Mark Nayler

The Spanish left is a defeated force

There aren’t many certainties in the maelstrom of Spanish politics at the moment, but there is one: that the left, for now at least, is a defeated force. A civil war within the PSOE, the traditional Socialist party, resulted in the resignation of its leader Pedro Sanchez a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, radical hard-left newcomer Unidos Podemos is suffering its own identity crisis, and has been unable to capitalise on the surge of anti-establishment feeling that brought it to prominence in last December’s general election.

Perhaps the only other certainty is that the left’s splintering and infighting cannot fail to benefit the traditional Spanish right, represented by the acting Popular Party government. The resignation of Sanchez, who consistently blocked PP leader Mariano Rajoy’s attempts to form the new administration, has suddenly improved the Conservatives’ chances of a second term in power. Rajoy has another opportunity to form a government at the end of this month and, with Sanchez out of the way, he has a better chance of succeeding; but if he fails, the country will head to the polls again in December, for the third time in a year. That possibility, if it materialises, is likely to be disastrous for the PSOE.

So why didn’t Sanchez try harder to form a coalition? The answer is that, whoever he turned to, he would have been left in an impossible position. Team up with the PP in a so-called Grand Coalition and thereby lose grassroots support, or join forces with radical newcomers Unidos Podemos, alienating the party’s more pragmatic centrist members as a result? The PSOE leader’s resignation, unavoidable as it eventually became, has not diffused this dilemma for the Socialists, nor has it helped to resolve the internal conflicts that are tearing the party apart.

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