Juan Espadas: "I do not make the traditional speech of the PSOE about the 'gentlemen' of the PP"

Juan Espadas (Seville, 55 years old) makes his debut as an electoral poster for the Andalusian PSOE in regional elections, and he does so with all the polls against him. In 2018, the Socialists won (with the worst result in their history) but could not govern. Swords thinks that this time there is a hidden vote that can give him victory, and he trusts a high turnout.

Ask. It seems that the only question in this campaign is whether the PP and Vox will govern together or the PP will rule alone.

Response. It is certainly not my doubt. My doubt is whether the Chairman of the Board will be [Juan Manuel] Moreno Bonilla or me. I have never been in the predefined hypothesis that in this campaign everything was done because the polls said so. The vote of those who do not say what they are going to vote for or have not decided will be decisive.

P. And why do you think that the undecided are more inclined to the PSOE than to the right?

R. Because the right generally has a higher level of vote fidelity. And in this case they have two very specific options: the PP, which has concentrated a good part of the Cs vote, and Vox. What remains to be determined is whether those socialists who did not go to vote in 2018 are going to vote and do so for their party of reference. And it remains to be seen if there is a transfer of useful votes from other parties on the left to the PSOE. There is a hidden vote drive that is going to turn the polls upside down.

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P. It seems that you are the only one who believes it, no one else around you.

R. All around me there is conviction. The PSOE appears strong, united and to win the elections. It doesn’t come out to draw because you lose. It goes out to win.

P. Do you think that appealing to the entry of Vox on the Board mobilizes former PSOE voters?

R. Vox has been a mobilizer of the vote on the left, without a doubt.

P. But in Castilla y León it was not.

R. Here yes. They’ll see. Among other things because Macarena Olona is not the same profile [que el del vicepresidente castellanoleonés, Juan García-Gallardo]. And because we start from a consolidated truth, which is that there is already a coalition government of PP and Vox, therefore it is not the same circumstance. Faced with the temptation to vote for Moreno Bonilla to avoid a pact with Vox, I say it clearly: he will not have enough votes, unless he proposes adding his votes to Vox in a scenario in which both are strong, which I doubt. There is an alternative to change.

P. How can the PSOE, after just three and a half years in the opposition, present itself as the change in Andalusia after having managed it for 37 years?

R. Not the same team or the same leadership. If they told me that it is the same project, with the same faces, that I beat in the primaries [a Susana Díaz hace un año], I could understand that the citizens would say that the same ones appear. We left the Government and now we present ourselves to recover the trust and the Andalusian Government. I rebel, the staff has to realize that this PP has not performed any miracles.

Juan Espadas, at the PSOE headquarters in Seville.
Juan Espadas, at the PSOE headquarters in Seville. Alexander Ruesga

P. But the perception, according to the polls, is that the catastrophic discourse of what you said would happen if the right governed in Andalusia has not been produced.

R. I am with a discourse of the present, of what the right has done these three and a half years. What does that have to do with the traditional discourse of the PSOE when it spoke of the young men? Don’t tell me I’m making the same speech. I am talking about a right that has done nothing, that has taken refuge in the pandemic for two years. That he has dedicated himself to confronting the Government of Pedro Sánchez. I have not made an opposition because I am not in Parliament and, meanwhile, a story has been built that unfortunately for the Andalusians has permeated. That’s what I’m trying to unpick.

P. The PSOE existed before you became the general secretary in Andalusia and there has been no opposition.

R. In 2019 the PSOE was knocked out after leaving the Government and then the pandemic arrived. We are all responsible. And when we went to launch this new project, Moreno Bonilla was recognized as a person who liked him.

P. Surveys such as the CIS show that one of the biggest drawbacks you face is that a third of Andalusians do not know you.

R. My degree of knowledge should be around 75-80% after the debate [en televisión]. I have the degree of knowledge that I have in front of the president of Andalusia, with all his machinery, propaganda apparatus and use of public television, which is embarrassing.

