• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Growing pains hit Podemos as internal rifts damage party
Podemos member Iñigo Errejón (l) and party leader Pablo Iglesias. Photo: AFP

Growing pains hit Podemos as internal rifts damage party

AFP · 16 Mar 2016, 09:13

Published: 16 Mar 2016 09:13 GMT+01:00

Led by the charismatic Pablo Iglesias, the grouping has been shaken by resignations and increasingly vocal regional discontent just as it engages in delicate political manoeuvrings following inconclusive elections in December.

Analysts and party members say the crisis is likely to be just a bump in the road for an organisation born in January 2014 out of anger over austerity, but they argue it could still weaken Podemos if left unaddressed.

"The Spanish electorate has tended to punish internal divisions in political parties, which are often perceived as struggles for power rather than for ideological positions," says Lluis Orriols, politics professor at Madrid's Carlos III University.

Spain has been locked in political paralysis since December elections put an end to the traditional two-party system, leaving a hung parliament divided among four main parties, none of which won enough parliamentary seats to govern alone.

Podemos came third with 65 seats out of 350, giving it considerable clout in subsequent coalition talks - so much so that it blocked recent attempts by the Socialists to form a government in a parliamentary vote of confidence.

The gridlock is such that new elections could be held in June if no power-sharing agreement is found.

Losing goodwill 

Speculation is rife that Podemos is divided over what strategy to take now - whether to abstain from any subsequent parliamentary vote and let the Socialists through, or continue blocking their attempts to form a government and go to fresh elections.

Contending that these allegations aim at weakening Podemos, Iglesias denied any rifts in a rallying letter to supporters this week.

"There are no currents or factions that are competing for control... and nor should there be, as this would transform us into something that we have always fought: just another party," he wrote.

Still, just as Podemos was riding high before December elections, it now appears to be losing goodwill as citizens tired of endless fruitless negotiations.

No less than six separate surveys published in left- and right-leaning newspapers recently found that Podemos would lose seats in any fresh polls.

Adding insult to injury, several regional groupings that made a pact with Podemos in December, helping them win votes, are now distancing themselves from the party.

Compromis in eastern Valencia, for instance, has broken its alliance to go it alone.

And in Catalonia, popular Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau - a former activist who helped Podemos win the northeastern region's largest number of votes in the elections - is now going to form her own party.

Further complicating matters, 10 people resigned from the party's top executive organ in the northwestern region of Galicia last month, followed later by the departure of 10 others in the equivalent "citizen's council" in Madrid.

In both cases, those who quit cited differences with their bosses. Breogan Rioboo, who was unseated as secretary-general in Galicia due to the resignations, has since expressed concern over some aspects of the party's direction.

He has, for instance, denounced the fact that some Podemos lawmakers also occupy high-level positions in the grouping despite past pledges to avoid accumulating posts.

"We have to strive to avoid repeating the same mistakes that other parties have made," he told AFP.

"If we don't address these issues in time... we run the risk of being more of the same."

Forced to change?

Fundamentally, these are all classic teething problems for a new party made worse by the nature of the beast, argues political communication consultant Luis Arroyo.

Story continues below…

"Podemos is a mix of a lot of groups, from citizens' platforms to social organisations, small parties, university organisations," he says.

It prides itself on its roots as a street protest movement, as evidenced by the slogan on its webpage - "Never again will a country be without its people."

So even at the top, leaders are obliged to consult Podemos's 350,000-strong membership base for every major decision.

And that, analysts say, is where Iglesias and his deputies may have to change things, to reorganise the party into a more manageable structure without antagonising supporters who don't want to see it morph into yet another mainstream grouping.

"It's a shame but there's almost an imperative to adapt to the requirements of an organisation," says Fernando Vallespin, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

"And that goes against revolutionary or activist spontaneity."

By Marianne Barriaux 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
True cost of Spain's balcony-jumping craze revealed
A tourist leaping into a swimming pool. Screen grab: YouTube

They're young, on holiday, drunk and sometimes high, and they decide to jump from their hotel or apartment balcony into the pool. But some miss and end up in hospital... or worse, dead.

Weather
Spain sizzles in last heatwave of the summer
Photo: AFP

There is still time to work on your tan, enjoy refreshing gazpacho, or head for the pool.

Ibiza flight scare after police officer accidentally fires gun
The incident happened on a Vueling flight from Ibiza to Madrid. Photo: AFP

A police officer’s gun accidentally fired in the cabin of a Vueling passenger jet on the runway at Ibiza causing alarm among passengers.

Travel
Off the beaten track: 14 best kept travel secrets in Spain
Spain has some amazing spots like Las Medulas gold mine. Photo: Jonathan Pincas/Flickr

Spain has so much to see off the beaten track so why not take the road less travelled and discover a few hidden gems?

The Local List
Ten brilliantly useful words English 'stole' from Spanish
There would be no macho men if it wasn't for Spanish. Photo: Ryan Gesner

The Local looks at ten fantastic words the English language 'borrowed' from Spanish — and won't be giving back.

British dad drowns saving daughter on red flagged beach
A red flag warns it's too dangerous to swim. Photo: AFP

A British father drowned on Sunday while swimming with his ten-year-old daughter on a beach in Torrox where red flags were flying.

Referee stops Spanish league match over 'monkey chants'
Athletic Bilbao's Iñaki Williams during the match. Photo: AFP

A referee was forced to halt play during Sunday's Spanish league match between Sporting Gijon and visiting Athletic Bilbao because of racist chants aimed at Bilbao player Iñaki Williams.

The Local List
Tacky Spanish souvenirs: the best of the worst
Tack is the new chic in the glamorous world of souvenirs. Photo: Freebird_71/Flickr

There is something wonderful about a tacky souvenir from Spain. Or is there?

Olympics
Spanish veteran Beitia wins high jump gold
Beitia's victory makes her the oldest ever winner of a jumping event at the Olympics. Photo:AFP

Spanish veteran Ruth Beitia scored the biggest win of her 20-year career after winning Olympic high jump gold.

Tiny Spanish publisher clones world's most mysterious book
Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich Manuscript, who some believe holds magical powers. Photo: AFP

It’s one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one — not even the best cryptographers — has cracked.

Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
International
'We won't ban burqinis on our beaches' insists Barcelona
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Recipe: How to make Andalusian Ajo Blanco soup
Travel
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Travel
Ten touristy types you'll meet in Spain: Which one are you?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Lifestyle
Ten top tips to avoid looking like a guiri when in Spain
International
Don't miss this spectacular meteor shower over Spain
Travel
Desperate Ryanair passenger chases after missed flight
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel
What's on in Spain: August 2016
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Get your kit off! Spain's ten best nudist beaches
National
German firestarter blames blaze on 'toilet paper mishap'
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
National
Flashmob prank sparks 'terror attack' panic in Spanish resort
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
Croquemon Go: Spain invents twist on game to 'eat 'em all'
Technology
Six free apps to simplify your summer in Spain
National
Spanish parents fight for right to name their son 'Wolf'
National
Beach closed after shark attack in southern Spain
National
Spain ups security at tourist spots as terrorism fears grow
National
Ten great reasons to discover the real Malaga right now
Lifestyle
The good, bad and the ugly of long distance relationships
National
7 reasons why grandparents in Spain are simply the best
Travel
Barcelona bans Segways from tourist clogged waterfront
National
Spain pays €300m each year in pensions… to dead people
National
Police issue guidelines as Pokémon craze sweeps Spain
National
Another dodgy art restoration raises alarm in Spain
3,219
jobs available