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Spain: Despite the first lady affair: Sánchez remains head of government

Spain: Despite the first lady affair: Sánchez remains head of government

Pedro Sánchez once again lives up to his reputation as a shrewd strategist. He quickly turns a crisis into an opportunity. Is he a champion against political mudslinging? Or is it all just a show?

After threatening to resign and withdrawing from public life for five days, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has redeemed his supporters. The socialist politician said he would remain in office regardless of all unfounded personal attacks on him and his wife. “I have decided, if possible, to continue at the head of the government with even more strength.” Shortly after the 52-year-old said these words in front of the Palacio de la Moncloa in Madrid, anonymous shouts of jubilation rang out from inside the government headquarters.

Following a corruption complaint against his wife Begoña Gómez (49), Sánchez unexpectedly canceled all public appointments last Wednesday, announced a five-day period of reflection on his political future and held out the prospect of resigning. On Honor should resign”.

Decision made together with wife

He revealed that he and his wife made the decision to continue. “My wife and I know that these smear campaigns will not stop. We have been suffering from them for ten years (…). But we can deal with it.” The solidarity rallies held by his supporters over the weekend in Madrid and other cities “made a decisive contribution” to the decision.

Sánchez, who has ruled the fourth-largest EU economy for almost six years and has had to overcome many resistances outside and also within his own socialist party PSOE, has once again proven himself to be a “stand-up man”, a shrewd strategist and political survivor. Unlike other long-successful and charismatic center-left heads of government such as New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern or Portugal’s António Costa, who stumbled over often baseless criticism and accusations, Sánchez did not throw in the towel. The newspaper “El País” (online edition) described him in an analysis as the “man of the eternal comeback”.

A “wake-up call” against smear campaigns

In fact, it is striking, even impressive, how the trained business economist was able to turn the tables after bad news and turn a crisis into an opportunity. Like most recently in May 2023, when he was already declared dead after a terrible defeat by the entire left in regional elections – even by media outlets close to him. However, just one day after the disaster, to everyone’s surprise, he did not resign. He brought forward the parliamentary elections that were actually planned for the end of the year – and his move was successful.

Now, according to supporters and party colleagues at home and abroad (including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva), he is setting the tone again. His period of reflection is a “wake-up call” against smear campaigns, against polarization and against unfounded attacks and advertisements that are increasingly poisoning politics in Spain and other countries, it was said at the PSOE party headquarters in Madrid.

In his speech, Sánchez called for the fight against fake news and for more fair play. And on “regeneration of the system”: “For too long we have allowed politics to become covered in mud,” he said. “Either we say that’s it, or this degradation of public life will determine our future and condemn us as a country,” he shouted in a firm voice. If freedom of expression is confused with freedom of defamation, “this democratic perversion will have catastrophic consequences.”

“Absolute disgrace”

Meanwhile, he was unable to convince the opposition with his speech. Quite the opposite. Politicians from the conservative People’s Party PP spoke of a well-staged “show”. The regional president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, considered one of the most charismatic figures of the conservative Popular Party PP, described Sánchez’s actions as an “absolute disgrace.” The Prime Minister simply wants to govern “without any control.”

The complaint against the head of government’s wife was filed on Wednesday by the organization “Manos Limpias” (Clean Hands), which is classified as very right-wing. The organization, which is close to the right-wing populist party Vox, among others, accuses Gómez, who does not hold public office, of influence and corruption in the economy. “Manos Limpias” later admitted that the ad was based on media reports that could well be false.

Source: Stern

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