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Socialist leadership changes but their stance on Catalonia's self-determination does not

Madrid-born Pedro Sánchez won the primaries of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) with 48% of the votes and will be elected the party's new Secretary General, replacing Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Meanwhile, Miquel Iceta received 85% of the votes and will replace Pere Navarro as the new Secretary General of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), being the only candidate in these primaries. Both of them share the previous leaderships' views on Catalonia's self-determination process: they oppose independence and November's consultation vote. Both the PSOE and the PSC held elections on Sunday but the primaries' winners will be officially elected by the emergency party congresses to be held over the next two weekends. Sánchez defeated Eduardo Madina (36%) and José Antonio Pérez Tápias (15%), who was the only candidate fully supporting Catalonia's self-determination vote and shaping Spain as a pluri-national state.

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14 July 2014 09:07 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Both the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – which is federated to the first one – held primary elections on Sunday to choose their new leaders. The two people elected – Pedro Sánchez and Miquel Iceta – share the previous leaderships' views regarding Catalonia's self-determination process: the PSOE and the PSC oppose independence and, while the PSC officially supports self-determination, it followed the PSOE's pressures and it is opposed to launch any initiative in this direction. Madrid-born Pedro Sánchez won the PSOE primaries with 48% of the votes and the strong support from Andalucía's President, Susana Díaz. He will be elected the party's new Secretary General in the emergency party congress to be held on the 26th and 27th of July, replacing Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who announced his resignation the day after the European Elections. Sánchez defeated Eduardo Madina (36%), who won in Catalonia, and José Antonio Pérez Tápias (15%), who was the only candidate to lead the PSOE proposing a true change and fully supporting Catalonia's self-determination vote and shaping Spain as a pluri-national state. Furthermore, in Barcelona, Miquel Iceta received 85% of the votes to become the PSC's new Secretary General, being the only candidate in the Catalan Socialists' primaries. Half of the PSC members voted and 15% of those who cast their ballot filed a NOTA vote. Iceta will replace Pere Navarro, who resigned in early June in the middle of the party's worst crisis, with extremely poor electoral results and many members leaving the party because of Navarro's opposition to the Catalan self-determination process. However, no great changes are to be expected in this front. Iceta also opposes Catalonia's independence and the consultation vote scheduled for the 9th of November, following an agreement of a majority of Catalan parties. However, Iceta suggested holding a consultation vote about launching a Constitutional Reform at Spanish level aiming to shape a federal system and grant Catalonia greater self-government levels while it stays within Spain. And Sánchez stated on Sunday evening he is "an enemy of those rejecting the union and living-togetherness of Spain's peoples".


Therefore, despite the leadership change both in Madrid and Barcelona, the Socialists continue to support the same stances regarding Catalonia's independence and the consultation vote. Both Sánchez and Iceta have the challenge to build a credible alternative to the current Centre-Right cabinets running the Spanish and Catalan Governments. In addition, Iceta has the challenge to avoid a scission within the PSC, integrating those members in favour of holding a self-determination vote in Catalonia and, at the same time, imposing his authority to oppose it. On Monday he said that he welcomes critical voices but that the party's Executive Board cannot be "a bird's cage". As a symbolic gesture, Iceta asked the Mayor of Lleida, Angel Ros - who is close to many critical voices - to become the new party Chairman.

On the same day, both the PSOE and the PSC held their primary elections to choose their new Secretaries General. It is the first time the two parties have held such a procedure to elect their new leader, although the winners – Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) and Miquel Iceta (PSC) – will still have to be officially elected by the respective party congresses, which have been called specially for this purpose. After the extremely poor results obtained by the PSOE last May in the European Parliament elections, the party's Secretary General, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba announced his resignation in order to give the party a new impulse and direction. A few days later, the PSC's Secretary General was doing the same thing, after weeks of strong internal pressures and the threat of an immediate scission by those supporting Catalonia's right to self-determination.

Change of leadership in the middle of the PSOE and PSC's worst crises

In fact, the PSOE and, to a greater extent, the PSC are going through their worst crisis in decades, after they were running both the Spanish and Catalan Governments until 2011 and 2010 respectively. Since that moment, both the PSOE and the PSC have been obtaining their worst results in each election that has been organised. However, the PSC is in an even weaker position, with even poorer results, being overtaken by other parties and struggling in the middle of Catalonia's self-determination debate. In fact, due to the party leadership's opposition to the ongoing process, a significant part of the PSC members have abandoned the party in the last few years, particularly in rural Catalonia. In addition, prominent figures of the party, who contributed to its foundation and hold ministerial positions in the Catalan Government, have quit the organisation or have strongly criticised Navarro's leadership and project, particularly regarding the self-determination issue.

The PSC's mess around Catalonia's self-determination

In the Catalan Parliament elections of November 2012, which were held 2 months after the 1.5 million strong demonstration that asked for Catalonia's independence from Spain and to become a new EU Member State, the PSC ran and promised the organisation of a "legal" self-determination vote. Furthermore, the party has been recognising Catalonia's right to self-determination since its foundation, in 1977; such a right was also supported by the PSOE in the 1970s (a stance shared by Felipe González and Alfonso Guerra at the time), during the Transition from dictatorship to democracy, although the Spanish party is now openly against it. Despite the electoral promise, the PSOE increased its pressures on the PSC's leadership in 2013 to oppose the organisation of a self-determination vote in Catalonia and it succeeded. In January 2014 the PSC voted against the Catalan Parliament's bill to organise a legal self-determination referendum with the agreement of the Spanish authorities, totally contradicting its electoral engagements. A small group of PSC MPs opposed the party's instructions and supported the bill, which was widely approved and sent to Madrid, where it was rejected in April. The PSC's leadership decided to marginalise the rebel MPs, who were resisting abandoning the party.

Finally, after the European elections, this group of MPs and other prominent figures signed a manifesto announcing the creation of a platform that might split from the PSC and run separately in the 2015 municipal elections. After a few days of internal struggles to stop the haemorrhage, Navarro decided to quit as he was unable to control the party and keep it united. Initially PSC figures suggested the Mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramanet (Greater Barcelona), Núria Parlón – a young and promising politician – to lead the party. However, after acknowledging that she will not be able to reform the party the way she would like due to internal resistances from members of the current leadership, Parlón decided not to run to lead the party. After long hours of chaos and without people willing to lead the PSC, the veteran Miquel Iceta, who has been in a discrete position for the last two years after having been the party's brains for the last two decades, proposed himself to become the new Secretary General. On Sunday, he obtained 85% from half of the PSC members (those who voted). Now, Iceta will have the challenge to stop the haemorrhage of members quitting the party, to integrate those supporting a self-determination vote and to impose his authority, while dealing with Catalonia' self-determination issue and proposing a Constitutional Reform that is blocked by the People's Party, which runs the Spanish Government.

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  • Miquel Iceta (left) and Angel Ros (right) a few weeks ago (by R. Garrido)

  • Miquel Iceta (left) and Angel Ros (right) a few weeks ago (by R. Garrido)