“Congresses strain organizations.” The phrase is from a socialist who observes the movements – for weeks much more explicit – in the PSOE before the approach of the 40th Congress. Pedro Sánchez has given unequivocal signals that he is going to print an important change also to the party after having substantially modified the Government to face the second part of the legislature with a new distribution of power.
Profile – Héctor Gómez, a discreet man to give play to the PSOE in Congress
The President has remade his Praetorian Guard in several phases. With the falls and promotions, Sánchez leaves behind old PSOE quarrels, but also penalizes to some extent the internal battles that have been fought between his teams. The socialist president has dropped those who have been his heavyweights during this time and it is what draws the most attention in the socialist ranks: the disappearance of José Luis Ábalos, who was one of those who most encouraged Sánchez to fight to recover the general secretariat in 2017, or the replacement of Adriana Lastra as parliamentary spokesperson who, no matter how much she continues as deputy secretary general, comes out of focus.
But, how is the distribution of socialist power for now? Félix Bolaños has become the government’s strong man. He assumes the coordination of the coalition in substitution of Carmen Calvo, although he has not inherited the rank of vice president so his team is smaller. The PP has already placed him on the target regarding the battle that Pablo Casado is fighting with Sánchez and his refusal to renew the Judicial Power, whose negotiation fell precisely on Bolaños before he was minister.
Sánchez pulls the party’s quarry for the second stage of his mandate with an eye to the electoral processes of 2023 with the incorporation of Isabel Rodríguez, who is the new face of the coalition as well as Minister of Territorial Policy, Pilar Alegría as Minister of Education and Vocational Training, or José Manuel Albares as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In just 50 days at the head of Spanish diplomacy, he has made his debut with a couple of achievements – the evacuation of Afghanistan and the recovery of relations with Morocco.
In addition to Bolaños, the main link between Moncloa and Ferraz and a reference for the organization will be Óscar López. The profile of this veteran ‘plumber’ contrasts completely with that of his predecessor, Iván Redondo, an expert in political marketing who practically ignored the party, becoming the main enemy to be beaten by the socialist leadership. Sánchez tries to avoid the mistakes of the past, also thinking of having the machinery greased for the electoral cycle of 2023. The incorporation of López and the recovery of profiles such as Rodríguez or Alegría is a sign of a certain healing of the conflict that makes barely four years he split the PSOE in half. The definitive confirmation will be glimpsed, if anything, in the October Congress.
Digestion of the output of Lastra
But Sánchez, an undisputed leader who has reserved all the organic power and without counterweights in the party, has chosen to put his hand beyond the surgical changes and forced by the restructuring of the Government. The decision to leave Adriana Lastra alone with the deputy secretary general – a position that until now she combined with the spokesperson in Congress – has caused astonishment indoors.
“Sánchez has decided to renew the leaderships and strengthen the existing leaderships, which is the case of the Deputy Secretary General, my colleague Adriana Lastra, who with the decision made by the president (…) is going to reinforce her role within the party and it will reinforce the leadership of Adriana Lastra within the party’s deputy secretary general, which will undoubtedly be renewed at the next congress, “said Felipe Sicilia this Friday, in a statement distributed by Ferraz.
Although the Asturian leader maintains that the change is due to the incompatibility of directing the party with the task of fitting weekly the support of a minority government, the truth is that the political weight is first in Moncloa and, later, in Congress. His replacement has been answered on social networks with a solidarity campaign of leaders and militants promoted from his environment, aware that losing the focus of the parliamentary spokesperson is a degradation at a time when the party goes to the background when has the power. Lastra maintains that it was she who chose to stay in the party, and not in Parliament, when Sánchez informed her of his decision to end the accumulation of charges.
Precisely, this was the complaint that was heard in the federations regarding José Luis Ábalos, whose work in the mammoth Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda made his management difficult in the Organization secretariat. The plan now is for the position to be filled by someone dedicated 100% to organic matters. In the socialist leadership it is taken for granted that Santos Cerdán, who replaced Ábalos in that position, will continue in it after the congress. However, the coldness with which Sánchez has detached himself from those who have formed his hard core so far keeps the alarms going. If anything defines the socialist leader, it is the unpredictability of his decisions.
The president considers that he has already paid the support he received in 2017 by placing practically all the members of the executive in positions of the Administration or public institutions. It has, of course, rewarded the loyalty of those who have been on the fringes of internal troubles at this time or have managed them with discretion.
A lower profile in Congress
Thus appears the name of Héctor Gómez, who will be the new spokesperson in Congress. The until now responsible for International Relations of the PSOE and sanchista The first hour in the Canary Islands is the rise that has attracted the most attention internally. Sánchez has also had to replace a key player: Rafael Simancas as Secretary General of the Parliamentary Group. He will continue to command as Secretary of State for Relations with the Courts and as number two of the socialist group, the Cordovan Rafi Crespín joins. The Andalusian federation, with a normalized relationship with Ferraz after the defeat of Susana Díaz, will have a special weight in the leadership of the group as Felipe Sicilia remains as deputy spokesperson after having tried unsuccessfully to lead the project in Andalusia, which was ultimately in the hands by Juan Espadas when we have the information.
Faced with the surprising remodeling in Congress, the one that was required was the restructuring of the group in the Senate after the decision that the until now spokesperson, Ander Gil, replaced Pilar Llop in the presidency of the Upper House. Sánchez shoots the Catalan Eva Granados. The move still needs to get the ratification of the Parliament to be appointed senator, which was impossible due to ERC’s refusal when the claim was to make Miquel Iceta president of the Upper House. Iceta, who has already activated the process for Salvador Illa to replace him at the head of the PSC, has also lost presence by giving up the portfolio of Territorial Policy for the ‘Maria’ of Culture and Sports.
For the Government, Sánchez has increased the presence of ministers with a PSOE card in the face of a first stage of technical signings, such as Pedro Duque or Arancha González Laya, given the foreseeable increase in tension with United We Can as the elections approach. For now, the president has made it clear to his partner that he trusts the person who leads the economic policy – Nadia Calviño, now as first vice president – and conveyed an unequivocal message of support to Teresa Ribera in the face of the internal crisis due to the rise in electricity. And all this accompanied by an attempt to improve Moncloa’s communication policy, which was one of the weak points up to now, as the Socialists unambiguously acknowledge.