What is happening?

The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) is holding a leadership contest this Sunday.

Why?

In October 2016, former secretary general Pedro Sánchez was ousted by powerful senior regional leaders, including the First Minister of the southern region of Andalusia, Susana Diaz.

Who is in the race this time?

Pedro Sánchez, who has made something of a grassroots comeback, and Susana Diaz.

The same two?

Yes. And this goes all the way back to 2014, the appearance of Podemos and the resignation of the then secretary general Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

How so?

After Rubalcaba resigned, the candidate the party establishment didn't want to win was a chap called Eduardo Madina. Susana Diaz didn't want to run herself at the time because she didn't think the political timing was right, so a straw man was supported as the party establishment's candidate.

And the straw man was called…?

…Pedro Sánchez.

Oh…

Precisely. A contest of egos, of wills. The understudy who went rogue against the woman who put him at the top and then ousted him two years later.

Are there no other candidates?

There is a third option, the Basque socialist and former Speaker of the Spanish Congress, Patxi López, but he is not polling well at all.

How not well?

López won two polls, one in December and one in February, but by slim margins. Since February, Pedro Sánchez has won all the polls except one, and mostly with above 40% of the vote.

How about Susana Diaz?

She won the other poll since February, but with the vote split quite evenly three ways. She has the most institutional support with the Socialist Party, though, from former Prime Ministers and party leaders, regional First Ministers, provincial party bosses and mayors.

So this is the party establishment versus its grass roots?

To a large extent, yes.

Who is favourite to win?

Difficult to say, considering the split between senior party leaders supporting Diaz and Sánchez's polling results. The other thing you could look at is the number of signatures each person presented when they became a candidate.

Susana Diaz beat Pedro Sánchez by a margin of about 6,000 signatures. Patxi López, again, was way back in third place.

  • Susana Diaz: 59,390
  • Pedro Sánchez: 53,117
  • Patxi López: 10,866

What about geography?

Susana Diaz's stronghold is Andalusia, where she is First Minister and where the PSOE has 25% of its members. She also has support in other key southern regions such as Castilla la Mancha and Extremadura.

Pedro Sánchez leads in the northern regions, although by lower margins.

Analyses that try to relate the number of signatures each candidate presented with the number of PSOE members in each region conclude that Susana Diaz has an edge, just.

Just?

This article, for example, concludes that she is favoured in regions that contain 50,91% of PSOE members. So just.

Was there a debate?

There was.

Was it about the issues?

Not really.

It was a bitter, personal, mud-slinging affair. The third candidate, Patxi López, was somewhat stuck in the middle between the egos of Susana Diaz and Pedro Sánchez.

Susana Diaz attacked Sánchez ("Don't lie, darling", "your problem is you, Pedro") over one of the "biggest electoral losses" in the PSOE's history, and accused him of being confused over what to do with the Catalan problem: "You have been very imaginative, talking about a nation of cultural nations".

Pedro Sánchez attacked Diaz over her ousting him in October and then abstaining to allow Mariano Rajoy to govern again: "The PSOE can never abstain faced with the PP's neoliberal policies".

What's turnout like?

The PSOE said in statement on Sunday afternoon that by 2 p.m., 120,000 members, or 51% of the total (187,949) had voted at nearly 3,000 polling stations around the country.

The spokesman for the party's administrators, Mario Jiménez, said: “Spanish society needs a PSOE with clear leadership and a defined project".

What does the Popular Party (PP) think of it all?

Spanish conservatives are talking up the extreme angle, the do-or-die stakes for their socialist rivals.

PP Social policy spokesman Javier Maroto framed it thus: "Today a lot is at stake in the PSOE. They can choose moderation or rage; they can choose stability or to become fugitives; they can reclaim their own identity or hand themselves over to Podemos".

What time are the results expected?

Polling stations close at 8 p.m. Spanish time on Sunday on the mainland, and 9 p.m. in the Canary Islands.

Update: PSOE HQ told The Spain Report shortly after 8 p.m. that they will start to publish the results count from 9 p.m. onwards, and that the final score, with 100% of the votes counted, is expected at about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night.