Elections were held in Seville over the weekend and Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has been elected as the new leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE).
The 60 year old politician beat his only rival, Carme Chacón, by only 22 votes.
Outgoing prime minister José Luis Zapatero had controversially appointed Rubalcaba to lead the party last August, just before the national elections that saw the party’s worst ever result.
Mr Rubalcaba was a minister in the days of Felipe González’s huge majorities during the 80’s and he has almost always held a cabinet post since then
Supporters attribute the end of ETA’s terrorist campaign in the Basque Country to My Rubalcaba while he was interior minister, while others say it was coincidence that he was in that position at the time and the outcome was inevitable.
Ms Chacón may have had youth on her side but her leftist rhetoric lacked substance and some say this cost her the vote that many expected her to win.
The PSOE is the only national party to have lasted through Franco’s 40 year dictatorship and has been a leader in Spanish politics since his death. The party has been in government for 22 of the last 30 years and is responsible for much of the country’s advances and modernisation.
Rubalcaba will face his first challenge in Andalusia in March when elections of the autonomous parliament will take place. This would not have been worrying for former party leaders as Andalusia has been traditionally left-wing but Zapatero’s awful handling of the economic crisis saw the party lose popularity across the country
Recent polls show the PSOE is trailing behind the PP by 12 per cent in Andalusia.
Seville was selected as the location for the election in the hope of improving regional party support but the outcome may have the opposite effect as the Andalusian party leadership backed Ms Chacón. Both candidates have appealed for unity although Ms Chacón has already told Rubalcaba that she will not join his team.
Internal disputes aside, the main problem the party might now face is that neither candidate seemed to present anything new to an already disenchanted electorate.