• Spain's news in English

Podemos brings 'indignados' to the doors of Spain's parliament

AFP · 18 Dec 2015, 09:33

Published: 18 Dec 2015 09:33 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"Si, se puede" - yes, we can. It was the rallying cry for thousands of "Indignado" protesters who flooded Spanish streets in 2011, and the far-left Podemos party spawned by that movement is now poised to enter parliament on the same slogan.

As Spain battles an economic crisis, polls suggest Podemos could come in third or fourth place when the country votes in a general election on Sunday, taking about 60 seats in the 350-seat assembly.

READ: Spain's general election: The key players

The grassroots Indignado movement brought thousands of Spaniards to Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square on May 15, 2011, furious over growing inequality, spending cuts and corruption.

More camps sprouted across the country - and as the movement gained momentum, it helped inspire the "Occupy" anti-capitalist protests that swept the world that year, from New York to London.

Podemos was founded in January 2014 with the goal of turning the Indignado movement - also known as 15M after its founding date - into a more structured political organisation. But the party has not forgotten its roots.

"Without 15M, there would be no Podemos!" Carolina Bescansa, a sociology professor who was one of Podemos' founders, told some 10,000 supporters gathered at a sports hall for an election rally in the working-class Madrid neighbourhood of Usera.

Candidates backed by the party won power in a cluster of town halls in local elections in May, including Madrid and Barcelona.

"Yes we can," Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, a former anti-eviction crusader, told the rally in Usera, holding back tears.

Citing new measures to help the soaring number of Spaniards lagging behind on their mortgage payments - adopted in part due to pressure from Podemos activists - Colau declared: "Look how we have changed this country."

Back in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, she said, there were many who felt that all the options facing them were bleak - "Throw themselves out the window, or leave the country."


Among those listening from the bleachers were Serena, 39, who left her job as a financial analyst to become a teacher; Tristan, a 29-year-old Starbucks employee with a degree in art history; and Edurne, a 37-year-old secretary.

After the rally the three talked about May 15, 2011 in Madrid the way others recalled the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - times that felt truly historic.

"Everything felt very free," said Serena. "Everyone sat down and said out loud what they were thinking."

Tristan Duanel said there had been "an effervescence" at the Puerta del Sol camp, which started as a small sit-in and grew over a month into a tent city with a market, nursery, garden and even a library.

"A colleague told me, 'You've got to see these people,'" he recalled, speaking of the Podemos founders.

Edurne Lopez said he had been at "almost all the protests,".

'Era of change'

Since the protest camps disbanded, voter anger has been channelled into Indignado neighbourhood associations and parties like the environmentalist Equo, left-wing Izquierda Unida, and the newly-formed Podemos.

"We are living an exceptional moment," said Juantxo Lopez de Uralde, a former head of the Spanish branch of Greenpeace, who is running for Podemos in the northern Basque Country.

"Whoever wins, things will never be the same - Podemos has opened an era of change."

Pablo Simon, professor of political sciences at Madrid's Carlos III University, said Podemos had "changed all other parties" by forcing greater transparency and by insisting that candidates charged with graft be banned from standing for office.

The changing political landscape has also paved the way for the rise of new centrist party Ciudadanos, he added.

Story continues below…

Founded in the northeastern region of Catalonia in 2006, the party has seen its support rocket since deciding to go national last year.

While many voters share Podemos' diagnosis of Spain's problems, they do not agree with its solutions and in Ciudadanos they have found an alternative.

Like Podemos, it is expected to do well in Sunday's general election, putting an end to three decades of dominance by Spain's two main parties, the Popular Party and the Socialists.

"Podemos showed it is possible to vote for new parties," said Simon.

The party has also introduced a new way of doing politics, with a more relaxed style, heavy use of social networks, smaller meetings with voters, and creative ads financed by its supporters.

A recent spot features Darth Vader slashing his Popular Party membership card to move over to the "side" of the Indignados.

By Michaela Cancela-Kieffer 

Make sure to follow The Local's election live blog on Sunday evening for all the latest on the Spanish elections. 

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Recipe: How to make classic Spanish ham croquettes
Photo: thespanishcuisine.com

Learn how to make this all-time Spanish favourite at home.

Halloween weekend: Sunny skies and nightmare traffic
Authorities expect 5.5 million cars to take to the road over the 'puente'. Archive photo: AFP

Spain is set for great weather over the long weekend. But be prepared for nightmare traffic.

Southern Spain will become a desert with global warming
Photo: Steven Stralton / Flickr

Southern Spain will become a desert if global warning continues, scientists have warned.

Eight Spanish films to truely terrify you this Halloween
Photo: Corie Howell / Flickr Creative Commons.

Looking for something to give you goosebumps this Halloween? The Local looks at eight Spanish films that are sure to have you cowering beneath the covers.

Spain's Socialists refuse to go easy on Rajoy once in power
Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists may have reluctantly decided to let Mariano Rajoy govern again but they will not go easy on the acting conservative premier once he re-takes power, they warned on Thursday.

Spain's Podemos sees golden opportunity in Socialist woes
Pablo Iglesias is ready to step up in opposition. Photo: AFP

As Spain's conservatives prepare to re-take power after 10 months of political limbo, anti-austerity party Podemos has set its sights on replacing the divided Socialists as the main opposition force.

Wildlife ranger accused over decapitated bison in Valencia
The headless corpse of Sauro was found last month. Photo: Carlos Alamo / Reserva de Valdeserrillas

The case of the beheaded bison at a wildlife reserve in Valencia just got a whole lot weirder.

Spain jobless drops below 20% for first time in six years
The unemployed queuing up outside a Madrid job centre. Photo: AFP

Spain's unemployment fell below 20 percent for the first time in six years, official figures showed on Thursday.

'Saints not ghouls' insists Spanish church for Halloween
Suggested outfits from the Bishopric of Cadiz and Ceuta. Photo: Shower of Roses

Spanish bishops are urging good Christian children to forgo zombie, ghost and devil outfits and instead dress up as "saints, virgins and apostles".

Tough road ahead, Spain PM warns before return to power
Rajoy will try and form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned on Wednesday of a tough road ahead as he prepares to take power again at the head of a minority government with little support.

Analysis & Opinion
Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
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
jobs available