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Spanish PM gets back to work after weighing resignation

By AFP

April 30, 2024 08:43 PM


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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez got back to work on Tuesday, a day after he announced he would stay on following days of weighing his future in response to a graft probe targeting his wife.

The 52-year-old Socialist leader, who last Wednesday retreated from public life to decide whether to quit, chaired a weekly cabinet meeting after being interviewed by news radio Cadena Ser.

He told the station he had a "hard time" during the five days he spent mulling his future but added he was now determined to complete his new four-year term which began in November, and even go beyond that "if the Spanish people want him to".

Sanchez said he had used the time to reflect on whether he had "the strength to face a very serious, very complex challenge, which is how to fight against disinformation, against hoaxes and the campaign of defamation."

In office since 2018, Sanchez on Wednesday dropped a political bombshell saying he would consider resignation after a court confirmed a preliminary probe into his wife Begona Gomez for suspected influence peddling and corruption which he denounced as part of a campaign of political harassment by the right.

The court made the move in response to a complaint filed by an anti-graft NGO linked to the far right which has presented a litany of unsuccessful lawsuits against politicians in the past.

The group, Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) has admitted its complaint was based on media reports whose veracity was unclear, and the public prosecutor's office on Thursday asked that the investigation into Gomez be closed. 

 'Manipulated and insulted' -

In a somber televised address on Monday, Sanchez announced he had "decided to stay" on as prime minister and would lead a fight back against "toxic" politics and spur the "democratic renewal which our country needs".

Sanchez, however, has not said what steps he would take.

"The time to reflect is over. Now is the time to adopt concrete policies," Yolanda Diaz, the head of  hard-left party Sumar, Sanchez's junior coalition partners, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Sanchez's right-wing critics have dismissed his threat to quit as an attempt to rally his supporters and mocked his claim to be defending democracy.

"People have understandably felt manipulated and insulted by this behaviour," said the head of the main opposition Popular Party (PP), Alberto Nunez Feijoo, vowing to stage fresh street demonstrations against Sanchez's government.

Over the past six years, Sanchez has been vilified by right-wing opponents and media because his minority government relies on the support of the hard left and Catalan and Basque separatist parties to pass laws.

- 'Act of frivolity' -

Recently, they have been particularly outraged by his decision to offer an amnesty to hundreds of Catalan separatists facing legal action over their role in the region's failed 2017 independence bid.

That amnesty, which was offered in exchange for their support for Sanchez to secure a new term in office in November, still needs final parliamentary approval.

The PP and far-right party Vox have organised large street protests against it.

While Sanchez denied his moves in recent days were pollical ones, political scientist Pablo Simon said they resulted in a “closing of the ranks” of leftist voters around the premier.

At the same time, Simon said they would also rally Sanchez’s opponents on the right and had reinforced the PP’s narrative that "it was a mere act of frivolity, a strategic act and that in reality the resignation was never considered."

"The only certainty we can have now is that polarisation, far from decreasing, will increase," Simon told Spanish public television TVE.


AFP


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