Spain’s Socialists choose new leader

MADRID: Spain’s bitterly divided Socialist party voted on Sunday to choose a new leader, in a poll that may determine if conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s minority government will last. The contest is widely seen as a two-way race between Susana Diaz, the president of the southern region of Andalusia, and former party leader Pedro Sanchez who was ousted in a rancorous internal rebellion. Diaz, 42, is the establishment favourite and is seen as more amenable to striking deals with the government if she wins the primary while Sanchez, 45, promises a more adversarial approach.

Rajoy’s minority Popular Party (PP) government has relied on the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), the main opposition party, to pass key measures in parliament since it was sworn in for a second term in October 2016. But Sanchez would have “a more fraught relationship” with the government and the risk of snap elections would increase with him in charge of the Socialists, Eurasia Group analyst Federico Santi said. “If Sanchez wins, I expect that within a year, a year-and-a-half at most, Rajoy will call early elections,” added a former PSOE strategist.

Nearly 190,000 card-carrying members of the PSOE are eligible to vote in the leadership primary at 2,900 polling stations nationwide, with the results expected after 9:00 pm (1900 GMT). At a polling station in Moncloa, west of Madrid, close to the party’s main headquarters, a representative said that by noon almost a quarter of the 260 people registered there had cast their ballots. “We’ve lost our way for some time,” said 71-year-old pensioner Arturo Rivero, who joined the party in 1978, and who said he voted for Diaz. — AFP

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