MADRID, May 19 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) will elect a new leader on Sunday in a vote between three candidates which will have serious implications for the future of both the party and of Spain.
The election is seen mainly as a two-horse race between Susana Diaz, who is the president of the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, and former PSOE leader, Pedro Sanchez, who was ousted from his position in October by an internal rebellion of PSOE heavyweights after he refused to allow People's Party leader Mariano Rajoy to form a minority government.
Diaz has the support of former Spanish prime ministers Felipe Gonzalez and Jose Luis Zapatero and is viewed as a career politician and an establishment figure, representing the right of the party. Sanchez, who is popular among card-carrying grassroots members, represents the left.
The former president of the Basque Region Patxi Lopez is the third candidate and represents the middle ground, but the man who has continually argued for the need for consensus and unity in the party, appears destined to finish a distant third in the voting.
Around 190,000 PSOE members will vote on Sunday and they have to decide whether to support Diaz, who would be more likely to look for a way to work with Rajoy's government, or Sanchez, who has not relented on his attacks on a government increasingly under pressure after the revelation of new corruption scandals.
If Sanchez is elected on Sunday, the PSOE would move to the left and look to take voters from Pablo Iglesias' Podemos party, while a victory for Diaz, could see the PSOE reclaim support from center-right formation, Ciudadanos, but lose more left-wing voters to Podemos.
Sanchez has also refused to rule out a vote of no-confidence in Rajoy is he becomes party leader, making the prospect of another general election in Spain (following those of December 2015 and June 2016) more likely.
Nevertheless with battle lines seemingly drawn along clearly marked lines, it remains to be seen whether either Diaz or Sanchez has the ability to bring both wings of the PSOE back together and reunite a divided party whose support has dropped to below 20 percent in the opinion polls.