PEDRO Sánchez has officially 'opened' the new PSOE (socialist) party following his first conference since being re-elected leader of Spain's largest left-wing party the the PP government's biggest rival, and received unanimous backing for his ideas and plans for the future.
“The new PSOE is up and running, but it's still the same PSOE as always – the one that's not afraid of change,” said Sánchez upon entering Pavilion 3 of the Madrid Fair, where he greeted several party subscribers in a euphoric mood as Guns 'N' Roses played in the background.
“For a while, we'd forgotten who we were, but you, the members, have got up and joined forces to remind us. We're the PSOE and the left side of the government.”
Sánchez promised to work hard from the word go to achieve a Parliamentary majority in order to 'end the black era of the PP'.
“We're not competing against the PP any longer; we're aiming to wipe them out altogether,” he said ambitiously.
Addressing the huge grass-roots protest movement, 'The Indignants', who rebaptised themselves as the '15-M' – having camped out for the first time in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid on May 15, 2011 – and most of whom are Podemos voters, Sánchez said their 'demand for regeneration' which 'remains unsatisfied' will 'soon become reality'.
Answering cries of 'President! President!' with a pledge to 'hit the road and head for the Moncloa' – Spain's answer to 10 Downing Street and the White House – Sánchez publicly called for backing from what he called 'the forces of change', or centre-right Ciudadanos, the country's fourth-largest political outfit, and left-wing Podemos, its third-largest party, although he did not mention these by name.
Ciudadanos and Podemos are in deadlock and have long refused to work together, which cost Sánchez and the PSOE a possible coalition in early 2016 which would have prevented the PP from returning to power.
The socialist leader says his aim is for 'mutual discussion and coordination' in Parliament in order to 'reverse together straight away as many as possible' of the 'regressive' laws approved by the right-wing.
“They corrupt everything they touch, including the Spanish Constitution,” accused Sánchez, referring to the numerous corruption cases which have blighted the PP in the last four or five years.
He said president Mariano Rajoy (PP) should prepare himself for the PSOE being 'completely against the government' rather than simply providing a healthy dissenting opposition and, referring to Catalunya's drive for independence and its having called a referendum despite threats of criminal action by Rajoy's cabinet, Sánchez said he wanted to see a 'framework for the State' that 'allows Catalunya to find its place'.
Sánchez gave his speech to 5,000 subscribing members – something that is rarely seen in PSOE congresses, where the leader normally only addresses those with Parliamentary seats or who hold office in regional and provincial governments.
None of the former PSOE leaders attended except for Joaquín Almunia, with ex-national president Felipe González failing to turn up for a congress for the first time ever because of his commitments in Colombia.
Neither did Andalucía's regional leader and Pedro Sánchez's rival to head up the socialists, Susana Díaz, attend.
Sánchez's ideas gained 70.5% support from his thousand or so members in office, and in a sharp U-turn, placed some of his key opponents for the role in top jobs: Basque ex-president Patxi López has been nominated secretary of federal policy, and Extremadura's regional leader Guillermo Fernández Vara will head up the Territorial Council, whose members are all the regional presidents who represent the party.
Despite a clear majority support, the secret votes from office-holding members and MPs at 70.5% was somewhat lower than the 86% backing Sánchez got in 2014 and the 80.42% received by former party leader Alfredo Pérez-Rubalcaba in 2012.
The new Executive Federal Commission of the PSOE will be made up of 29 men and 20 women of a vast range of ages, all of whom backed Sánchez in the in-house party leader voting, or primaries, and include key figures such as Adriana Lastra, who has won back her place as deputy leader, and José Luis Ábalos as secretary for organisation.
Critics of Sánchez's new régime complain major figureheads such as Eduardo Madina, Elena Valenciano, Antonio Hernando, José Blanco and José María Barreda do not figure on the new Federal Committee, and that all of them happen to be politicians who voted against Sánchez as leader during the primaries.
One of the biggest critics was Valencia's regional president, Ximo Puig, is concerned his own leadership could be threatened and, with it, the presidency in the Mediterranean region.
Over a third of the Federal Committee – 132 of more than 300 – will stay on in their roles, which gained a 70% vote in favour, and the line-up for the Ethics and Guarantees Committee of the PSOE got a 73.4% vote in support.
Another third of the Federal Committee members will have their roles renewed later, in the regional congresses, and the final third will be elected by the subscribers.