Pedro Sánchez became the seventh Prime Minister of Spain since it returned to democracy on 2 June following a dramatic vote of no confidence in Mariano Rajoy. The vote of no confidence was passed by 180 votes to 169 with a single abstention, after yet another revelation of corruption within Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP) caused widespread anger and prompted calls for his resignation. In an impressive feat Mr Sánchez, leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) managed to get seven other parties to vote in line with his own, ousting Mr Rajoy by just four votes.
Despite becoming Spain’s new Prime Minister, the 46 year old will have little time to celebrate. His party holds only 84 of the 350 seats in the congress, meaning getting any substantial reforms passed will be an uphill struggle. Furthermore Mr Sánchez’s minority government will have to listen to what the other parties who voted with the PSOE have to say. He has already agreed not to change the budget set by the PP in exchange for the Basque PNV sup-porting his vote of no confidence. On the same day that Sánchez was sworn in, Spain’s largest single crisis was once again stirring as Catalonia’s newly elected leader Quim Torra demanded crunch talks with the Prime Minister, reaffirming his commitment to Catalonia becoming an independent Republic, something Mr Sánchez has already ruled out.
While Mr Sánchez could remain in power until 2020 he will surely face pressures to call an election before then and prove the PSOE can win through the ballot box. While Pedro Sánchez faces rough seas ahead, Spain’s stubborn socialist’s remarkable political career dares one to think that Sánchez has a chance, and the ability to pull off a political miracle by ensuring that his minority govern-m e n t doesn’t collapse. Less than two years ago Pedro Sánchez was him-self forced to resign after a party revolt in 2016, over his refusal after two inconclusive election results to allow Rajoy to form a new government. Mr Sánchez spent the time touring Spain trying to win his party’s grassroots support and to the horror of the socialist politicians who ousted him he won the party’s leadership race less than seven months later with over 50 per cent of the vote. The challenge will now be whether Mr Sánchez can lead his party out of the poorest election results in its history which it achieved under his time as leader. However, given his remarkable political comeback from ex-PSOE leader to the Prime Minister of Spain and new leader of the PSOE, one should be careful before making any assumptions.
What makes this turn of events all the more astonishing is that similar events took place in Portugal less than three years ago, when the left-wing parties grouped together to oust the Portugal Aheah coalition, replacing them with António Costa, leader of the Socialist Party. Indeed if Mr Sánchez takes a leaf out of his neighbouring socialist’s book he would fare well. Mr Costa has ensured fiscal responsibility while overturning the majority of the austerity reforms passed by his predecessor, his party currently enjoys higher polling than in the last election and Mr Costa has survived a vote of no confidence, retaining the support of the two parties propping up his minority government. Mr Costa shows his neighbours new leader that there can be a successful alternative to the austerity seen across the EU which can lead to economic growth and as Spain needs a decline in unemployment.
Despite the fact that Mr Sánchez faces a political struggle ahead to keep his minority government intact, there’s a clear opportunity for Spain’s PSOE to show voters why they deserve to be elected at the next election. In reality, with such a fragmented political scene Pedro Sánchez will find it difficult to pass any large-scale reforms. But as he has demonstrated by appointing women to 11 out of 17 cabinet positions, giving his administration a 61.1 per cent women to men ratio he can signal what a PSOE government is all about.