Pedro Sánchez is anything but a timid politician. The president, who sees how his Executive suffers undisputed wear after the pandemic that was evident in the Madrid elections and the polls clearly detect, has decided to fight with the weapons at his disposal: a total revolution of the Government that it leaves out not only two heavyweights from its hard core, such as Carmen Calvo and José Luis Ábalos. The great surprise of the remodeling is the departure of Iván Redondo, much more than a Chief of Staff, a true guru responsible for the Executive’s political strategy. Sánchez did not even mention him in the farewell to those leaving the Government, something that points to a tension between the two.
Various sources agree that there has been a disagreement between the president and the controversial strategist, who each day held more power and at the same time was highly criticized in Sánchez’s environment, although Redondo assures in a note that it was he who wanted to leave. Other sources indicate that he wanted to make the leap from the shadows of La Moncloa to a ministry with greater public exposure, but trying to control the heart of the Government, probably the Ministry of the Presidency, which will finally be occupied by Félix Bolaños, with whom he had collided on several occasions. . The discussion about this distribution of power would have ended with Redondo out of the Executive and the hard core of Sanchismo. “Redondo had transferred the idea that he was in charge of more than Sánchez, and that is a book error. The change of government makes very clear something that we should all have assumed, including Iván: that here the one who is in charge is the president, ”says a minister.
The leader of the PSOE takes refuge in his party, with a black leg like Óscar López as the new Chief of Cabinet and the signing of three socialist mayors for the Executive, rejuvenates the Government, increases the percentage of women and reinforces Nadia Calviño, who will be first vice president. The intention of the tumble is evident: Sánchez wants to turn the polls around, prevent the opposition from consolidating and take advantage of the economic recovery to reconnect with the progressive electorate and prepare with guarantees for the 2023 elections.
What Sánchez has done, in a typical movement of a leader who almost always opts for the most risky and unexpected option, is not a change of government. It is a real shock, one of the greatest reshuffles in democratic history, which overturns the legislature. Seven ministers leave and seven new faces arrive at the Government, now made up of 14 women and nine men, raising the female presence from 54% to 63%. The rise of Calviño is a clear gesture that Sánchez is focusing on economic recovery. It also reinforces it in the face of United We Can, which has frequently confronted it because of its economic policy line. However, neither Calviño, first vice president, nor Yolanda Díaz, now second, nor Teresa Ribera, now third, change their powers, so it is foreseeable that Bolaños will direct the heart of the Government, including the strategic commission of undersecretaries, what Calvo was doing now, while Calviño and Díaz will continue with their usual political battles without major changes in the structure. In addition, faced with the revolt in the socialist sector, Unidos Podemos has decided not to change any of its ministers.
Calvo’s departure was considered highly probable after the wear suffered in these three years. If Sánchez wanted to make a profound change, and all the messages were in that direction, he had to change Calvo. More surprising is the departure of Ábalos, not only from the Government, but also from the Secretary of Organization of the PSOE three months before the decisive October congress in his land, Valencia. A full-blown fall that has surprised many in the Executive and the PSOE. Ábalos has been for years a key man in the hard core of Sánchez, one of the few who accompanied him on the crossing of the desert when he was dismissed from the general secretariat and traveled all over Spain in his car to win the 2016 primaries and recover the can. Of that hard core, with the departure of Calvo and Ábalos, now only Adriana Lastra, parliamentary spokesperson and who could now take control of the party, and Santos Cerdán, number two of the PSOE Organization, remain.
It is a very party government. In fact, a key figure is López, the new Chief of Staff. This veteran of a thousand battles despite his age -48 years, almost the same as Sánchez- who became secretary of organization with Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, was a close friend of Sánchez, but later, like Antonio Hernando, he accepted the dismissal of the leader and in the primaries he bet on Patxi López. It seemed that Sánchez would never forgive that break, although he did make him president of Paradores. But now he recovers for the heart of the Executive this solid and respected professional who knows the PSOE from the inside like few others.
Another gesture by Sánchez towards this kind of reunification of the Sanchismo before and after the tear of the removal of the leader is the election of Isabel Rodríguez, the mayor of Puertollano, as the new Minister of Territorial Policy in full negotiation with the Generalitat and above all as spokesperson , a position left by María Jesús Montero, who continues as Minister of Finance and is reinforced with the powers of Public Function. Rodríguez was a Sanchista, but later he ended up betting on Susana Díaz in the dramatic primaries of 2016. Now he incorporates her to a key position because she will be the face of the Government.
A hecatomb of this caliber leaves many readings, but all the conversations in the environments of the Government, the PSOE, United We Can and even the partners of the Executive point to the departure of Redondo as the most fundamental change due to the importance it had acquired the strategist in all kinds of movements, including shadow negotiations with Pere Aragonés’s team, president of the Generalitat.
Each one has their interpretation, but the idea that the failure in Madrid and Redondo’s attempt to occupy more and more prominence in decisions were the main triggers. However, everything indicates that something has precipitated in recent days because this exit was not in the script only a week ago; on the contrary, it seemed that Redondo would finally occupy a ministry. The new key man of the Executive is Bolaños, who will carry all the machinery in coordination with López. Both are veterans of the PSOE and it is difficult for them to clash as happened with Redondo, a man who always caused misgivings in the Socialists because he worked many years for the right.
Sánchez explained this Saturday that these changes represent a “generational renewal”, reducing the average age from 55 to 50 years; a commitment to successful people in “municipal action”, with the election of three mayors and a clear reinforcement of women. In addition to Rodríguez, two other mayors with great projection in the PSOE enter: Raquel Sánchez (from mayor of Gavà to Minister of Transport) and Diana Morant (councilor of Gandía, who replaces Duque at the head of Science). In addition, Pilar Alegría, current government delegate in Aragon and a leader who also opted for Susana Díaz in the primaries that Sánchez won, will occupy the Education portfolio.
Sánchez wants the new team to be seen as “the Government of recovery to completely overcome the pandemic and seize the opportunity to set up a better Spain.” The president summoned all the outgoing ministers one by one to thank them for their work, but said nothing about Redondo. Except for the rise of the independent Calviño, a clear gesture towards Brussels and the economic world, all the remodeling distills a recovery of the weight of the PSOE.
Iván Redondo had control of almost everything in La Moncloa, in conflict with Carmen Calvo, and now everything will be reorganized in the president’s team. The chief of staff had made many enemies in the PSOE and in the surroundings of Sánchez, but nobody expected a sudden dismissal like this in the middle of the legislature. Redondo suggested this Saturday, in a farewell letter that he posted in his office in La Moncloa, that it has been a voluntary departure: “Sometimes in politics, in business as in life, in addition to knowing how to win, knowing how to lose, there is to do something much more important: know how to stop, “says the former chief of staff in that text. Be that as it may, the government of the second part of the legislature will be completely different from the one that led the country since Sánchez became president in 2018 thanks to a motion of no confidence.