After threatening to resign over X, Spanish prime minister Sanchez declares he will ‘continue on with even more strength’

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Monday ended days of speculation about his future by saying he will continue in office “with even more strength.”

Sánchez shocked his country last Wednesday by taking five days off to think about his future, following the decision by a court to open preliminary proceedings against his wife on corruption allegations.

“I have decided to continue on with even more strength at the helm of the government of Spain,” he said in a televised speech after informing King Felipe VI of the decision earlier Monday.

His resignation would have deprived Europe of a prominent Socialist prime minister ahead of European elections in June and at a time when the center right increasingly holds sway.

“It is a decision that does not mean a return to the status quo, this will mark a before and after, I promise you that,” Sánchez said, without detailing what steps he could take to curtail “the smear campaign” he says he and his family is facing.

The eurozone’s fourth-largest economy had been in suspense since Sánchez, prime minister since 2018, posted an emotional letter on X on Wednesday before he holed up in his Moncloa Palace, the prime minister’s residence in Madrid. In it it he said the moves against wife were too personal an attack on his family and he needed time to decide on his priorities.

In that letter, where he declared himself “deeply in love” with wife Begoña Gómez, he said that he could no longer just stand aside and watch her being targeted by a legal probe brought by allegations by a right-wing platform that accused her of using her position to influence business deals.

The group, Manos Limpias, or “Clean Hands,” acknowledged that the complaint was based on newspaper articles. Spanish prosecutors say it should be thrown out.

The expectation Monday was such that Spain’s state broadcaster had put up a 10-minute countdown clock before his announcement on the screen during their morning news talk show.

Speaking from the steps of Moncloa Palace, Sánchez said that he and his wife “know that this campaign to discredit them won’t stop” but that he has decided that he couldn’t give his adversaries the satisfaction of giving up.

Rallies by his supporters over the past few days played a part in his decision, he said.

Essentially Sánchez had four options: resign, seek a parliamentary vote of confidence, call a new election or remain in office.

Sánchez said that the letter, the controversial cancellation of his public agenda, and his final decision to stay on “was not done out of a political calculus.”

“I am aware that I have shown a degree of personal intimacy that is not normally permitted in politics,” he added.

Whether it was primarily motivated by concerns for his family or not, the decision by Sánchez will have a political impact ahead of important regional elections in Catalonia in two weeks and in the European ballot.

Sánchez’s concessions to Catalan separatist parties in order to stay in power have dominated the political debate in Spain. By staying in office, Sánchez hopes to move past that and put the emphasis on the what he considers a question of political fair play.

“He gifted himself a free campaign rally for five full days. Those who were with him will now be with him to the death,” Montserrat Nebrera, political analyst and professor of constitutional law at the International University of Catalonia, told The Associated Press.

“It looks like a campaign move to boost the polarization of the electorate between those who are with him and those who are against him,” she said. “It is designed to have an impact in the Catalan elections and even more so in the European elections, which were not looking great for the Socialists.”

Sánchez, 52, was able to form a new minority leftist coalition government in November to start another four-year term. While popular internationally, he is loved or despised in Spain.

Sánchez blamed the investigation against his wife on online news sites politically aligned with the leading opposition conservative Popular Party and the far-right Vox party that spread what he called “spurious” allegations.

The Popular Party, however, said Sánchez’s behavior was unbecoming of a leader. The Popular Party and Vox have regularly compare him to a dictator and a traitor to Spain.

“(Sánchez) has pulled the leg of a nation of 48 million people,” Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said Monday. “He neglected his duties for five days as part of a campaign ploy.”

Sánchez justified his unprecedented hiatus for the need to think in peace.

“We live in a society that teaches us and demands us to to keep going at full throttle no matter what,” Sánchez said during his short speech. “But sometimes in life the only way to move forward is to stop and reflect and decide with clarity which path we want to take.”