MADRID – Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez gave on Sunday his backing to former head coach of the national basketball team Pepu Hernandez to become his party’s candidate to run in the upcoming Madrid mayoral election.
Sanchez gave his support to Hernandez as the mayoral hopeful for the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), which Sanchez leads, during the presentation of the former coach.
“Pepu is the mayor that Madrid needs,” said the prime minister at the event held at a theater in the capital Madrid.
The former basketball coach led Spain’s national team to victory in the 2006 FIBA World Championships.
Sanchez’s personal support for the former coach has caused a stir within his party, with some alleging favoritism towards a candidate who is not a member of the party nor who has any political experience.
In the event to launch Hernandez’s bid to become the party’s candidate, Sanchez responded to those critical of his support, defending his “right” as a member of the PSOE “to position myself and say what the best project is and who the best candidate for mayor is.”
The results of the upcoming municipal, regional and European elections, to be held May 26, will be key barometers of the political situation in Spain and a gauge of the prime minister’s popularity.
Sanchez leads a minority government, with his party holding 84 seats in the 350-seat parliament, swooping to power upon toppling the government of Mariano Rajoy in May 2018 on the back of a motion of no confidence.
Manuela Carmena of Mas Madrid (More Madrid) currently holds the position of city mayor.
Hernandez was not the first high-profile sportsman to dabble in the world of politics. If he is chosen to be the party’s candidate and were to become the mayor of Madrid, he would follow in the footsteps of others.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was a professional bodybuilder and Hollywood actor before he became the governor of California in 2003, retired Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan became prime minister last year, and Vitali Klitschko was a professional boxer before he became the mayor of Kiev in 2014.