Sánchez Makes Good on Promise to Move Spain’s Socialists to the Left

The party has changed its mind about a European trade agreement with Canada.

Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Pedro Sánchez is making good on his promise to move Spain’s Socialist Party to the left.

In the clearest sign yet of a new program, the Socialists refused to vote for a European trade pact with Canada in the national legislature last week.

Their deputies in the European Parliament did endorse the treaty when it came up for a vote there in February.

The ruling conservatives managed to ratify the treaty anyway with support from smaller parties in the center. But the Socialists’ abstention is a sign of things to come.

Sánchez has also made overtures to Podemos, prompting the People’s Party’s number three, Fernando Martínez-Maillo, to accuse him of competing with the far-left leader, Pablo Iglesias, “to see who is more extremist.”

Division on the left

Sánchez won back the Socialist Party leadership in May after he was ousted by moderates last year.

The moderates argued for accommodation with the minority center-right government of Mariano Rajoy, fearing that centrist voters might otherwise defect to his People’s Party.

Sánchez and his supporters, by contrast, fear more left-wing voters will switch to Podemos if they don’t take a harder line.

Division on the far left

Podemos itself is divided between purists and pragmatists, which could give Sánchez a chance to pry voters away from it.

Iglesias saw off a leadership challenge from his deputy, Iñigo Errejón, earlier this year.

Errejón had argued for an anti-Rajoy pact with the Socialists. Iglesias rejects cooperation with all the established parties.