Lively debate kicks off final lap of PSOE leadership race

Susana Díaz, Patxi López & Pedro Sánchez (LtoR) in Monday's PSOE leadership debate. Photo: El País via Twitter
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• Díaz, Sánchez & López face off in intense debate prior to leadership elections
• Vote by party membership next Sunday to decide new leader, party’s future

The three candidates in the leadership contest of Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE), Susana Díaz, Pedro Sánchez and Patxi López, participated in a lively televised debate at midday Monday that kicked off a final week of campaigning prior to leadership elections scheduled for Sunday 21st May.

Díaz and Sánchez spent the 1-1/2 hour debate attacking each other on perceived inconsistencies in their track records and statements on issues ranging from the controversial concept of Spain’s pluri-national nature to how to build party unity and take back the government from the conservative Partido Popular (PP) majority of Spanish President Mariano Rajoy. The attacks were at times pointed and even personal, with Sánchez trying to paint Diaz as the candidate of a Socialist party of the past, and Díaz attempting to call into question Sánchez’s trustworthiness and reliability as former party general-secretary.

López clearly positioned himself in the debate as the candidate of the middle-way, attacking in turn both Díaz and Sánchez and making a direct attack on Sánchez over his concept of Spain as a “nation of nations” — a particularly harsh attack that bore the weight of López himself being Basque and a former Socialist lehendakari (president) of the autonomous Basque Country region of Spain.


On the positive side of the debate, Sánchez focused on his vision of the need to modernize the Socialist party, focusing on the youth of the country that have largely abandoned the PSOE in recent years, on adopting the pluri-national concept of Spain in order to win more votes across all autonomous regions and on blocking the PP from government by being prepared to share power nationally in coalition with other left-wing parties, as has been done in neighboring Portugal.

Díaz stressed her longtime militancy in the PSOE and her leadership track record as President of Andalucia, a traditional bastion of support for the Socialists. Over and over again, she hammered home the idea of unity among socialists behind one sole vision and the party’s need for a leader behind which it can unite  as the only means to take on the conservative governing PP and win back the reigns of power for the Socialists.

López, meanwhile, repeatedly called out the other two candidates for arguing over what he called “secondary” issues. He reiterated his call for the PSOE to unite behind a classically socialist economic and political agenda, both in order win back the government from the PP and reaching far beyond Spain to begin, in his words, to remake the European continent both politically and economically along socialist lines.

Neither of the other two candidates spent time attacking López, who is considered far behind in support among party activists after having last week barely cleared the minimum number of signatures of support needed to validate his candidacy. Neither Díaz nor Sánchez appeared ready to alienate López, however, given that his supporters could be crucial for either of the two leading candidates to gain a clear mandate through a majority vote of party members in Sunday’s leadership election.

► Read debate timeline in Spanish at El País, El Mundo and La Vanguardia …

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