Spain’s labour minister launches electoral bid amid rift in left camp
MADRID: Spanish Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz launched her bid to become the country’s first woman prime minister on Sunday (Apr 2) at a packed event in Madrid, where the absence of two government ministers signalled a deepening rift among the progressive left.
Before more than 3,000 supporters, Diaz announced her candidacy for the upcoming general elections slated to take place at the end of the year, in which the incumbent leftist coalition government seeks to win another four-year term.
“Today, I am humbly taking a step forward. Today, I want to become our country’s first female prime minister,” Diaz told the crowd to a standing ovation. “Because the Spain of women is unstoppable, there’s no going back.”
The rally featured Diaz allies ranging from her own Communist Party to environmental, LGBT and feminist activists, as well as the mayors of Barcelona and Valencia, Spain’s second and third-largest cities, respectively.
But strikingly absent was the leadership of Podemos, a party formed in 2014 with a platform similar to the messaging of Diaz’s new Sumar (“Unite”) initiative.
Neither Podemos’ secretary general, Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra, nor Equality Minister Irene Montero made an appearance, after last-minute bargaining over the format of Sumar’s internal primary elections ended in a stalemate.
Podemos has called for “open primaries” so voters can decide the makeup of the list of Sumar’s candidates for parliament and wants Diaz to commit to them in writing.
Diaz, however, has so far refused this condition, arguing for the need for multilateral negotiations with the other parties that make up her coalition.
It is still unclear whether Podemos will join Sumar or compete against it for left-of-centre voters.
Local and regional elections scheduled for May 28 could serve as a bellwether to measure Podemos’ electoral appeal, influencing future decisions on striking a campaign deal with Sumar or running a separate bid.
Although she has yet to release a detailed platform, Diaz outlined the broad outline of her manifesto, including a new “bill of rights” and a democratic, economic and social “contract” for the next decade.
She also touted her ministry’s accomplishments, such as raising the minimum wage and a pro-union labour law reform.
Diaz, 51, hails from the northwestern region of Galicia and is the daughter and niece of prominent communist leaders. According to a recent poll by the state-owned Centre for Sociological Studies, she is the Spanish politician with the highest approval rating, averaging a score of 4.89 out of 10.
In 2019, she was anointed by former Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias as his successor upon his resignation from the cabinet, though the two have since fallen out.
Iglesias, who still holds considerable sway over Podemos’ base as a prominent media commentator, has repeatedly criticised Diaz for what he describes as her cosiness with the rival Socialist Party and failure to position herself on issues such as sending weapons to Ukraine.
“I don’t owe anyone anything,” was Diaz’s response.