Sánchez tries to close the succession debate in the PSOE

Pedro Sánchez continues trying to fill the communication and discourse void left by his five days of communication blackout. The President of the Government has gone from absolute silence to an unusual loquacity to clear up the uncertainty that his period of reflection sowed, aware that the appearance he offered on Monday at the Moncloa Palace – in which he confirmed that he would continue as head of the Executive – did not provide sufficient basis to support such an exercise of irresponsibility. Those around the president defend that behind his vocation to make the country think there is a “great national cause” to advance democratic regeneration pending with pressing challenges such as the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) or the danger of the misinformation. However, despite the efforts to try to politically dress the president's latest twist in the script, the consequences of his move are deeper than expected. Even for him.

Within the PSOE the confusion continues. If, as this newspaper published yesterday, there are leaders who question that this time it has gone “too far”, greatly straining a party that until now had not shown symptoms of weakness or fissures with its leader, Sánchez's public pronouncements in recent hours do not make this sensation of vertigo subside. The president described on TVE on Monday as “five very gratifying days” the anguishing hours in which his party held its breath in the face of the certain risk of being beheaded. Sánchez was referring to the signs of support received, ignoring the fear that ran through the socialist federations, and also recognized that “he was indirectly seeking a reaction from the citizens.” Furthermore, he assured that he made the decision to remain in office during the early hours of Saturday, after the mobilization at the gates of Ferraz, but he pushed the deadline until early Monday morning to communicate it to his hard core and, subsequently, to all Spaniards.

Therefore, far from being reinforced, the risky maneuver of threatening to resign and leave has highlighted the seams of Sánchez's hyper-leadership in the PSOE and the lack of an alternative. In the party they looked for a few hours into the abyss of a solution that left them without a general secretary and posed a scenario of dissolution of the Cortes without a clear candidate to present in the elections. It was all speculation, but with a president who did not emit any reassuring signals, sufficiently founded to abruptly and improvisedly open the succession debate.

Since he regained the reins of the PSOE in 2017, Sánchez has maintained tight control of the party and, except for minority dissenting voices, there is no current with enough weight to put up a fight. There is also no candidate called to succeed him, because until last Wednesday his leadership was not in discussion. And it was precisely the president himself who opened that melon. Also taking note of those who for a few hours began to move in that succession key.

The post-Sánchez stage began on Wednesday and aware of the internal significance of his feint, the President of the Government took advantage of his intervention yesterday on the Ser channel to convey a message of continuity. The socialist leader then ignored the “gratifying” nature of the weekend's displays of support and focused on revealing how hard the last few days have been. “I have had a very bad time, I have slept little and I have eaten less,” he said.

At this point and with the intention of settling the succession debate that he himself has caused, Sánchez asserted that he sees himself with the “necessary strength, drive and support necessary to face one of the essential debates of every democrat, and that is how “Defend democracy in the 21st century, in the face of the rise of a reactionary wave that wants to impose its regressive agenda by destroying the adversary and not by convincing the goodness of its political proposals.” What's more, he says he feels “in the mood for these three years and whatever the Spaniards want with their vote.” “Of course, if the Spanish and my party want me to continue being responsible and the leader of the Socialist Party, as long as I have the desire, convictions and ideas of transformation for my country, I am going to do it,” he added. That is, from considering resigning on Wednesday to finding himself in a position to endure another seven more years – the remaining three, plus another term – in power. The problem is that the rocky leader has shown his vulnerability and has projected a scenario in which he is not at the head of the party. That moment will come and there are already those who take positions for when it happens.