Can Europe Make It?

Spain’s ousted opposition leader reveals where the real power lies: with the country’s oligarchs

Spain's deposed Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, revealed that banks and newspapers secretly pressured him not to do a deal with Podemos.

Luis Martín
31 October 2016

Demonstrators took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday to protest against Mariano Rajoy’s investiture. (Credit: – CC BY-SA 3.0)

Let Mariano Rajoy stay in power or bring on a third round of elections. Those were the only choices that the former Secretary General of the Socialist Party, Pedro Sánchez, said he was given by the country’s top media and corporate oligarchs in a prime-time interview last night.

Sánchez, who was ousted from his post after a Socialist Party revolt on October 1, announced his resignation as a Member of Parliament in tears last Saturday. Hours later, his fellow socialist MPs abstained in a crucial vote to allow Mariano Rajoy a second term in office.

“No means no”

Following two inconclusive elections, which held the country in political paralysis for almost ten months, Sánchez maintained his party’s firm opposition to a minority government led by Rajoy’s Popular Party. He also persisted in seeking to form a government with other progressive forces in parliament; in essence, a leftist coalition with Podemos with the support of the Catalan pro-independence parties.

But pressure has been mounting both inside and outside the Socialist party to force Sánchez to do a U-turn. In recent weeks, Sánchez became the target of vicious attacks from Spain’s leading newspaper El País, which featured editorials calling him an “unscrupulous fool who would rather destroy the party he has led so calamitously than recognise his enormous failure.”

High-ranking members of the Socialist Party, as well as prominent figures from the party’s past like Felipe González, upped the ante by publicly going against their Secretary General and saying that it was best to let a Rajoy-led government through rather than go to third elections.

Financial and corporate elites unite against a left coalition

During his television interview last night, Sánchez, who became the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party Secretary General in July 2014 after winning the party’s first-ever primary elections, confirmed that his “No means no” campaign against Rajoy had been met with stern pressure from El País.

According to Sánchez, management at the paper ­– which is jointly owned by some of Spain’s most powerful corporations, including the country’s biggest bank – told him that any potential alliance to form a government with Podemos would be met with the harshest response.

Sánchez also cited pressures from IBEX35 corporations, naming the former CEO of Spain’s largest telecoms provider Telefónica, César Alierta, as one of those pushing him to let Rajoy stay in power. “He [Alierta] and others worked together to maintain a conservative government in this country,” Sánchez revealed. He also said that there were also financial groups pressuring him not to form a government with other forces of the Left, but declined to disclose their identities.

That real political power in Spain lies with the financial and corporate establishment will not be news to many Spaniards. However, that such a “revelation” came from the person who led one of the country’s two main parties until just a few days ago is quite astonishing.

Minutes after Sánchez’s interview was aired, Podemos’ Secretary General praised his former socialist rival’s courage on Twitter. Iglesias has long railed against the de-facto hijacking of Spain’s democratic processes by oligarchs entrenched in a battle for survival since the outbreak of the crisis back in 2008.

Spain’s future: a weak government, a fragmented parliament and Brussels growing impatient

As the Socialist Party crumbles like Greece’s PASOK, and Mariano Rajoy is forced to steam ahead with further budget adjustments ordered by Brussels, it is hard to see how Spain’s resistance to the troika’s diktats can take place with a fragmented parliament.

Meanwhile, Sànchez has announced his intention to travel the country in an attempt to galvanise his party’s grassroots and gain support to run again.

Originally published at

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Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

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