April 13. 2024. 5:24

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Spanish labour minister announces PM candidacy amid rift in left camp


Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz’s candidacy announcement with new political platform Sumar on Sunday was tainted by a dispute within her party, Unidas Podemos, exposing a dangerous political schism in the left camp, which could be exploited by the right and the far-right ahead of two decisive elections.

“Today I am going to take a step forward: I want to be the first female president of our country,” Díaz said in her official presentation as a candidate with Sumar in Madrid. “We are going to make it”, she added, amidst shouts and applause from the 3,000 people who accompanied her in the launch event, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

Former Unidas Podemos founder and former Minister Pablo Iglesias once considered Díaz his “natural successor”. But the time of “wine and roses” between them is over and the drums of war are rumbling in the camp on the left of centre-left ruling PSOE (S&D).

Spain will hold municipal and regional elections on 28 May, and the country is scheduled to hold general elections in December, right at the end of its presidency of the EU Council, which begins in July.

The latest polls point to a victory for the socialist party (PSOE/S&D), which currently governs in coalition with Unidas Podemos (GUE-NGL). However, other polls predict a possible alliance government between the centre-right Popular Party (PP/EPP) and the far-right Vox party (ECR), which rule together in the Castilla and León region.

The presentation of Díaz’s candidacy was preceded by several weeks of controversy, with the party’s secretary general and Social Rights minister, Ione Belarra, pressing her to guarantee the left-wing formation of a robust representation in Sumar, which aims to be a political alternative to centre-left PSOE.

But Díaz repeated on Sunday several times that she does not belong to anyone but “only to the best of our country,” in a clear message to Belarra, who on Saturday urged her to accept Unidas Podemos “conditions” to join forces.

“Yolanda Díaz has it in her hand that tomorrow (Sunday) Podemos will be at the presentation of her candidacy (…) It is enough that this very afternoon Podemos and Sumar sign a declaration in which we commit ourselves to hold open primaries to choose the best team”, Belarra had told her colleagues.

However, Díaz responded that she would not agree to any bilateral agreement with Unidas Podemos on open primary elections.

A schism in the Spanish left camp?

Instead, Díaz offered Unidas Podemos a commitment that there would be primaries, although the specific formula would be agreed upon later by all the forces that joined her project in Sumar, she stressed.

As a tangible result of the rivalry between both left-wing politicians, Podemos’ leaders were not present in the presentation, attended by a dozen of left-wing political formations at a national and regional level.

The general coordinator of Izquierda Unida (IU) and Minister for Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, defended on Sunday the need for the new progressive platform and asked Unidas Podemos to join it, although he also played down Podemo’s absence in the event.

“I honestly do not envisage the possibility of Podemos not being in the space that is being built; obviously that option would not be good for the country as a whole”, Garzón stressed.

Putting citizens first

Barcelonian Mayor Ada Colau (from left-wing Barcelona en Comú), present at the launch event, urged more support for Díaz to become “the first progressive woman president of Spain: “it’s about time!”

The event was attended by top leaders of IU, Más País, Los Comunes, Compromís, Chunta aragonesista, Batzarre, Drago, Verdes Equo, Movimiento por la Dignidad y la Ciudadanía de Ceuta and the European Green Party.

Several Unidas Podemos’ regional leaders attended, but not on behalf of the left-wing party.

Sumar proposes to put citizens at the centre of all political actions and make them aware that a different way of making politics is possible.

The left-wing alliance defends the need for more political alternatives than the traditional PSOE and PP. The two-party system “is a failed form of politics that they (both parties) want to resurrect, and that does not solve the problems,” Díaz said recently.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)