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Business News/ News / UPDATE 3-Spain's Sanchez suspends public duties to "reflect" on future
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UPDATE 3-Spain's Sanchez suspends public duties to "reflect" on future

SPAIN-POLITICS/SANCHEZ (UPDATE 3, PIX, TV):UPDATE 3-Spain's Sanchez suspends public duties to "reflect" on future

UPDATE 3-Spain's Sanchez suspends public duties to Premium
UPDATE 3-Spain's Sanchez suspends public duties to "reflect" on future

(Adds criticism of opposition in paragraph 8, minister comment paragraph 9; analyst comment paragraph 13; Vox comment paragraph 14)

MADRID, April 24 (Reuters) - Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday he will suspend public duties until next week to decide whether he wants to continue leading the government after a court launched a business corruption probe into his wife's private dealings.

Sanchez, who last year secured another term for his Socialist party as leader of a minority coalition government, said he would appear before the media on Monday, April 29 to announce his decision.

"I need to pause and think," he wrote in a letter shared on his X account. "I urgently need an answer to the question of whether it is worthwhile (...) whether I should continue to lead the government or renounce this honour."

The shock announcement came after a Spanish court said earlier on Wednesday it was launching a preliminary investigation into whether Sanchez's wife Begona Gomez committed a crime of influence peddling and corruption in business in her private dealings.

Sanchez said the seriousness of the attacks against him and his wife merited a measured response. He said his wife would cooperate with the investigation and defend her innocence.

The court investigating Gomez did not provide further details as the case is sealed and preliminary, only saying it followed a complaint raised by anti-graft campaign group Manos Limpias - Clean Hands - whose leader has links to the far-right.

Manos Limpias said Gomez used her influence as the wife of the prime minister to allegedly secure sponsors for a university master's degree course that she ran.

Sanchez also took aim at opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo of the People's Party and Santiago Abascal of the far-right Vox party, saying they had "collaborated" with those circulating the claims against his wife.

His ministers came out in support, with Energy Minister Teresa Ribera saying: "We have a first rate prime minister. Neither he nor his family deserve this."

KNOWN RISK-TAKER

The announcement is in keeping with Sanchez's knack for keeping Spaniards on their toes. The 52-year-old, known as "El Guapo" (Mr. Handsome), is a known risk-taker who has frequently defied the odds to secure or maintain power.

Last year, he called a snap election after his Socialist party (PSOE) performed poorly in regional elections. After the PP won the most seats but failed to reach a majority in the July national election, he forged a controversial deal with smaller regional parties to govern that included an amnesty for Catalans who were involved in the 2017 independence push.

That decision has further soured an already-polarized political atmosphere and resulted in repeated attacks on him and his party from not only opposition leaders but also the judiciary and business groups.

If Sanchez were to step down its possible parliament could choose another prime minister but given its fractured nature it seems unlikely anyone would prevail, said Lluis Orriols, a professor in political science at the Carlos III University in Madrid. More likely would be another general election, Orriols said.

A source in Spain's far-right party Vox said the prime minister was "playing the victim" and repeated its claim that he had bought his government "by amnestying criminals", referring to activists involved in Catalonia's independence drive. "If he wants to reflect, let him do so, but after resigning," the source added.

(Reporting by Aislinn Laing and Belen Carreño; Writing by Charlie Devereux; editing by Diane Craft)

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Published: 25 Apr 2024, 12:37 AM IST
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