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Spain's Socialist leader resigns amid party revolt

Javier Soriano, AFP | Pedro Sanchez's ouster may remove the last hurdle to the formation of another conservative government under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The embattled head of the Spanish Socialists Pedro Sanchez resigned Saturday after losing a vote among top party members, in a move that could end the country's political paralysis.


Members of the bitterly divided Socialist federal committee were meeting to decide whether to open up a leadership race in October, as proposed by Sanchez, or oust him.

Shouts could be heard from outside the party headquarters in the capital, Madrid, as members argued during a tumultuous 10-hour debate. One person stormed out before the end saying the party was "broken" and Sanchez eventually lost by 132 votes to 107.

His resignation, which he announced shortly after, could see the party lift its veto on a new government led by acting conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Since December 2015, the country has been without a fully functioning executive as rivals have failed to agree on a government following two elections in which none of the main parties won an absolute majority.

Rajoy, whose Popular Party (PP) won both elections though without enough seats to rule alone, has been forced into negotiating a minority government that was voted down by lawmakers in a vote of confidence earlier this month.

That may change in the coming days if a Socialist management committee appointed to replace Sanchez chooses to abstain in a second vote of confidence, rather than oppose Rajoy.

"The management committee may be more amenable to letting Rajoy stay in office," said Sarah Morris, FRANCE 24's correspondent in Madrid.

"There have been a lot of calls from leading Socialists for that to happen, including from former prime ministers," Morris added.


The Socialist PSOE has been wracked for months by internal dissent, and the ill-feeling was evident again Saturday as Sanchez supporters shouted "no means no, no means no".

Dozens of Sanchez backers roundly booed his opponents at the party's headquarters, decrying them as "putschists" and "fascists" as they gathered for the meeting.

Sanchez has steadfastly opposed another Rajoy term, pointing to repeated corruption scandals hitting the PP and inequalities sparked by years of austerity.

"Spain doesn't deserve another four years of Mariano Rajoy at the head of the Spanish government – four more years with a prime minister who has systematically lied to Spanish society," he said Friday.

Sanchez had already hinted he would step down if a majority of those at the federal committee rejected his vision of what direction the party should take – in other words if they favoured abstaining.

"Obviously I could not put into practice a decision that I don't agree with," he said.

His detractors, however, want an end to the political paralysis that has wracked the nation for nine months.

Spain's parliament has until October 31 to produce a government or new elections will be called in December – the third in a year.


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