P. The same thing that you are saying was said by the PP of the PSOE governments.

R. What they said in another time is a matter of another time.

P. It has a great impact on its more moderate voters not voting for the PP.

R. I do not conceive that any progressive can vote for the deception that Moreno Bonilla supposes, who is asking for the vote for a moderate option but has not said that he would not govern with the extreme right. He introduces himself as Macron but he is Mañueco.

P. Do you contemplate that the PSOE could be the first force?

R. How do I see? I am here to be! I don’t understand why you don’t believe me. That the PSOE of Andalusia, who has governed for 37 years, say it should not be so inconceivable. The day of the elections can be surprising if there is a very high level of participation and it removes the vote from the left. Since 2012 we have been losing many thousands of votes that have been left in abstention.

“Moreno Bonilla introduces himself as Macron but he is Mañueco”

P. What is the threshold of failure?

R. not win

P. Not winning is not the same as not governing.

R. What it is about is governing Andalusia. But first you have to win. Do not ask me more than to concentrate on adding above 33 seats as much as I can to be the first force and govern alone.

P. If you do not get 33 seats, would you consider resigning as general secretary of the Andalusian PSOE?

R. In no case am I going to consider anything. I am at the beginning of a political project that, six months after starting, has elections. And after those will come the municipal and general ones. The project is solid, it has won some primaries and in record time it is trying to regain confidence to be a Government option.

P. If for you the arrival of Vox to the Government is a matter of democratic alarm, what could the PSOE do to prevent it?

R. The alternative to Vox is the PSOE, the PP has no credibility when it says that it would govern without the support of Vox. He has already done it, he has already agreed. It is the only right-wing party in Europe that agrees with the extreme right! What he wants is the investiture. And the next day he is agreeing with his natural partner. The PP is like the mountains of sand that we make when we are under the umbrella, that when two waves come the water has washed them away. That is the PP for Vox. Instead, the PSOE is a breakwater.

A candidate against the clock

Natalia Junquera

Juan Espadas (Seville, 55 years old) joined the Bar Association before joining the PSOE: until he was 31 he did not collect his card. Unlike his predecessor, Susana Díaz, a creature of the socialist apparatus, he was technical before political. With a master’s degree in environmental management, he worked for years in different positions in the Ministry of the Environment of the Junta de Andalucía. In 2008, Manuel Chaves appointed him Housing Minister.

In 2016, before the PSOE federal committee that temporarily ousted Pedro Sánchez, he criticized his “entrenchment”, but years later, with the support of Ferraz, he prevailed in the Andalusian primaries over Díaz, who used to call him “my Juan”. The socialist leader took revenge on his intimate enemy with one of his own.

It was Díaz who placed him as a candidate for mayor of Seville with the same motivation: to prevent another enemy from occupying the post. In 2010, the candidate himself sent an article to the media entitled “Who is Juan Espadas?” that he began by presenting himself as the grandson of Manolo, an official of the Seville City Council retaliated against by the Franco regime. After a first failed attempt, he managed to be mayor of the Andalusian capital between 2015 and until January of this year. In the City Council he was hardened in tightrope walking – he signed pacts with the PP, Ciudadanos and Adelante Sevilla -, but the last CIS places him as unknown to 32.4% of Andalusians.

Like Ángel Gabilondo, he admits that he hates anger and that he can be a bit “dull”, but he has had to compete against another candidate who also boasts of moderation and defines himself as “the man of fashion”.

The simplicity of his campaign slogan — “If we vote, we win” — speaks to the demobilization of his electorate, and the polls, unanimous in defeat, suggest the possibility that he is a transitional leader. Hence, the most repeated electoral bet of his these days is: “Send the polls to the trash.” He has to surpass, at least, the results of his predecessor (33 seats). His faithful agree that the internal battle of the Andalusian PSOE powder keg, knocked out by the eviction from power in 2018 after 37 years occupying it, has left him little time: the one that the PP has taken advantage of to advance the elections.

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