Saturday may decide leader’s fate, party’s future

The leader of Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, staved off an attempted coup by regional PSOE chieftains and the party’s old guard on Thursday, with Sánchez and his critics headed for a showdown over his repeated refusal to cast the party’s votes in Congress as abstentions that would allow acting-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Partido Popular (PP) to form the next government.

Led by the PSOE’s Andalucian President Susana Díaz, critics of Sánchez and his leadership team claim he has lost legitimacy and on Wednesday and Thursday staged what appear to have been two carefully orchestrated acts designed to gain maximum media attention and erode support for the party leader.

First, Díaz’s right hand in Andalucia and member of the PSOE’s Federal Executive Committee, Antonio Pradas, arrived at the party headquarters in Madrid with the resignation signatures of 17 members  of the Executive Committee, claiming that Sánchez did not have a majority on the committee to convene a full 300-member Federal Committee meeting on Saturday, a meeting Sánchez called Monday to debate his bid to continue as leader, lock in the party’s resistance to Rajoy and convene a full party Congress in the coming weeks. The move by Prades was a miscalculation, however, as PSOE statutes state if the Executive Committee has any vacancies (it currently has three vacant seats) the Executive Committee can only be dissolved by the party’s 300-member Federal Committee — a meeting that is precisely what Sanchez has called for.

Next, close friend of Susana Díaz and President of the PSOE in Sevilla, Veronica Pérez, who also serves as the titular head of the party’s Federal Committee that is to meet Saturday, arrived at the party’s Madrid headquarters Thursday morning proclaiming that the 17 resignations had effectively dissolved the PSOE’s Federal Executive — the remaining members of which were meeting at that moment with Sánchez inside — and she was now the sole authority in the party. She was not allowed past the lobby of the PSOE headquarters. At the end of the meeting of the reduced Federal Executive, party Organization Secretary Cesar Lueno announced the Federal Committee meeting had been convened for Saturday.

Susana Díaz held her own meeting of the Andalucian party in Sevilla on Thursday, telling those assembled that the party needs to come together, without saying whether she would challenge Sánchez’s leadership directly. She also failed to define her position on whether the party should abstain and allow Rajoy to form the next government.

With the Sánchez team having convened the 300-member Federal Commitee meeting for Saturday and the critics led by the Andalucians claiming Sánchez and the remaining Federal Executive members had no legitimacy to do so, it is not clear how many Federal Committee members will attend on Saturday or if the meeting will be disrupted by either side. Already, supporters of Sanchez in Valencia have mounted protests outside the party offices there and Catalan Socialists have announced they are chartering buses to take party members to Madrid to protest in support of Sánchez.

► Read More in Spanish at 20minutos and El País …

► Read More in English at El País and The Guardian …

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