Susana Díaz faces trouble in Andalucia following defeat

Andalucian Socialist leader Susana Díaz concedes defeat in PSOE leadership election. Photo: EFE/Javier Lizón via Público
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• Elections showed more anti-Díaz feeling within regional party than anticipated
• Tenuous regional gov’t pact with Ciudadanos complicated by election results

Following her defeat Sunday in the national leadership elections of Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE), Andalucian Socialist leader and regional president Susana Díaz faces a doubly difficult situation in her regional stronghold, where a surprisingly strong showing by Pedro Sánchez wrested 31 percent of the Socialist vote away from the Andalucian leader and triggered questions about her continued hold on the reigns of power at the regional government level and within her own local party.

Andalucia, where the regional Socialist party’s 45,848 votes comprise a huge chunk of the total 187,949 total registered Socialists nationwide, was considered a critical territory for Díaz to win in the national PSOE leadership election and the regional leader did not disappoint, polling 63.9 percent of total ballots cast by Andalucian Socialists. While her support in Andalucia was insufficient against the nationwide upwelling of support for Sánchez, it was also lower than her campaign expected and the fact that Díaz lost 31 percent of the vote to Sánchez and an additional 5 percent to former Basque regional president Patxi López points to what analysts are saying is an underlying weakness in her regional administration and party leadership.

Firstly, say analysts, although the Socialists have always held the governing majority in Andalucia since the return to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Díaz’s hold on power in the regional Andalucian parliament remains tenuous and reliant on a delicate governing pact struck with centre-right party Ciudadanos in the face of constant challenge from the Socialists’ leftwing rival, anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can), which is strong in Andalucia.

Secondly, they note, the votes cast for Sánchez and López in Andalucia on Sunday are seen to reflect more the strong anti-Díaz sentiment than strong support for either of her opponents, with that negative sentiment said to be the product of the Andalucian leader having made so many enemies within her own party in her rise to regional leadership. The regional press in Andalucia had noted grumbling among Andalucian Socialists when Díaz announced her run for the national leadership post and that discontent seems to have manifested itself in the so-called anti-Díaz vote in Sunday’s election, which exceeded 30 percent in five of the region’s eight provinces and was as high as 39 percent in Cadiz and 34 percent in Malaga.

In her concession speech in Madrid Sunday night, Díaz took the unusual step of assembling her entire Andalucian campaign team behind her on the platform and explicitly thanked all the Andalucians who had supported her in her campaign. Now having returned home to Sevilla following her defeat, it has become clear that she does not enjoy the support of a large percentage of Andalucian Socialists even as her government will undoubtedly face mounting pressure in the regional parliament from both left-wing rival Podemos and the local affiliate of conservative Partido Popular (PP) that currently governs at the national level.

► Read More in Spanish at Público, El Confidencial and El Diario …

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