• Second-largest Socialist affiliate party seen as key to PSOE leadership victory
• Sánchez tells supporters ‘Spain is a nation of nations and Catalonia is a nation’
Candidates in the Socialist party (PSOE) leadership elections are turning their attention to winning the vote of party activists in Catalonia, where the 14,332 members of the PSOE-affiliated Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC, or Socialists’ Party of Catalonia) account for more than 7 percent of the PSOE’s total 187,000 activists nationwide.
Former party general secretary Pedro Sánchez, who prior to his ouster in an internal party coup in October had received solid backing from PSC activists and party leaders in his opposition to the conservative governing Partido Popular (PP) of President Mariano Rajoy, played to Catalan nationalist sentiment in a campaign event in Barcelona on Saturday. At a rally of more than 2,500 supporters at Barcelona’s old Fabra i Coats factory, now a stylish events venue, Sánchez told the crowd “For me, Spain is a nation of nations and Catalonia is a nation,” echoing the position of both the Catalan Socialists and the PSOE’s national leftwing rival, anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can).
Sánchez’s pro-Catalan message contracts with that of his main rival, Andalucian President Susana Díaz, who repeatedly stresses Spanish national unity in her campaign appearances and, as the principal leader of the Catalan Socialists’ rival regional PSOE affiliate in Andalucia, generally has a negative image among PSC activists. Díaz, who has been identified as one of the main organizers of the internal leadership coup that toppled Sánchez last year, reportedly has a has a team of 200 supporters on the ground in Catalonia in an effort to turn around her negative image there.