SOCIALIST leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has announced his resignation from the party in light of the results of the European Parliamentary elections on Sunday.
The PSOE came second overall, securing 23 per cent of the votes but losing nine of its 23 seats in the Hemicycle, whilst the PP, which won with 26 per cent of ballots in their favour, lost eight seats and were left with 14.
Although the results were similar for the two main parties in Spain's political panorama, PP candidate Miguel Arias Cañete announced triumphantly that the party had 'won' the European elections, whilst PSOE candidate Elena Valenciano said her team needed to carry out some 'urgent reflection' to find out 'where they had gone wrong'.
And the next twist came 24 hours later when Rubalcaba announced in a press conference: “The responsibility for the very bad electoral result is mine, mine and mine.”
“I shall therefore assume my responsibility,” the leader, who was Mariano Rajoy's rival candidate in the November 2011 general elections, stated.
The socialists will hold an extraordinary general meeting over July 19 and 20, only the second for the party since the start of Spain's transition to democracy, during which Rubalcaba will stand down.
He has announced he will not stand for election in 2015, but has not said whether he intends to give up politics altogether.
“It's clear we have not won back public confidence,” said the PSOE leader, referring to the PP's landslide victory in the last general elections, called seven months early, when the then president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero stood down.
“With a result like this, there's something we're not doing right.
“Here, there's a political responsibility problem, a result so bad there's no palliative care available for it. A responsibility that has to be assumed, and which I shall assume, and a new leader will be taking the party forward to the next general elections,” Rubalcaba announced.
He had decided some time ago not to continue as head of the party, but did not want to advertise the fact so as 'not to make a noise'.
Hand-picked by Zapatero before he stepped off the pedestal, Rubalcaba was chosen because the outgoing president felt the Spanish government needed a 'strong, calm leader' who was a 'veteran' in the field.
Speculation is rife as to who the next PSOE leader will be, with names including Eduardo Madina and former minister of defence, Carme Chacón.
Rubalcaba attributes some of the defeat in Europe to the party's not having made public its plans for the EU and instead having milked Cañete's comment about men's 'intellectual superiority' and played on his 'sexism'.
“Elena [Valenciano] and the rest of the party candidates have talked about Europe until we were blue in the face; but the fact we were not capable of telling the public about what we discussed is another matter altogether,” laments the soon-to-be-ex leader of the PSOE.
But the views from the general public appear to suggest not voting for the PSOE – or the PP, for that matter – was more a case of wanting to end the ongoing bipartite system in Spain in which political leaders were only ever one or the other, leading to a growing level of complacency in the two outfits.
The fact that the brand-new party Podemos, led by teacher Pablo Iglesias who supports the anti-repossession and 'indignant' disillusioned job-hunters acquired five seats just weeks after forming seems to bear testimony to the public's desire for new faces and new ideas representing and leading the country.
Iglesias says his début as MEP will include calls for maximum wages, a blanket 600-euro monthly benefit for those who have no job or income, an upper State retirement age of 60, and a cap on European Parliament members' wages.
Rubalcaba's decision to leave is said to have caused widespread panic within the party, which has already suffered leadership crises and is fighting hard to regain society's trust after many blamed what they called Zapatero's 'ostrich act' about the financial crisis for the country's economy and job market crashing.