Spain suffers its own “populist moment”

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) has re-elected Pedro Sánchez as leader with 50% of the votes, just eight months after he was ousted from the post in a power struggle with rival leaders. He takes back control of a party in severe difficulties that has lost the past three general elections. When Spain’s housing and credit bubble burst in 2008, the left-wing PSOE, which was then in government, was forced to take unpopular measures. It has since lost almost half of its traditional voters to the far-left party Podemos.

Sánchez is expected to respond by shifting PSOE further to the left. Hence his victory “places the PSOE in one of the most difficult situations in its long history”, says El País. “The return of a secretary general with such a legacy of electoral defeat [and] ideological swings can’t but be cause for… concern… Spain has finally suffered its own populist moment.”

Those fears may be overdone, says Marcus Ashworth on Bloomberg Gadfly.“It’s unlikely Sanchez will have much impact, at least in the near-term… Neither he nor his party are opponents of the European project, so he isn’t an existential challenge to the EU like Marine Le Pen.”

Still, it raises questions about the future of the minority government of Mariano Rajoy and the conservative People’s Party, which depend on support from PSOE, says Diego Torres on Politico. Sánchez “refused to endorse” Rajoy and his win now promises a “tougher stance”, which Rajoy is unlikely to accept. Hence Spain may soon be heading for an early general election. 

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