Spain’s Socialist party elects new leader

July 14, 2014 GMT

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s leading opposition Socialist party has chosen Pedro Sanchez as its new secretary-general and the person tasked with winning back voters.

The 42-year-old, said Monday he hopes to regain the leftist vote and build a viable alternative to the ruling conservative Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Sanchez won 49 percent of members’ votes Sunday, against 36 percent for nearest competitor Eduardo Madina.

Spain holds general elections in 2015.

Sanchez replaces veteran politician Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who stepped down following the Socialists’ disastrous result in recent European Parliament elections.

Many Spaniards blame the Socialists for allowing Spain to slide into economic crisis but are also angry with the Popular Party for imposing severe reforms while failing to reduce the 26 percent unemployment rate.