Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez to remain in office

The left-leaning premier promises to continue in office ‘with even more strength’ after several days of reflection.

Begona Gomez and Spain's PM Sanchez
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his wife, Begona Gomez [File: Reuters]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced he will not step down amid a corruption investigation into his wife’s affairs, averting the threat of political gridlock in Madrid.

After meeting King Felipe VI on Monday, the left-leaning prime minister, who had temporarily stepped away from his duties as he mulled his response, promised to continue in office “with even more strength”.

The 52-year-old leader made a surprise announcement on Wednesday when he said he was taking time off to “reflect” on whether to resign despite insisting that the inquiry involving his wife, Begona Gomez, was organised by Spain’s rival conservative political forces.

The prospect of Sanchez’s resignation caused turmoil last week, with demonstrations organised for and against him.

“I have decided to carry on as the head of the government with even more strength, if possible,” Sanchez said in a speech in Madrid.

He added that huge solidarity rallies organised by his supporters over the weekend had influenced his decision.

The investigation into Gomez’s political and business ties came following a criminal complaint by pressure group Clean Hands, known to have had links with Spain’s far right.

Sanchez accused Alberto Nunez Feijoo of the People’s Party (PP) and Santiago Abascal of the far-right Vox of collaborating with those circulating the claims.

Prosecutors last week cast doubt on the complaint when they recommended it should be dismissed.

Following his five days of reflection, Sanchez insisted on Monday that while he regretted “the attacks on his family”, he would not be removed.

Political turmoil

The political wrangling comes at a crucial time with less than six weeks left before the European Union elections, and just two weeks ahead of the Catalan regional election on May 12.

The prospect of the prime minister resigning had therefore threatened political turmoil and would have left Spain facing the prospect of another tense parliamentary vote to select a new premier or a fourth general election in five years.

The right-wing opposition had sought to use Sanchez’s absence to double down on criticism, accusing the premier of neglecting his duties and failing to adequately respond to the investigation.

However, his party welcomed his decision to remain in office.

Salvador Illa, a former health minister and candidate for regional president for the Catalan branch of the Socialist Party in the upcoming Catalan election, said it was “the best news for Catalonia”.

“A brave decision to restore the dignity of politics and a commitment to curb those who try to undermine our democracy. Go ahead, President!” he wrote in a post on X.

Santos Cerdan Leon, the Socialist Party’s secretary, wrote on X that “we are going to continue working tirelessly” for “clean politics” to prevail.

Left-wing politicians across the globe, including Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Colombia’s Gustavo Petro have offered Sanchez support over recent days.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies