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Spain's prime minister considers resigning

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

In Spain, one topic has been dominating conversations since Wednesday. That's when Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez published a letter with an announcement he was considering stepping down permanently. He was going to take five days to make a decision. That decision is now due tomorrow. What is going on here? Miguel Macias joins us now from Seville to explain. Hey, Miguel.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: Hey. How's it going?

DETROW: I mean, that's pretty dramatic. What's going on here?

MACIAS: So there's a lot of background here, Scott. So let me try to break it down. On Wednesday afternoon, Sanchez published a 3 1/2-page letter on social media without warning to anyone that we know, addressing citizens directly. Earlier that day, it became known that a judge had accepted opening an investigation into Sanchez's wife, Begona Gomez, allegedly using her position to influence decisions having to do with public funding of private companies, basically. Now, we should make this clear - the lawsuit that prompted the investigation was filed by a far-right organization that mainly exists to do just that - file mostly bogus lawsuits against politicians on the left. In this case, they based their suit on newsclips from far-right media outlets, some of them known for publishing fake news.

So Sanchez's reaction is not really just about this case. This case is basically the straw that broke the camel's back for him. Sanchez and his wife have been targets of a campaign from the far right that we can say amounts to harassment at times. So Sanchez is known to be a survivor, to have a very thick skin. But it seems that opponents have finally found his weakness, and that is the well-being of his wife.

DETROW: So I just want to clarify, right now, so we know the reputation of where the information came from. Do we know is there any facts out there on the validity of the charge itself at this point in time?

MACIAS: It is very unclear at the moment. The one thing that we know is that the judge did not consult with the public attorney's office, which is kind of routine process for them to do when they receive a lawsuit like this. So the suggestion here is that there is a certain bias on the side of the judge when it comes to this lawsuit.

DETROW: OK.

MACIAS: All the information out there indicates that the newsclips used in this lawsuit may be fake news. Even the organization that filed the lawsuit has accepted that they might be fake, but that will be the judge's decision and the judge's investigation which will determine that.

DETROW: A lot of the reasons that this was surprising is that he has this reputation for being a strategist, a fighter. Remind us why that is.

MACIAS: That's right. Sanchez has persevered against all odds for years now. In fact, I'll tell you one particular moment. Back in 2016, he was ousted as secretary general from his own party, while he was the leader of the opposition. The establishment of the Socialist Party had another leader in mind, Susana Diaz. Well, Sanchez ran again in the primaries with no internal support and won the primaries to become secretary general again. Then he went on to topple the conservatives in power through a vote of no confidence in Congress. And since then, he has managed to remain in power through a number of complicated coalitions. The latest of those coalitions was formed just last year when Sanchez lost the popular vote in the summer general elections to conservatives. But he managed to compile votes from every other smaller party in Congress, including the Catalan separatists, to reach the prime minister's office again. So I think you get the point. Sanchez is not a quitter.

DETROW: I mean, I'm wondering what the response is, and I'm also wondering what the thinking is of this particular step, saying I might resign several days from now. I mean, I feel like that's particularly unusual and particularly dramatic for - you know, even looking at other politicians who are caught in scandals, whether they're legitimate or not.

MACIAS: Yeah, that's a million-dollar question, Scott. There's been tons of speculation on TV and radio, hours and hours of conversation about this, many angles. No one knows. Pedro Sanchez has not said a word since he published his letter on Wednesday. And now we're on the eve of his decision on Monday. But now, when it comes to the reaction, there are two clear sides. The left - and not just the socialists, but all the parties on the left have come together to practically beg Sanchez to not go. There were thousands of supporters yesterday in front of the Socialist Party's headquarters.

On the right, they've accused Sanchez of being irresponsible. They also don't trust that he's being genuine. As I said, Sanchez is known for being a strategist. So some are asking the legitimate question - is this another of his brilliant moves to boost support for his government and even influence the pivotal elections that are happening in Catalonia on May 12? So trust and unconditional support on one side, suspicion and accusations on the other. Tomorrow we will see if Sanchez continues to fight back, or whether the far right has managed to get rid of him.

DETROW: We'll see what happens on his self-imposed deadline. Miguel Macias from Seville, Spain, thank you so much.

MACIAS: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.
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