• Spain's news in English

Iglesias to head Spain's leftist Podemos party

AFP · 16 Nov 2014, 16:43

Published: 16 Nov 2014 16:43 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Pony-tailed university lecturer Pablo Iglesias has caused a "political earthquake" in Spain, where his left-wing protest party Podemos is catching up with mainstream rivals ahead of next year's general election.

The 36-year-old, who was formally appointed secretary general of the party on Saturday, is the only activist who has managed to harness the anger of Spain's "Indignants" popular protest movement into an influential political force.

His critics brand him a demagogue and say he does not know how to fund his anti-free market policies.

Bearded and modestly dressed with a solemn gaze, Iglesias vows to defend the poor in a country stricken by high unemployment and corruption scandals.

He rails on Twitter and in numerous television interviews against Spain's elite "caste" of mainstream politicians and bankers.

"We have to do away with all politicians' privileges," he said in one of his thousands of Twitter messages. "It is obscene that those who impose public cuts are living it up."

As a political science lecturer at Madrid's prestigious Complutense University, Iglesias is well-drilled in articulating his message.

"He has lots of self-control. In an argument, he stays calm," said Fernando Vallespin, another political scientist at Complutense.

Born in a working-class Madrid district, Iglesias was active in the communist youth and the anti-globalisation movement before the Indignants movement erupted in 2011.

"He has never been ambitious and does not want to use politics for selfish ends like so many others," said Vallespin. "He thinks he can help."

Podemos formed last January. Four months later, it won 1.2 million votes and five seats in elections for the European parliament. It did so with young candidates mostly new to politics and a campaign budget of just €150,000 ($190,000).

Iglesias has won over many ordinary Spaniards hit by the recent economic crisis, but has riled business leaders and the right-wing press.

"When Pablo Iglesias speaks, I hear Fidel Castro," said Leopoldo Fernandez-Pujals, a prominent businessman, blasting the Podemos leader's proposals to nationalise key companies and restructure debt.

He said Iglesias would "sink the country" if he won power.

Conservative newspaper ABC has dismissed Iglesias's political programme as "unachievable".

Regardless, Podemos has surged in opinion polls ahead of next year's general election.

Feeding off anger over corruption and unemployment, it has shaken up the two-party system that has dominated since Spain emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s.

A poll published on November 2 in centre-left newspaper El Pais gave Podemos 27.7 percent support, just ahead of the main opposition Socialists with 26.2 percent. The ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) was third with 20.7 percent.

Story continues below…

The newspaper called it a "political earthquake".

As well as promising to tackle corruption, Podemos wants a 35-hour working week, public control over certain sectors of the economy and the lowering of the retirement age to 60.

It has offered to hold a referendum on whether Spain should stay in NATO and vowed to oppose the country's involvement in international conflicts.

But Vallespin warned that Iglesias "has a skill for passing the buck" on delicate issues.

"There will come a time when he can't do that anymore."

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain’s Socialists lift veto on conservatives
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available