The 350 MPs filed into Spain’s lower chamber on Wednesday morning, almost a third of them from political parties that didn’t even exist at the start of the last legislature and many of them spurned the traditional suit and tie to stroll around in jeans and open shirts or even scruffy jumpers.
Imágenes del nuevo congreso: Alberto Rodríguez (Podemos) pasa delante de Rajoy pic.twitter.com/EV9IHC2Mrb
— El Huffington Post (@ElHuffPost) January 13, 2016
While difficult negotiations are still underway to form a government after Spain’s ruling conservative party earned a drubbing at the polls, just about claiming the largest share of seats but losing its absolute majority, there was parliamentary business to be getting on with.
Proving that Spain’s diverse political parties are indeed capable of striking an agreement, the first pact of the new legislature came when lawmakers picked a Socialist and former regional president of the Basque Country as the parliamentary speaker.
Patxi López was elected with 130 votes after earning support from his Socialist Party and the centrist Ciudadanos, becoming the first speaker of the house since Spain’s transition to democracy to not come from the party with the most parliamentary seats.
— PSOE (@PSOE) January 13, 2016
His only real competition had been Carolina Bescansa, the candidate put forward by the radical leftist Podemos party. But while she failed to secure more than 71 votes, she stole the show for an entirely different reason.
Bescansa chose to turn up to her first day as a new parliamentarian with her six-month-old baby son Diego in tow, a companion that stole the show.
Earning a cuddle from Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and providing the perfect excuse for a new round of baby-faced Twitter jokes about the youthful appearance of Podemos deputy Iñigo Errejón, the baby caused quite a stir.
Of course traditionalists were appalled at the move.
Esto no es ni feminismo, ni conciliación, ni progresismo. En el Congreso hay guardería. Ya vale de reírse d la gente pic.twitter.com/FbIhDkQD7J
— Javier Maroto (@JavierMaroto) January 13, 2016
Javier Maroto, a senior official in the conservative People’s Party and a former mayor of Vitoria, wrote that “this is not feminism, conciliation or progressivism”.
But even while some celebrated that it exemplified the birth of a new political era, even feminists were among those to point out that it was nothing more than an ill-advised publicity stunt.
¿Bescansa sabes q hay servicio de guardería y ascensor? subir el carro por las escaleras yllevar al niño al pleno es #postureo ¿ tu marido?
— RedFeminista (@RedFeminista) January 13, 2016
“Bescansa do you know there is a nursery service and a lift?”, Red Feminista tweeted: “taking the pushchair up the stairs and the child into the session is showing off. Your husband?”
Was it appropriate for Bescansa to turn up with her infant, not least when there is an on-site nursery within Congress? The controversy was compounded when Bescansa requested that media outlets pixelate the face of her son to protect his privacy.
Such was the baby's impact that one cheeky parliamentarian suggested the infant would be best placed to take the role of speaker of the house. The only null vote recorded in the process was reported down to the fact that an MP had written “Bescana’s son” on the ballot paper.
But the baby wasn’t the only first in the parliament. Following the December 20th general election, a record 39.4 percent of MPs are women – 138 MPs compared to 125 after the 2011 general election (35 percent).
The 138 women to 212 men ratio is still a way off absolute equality, but is the closest Spain has ever reached and is an important victory for gender equality.
— Rita Bosaho #Podemos (@RitaBosaho) January 13, 2016
Among them is another history-maker. Rita Bosaho, 50, a Podemos MP from Alicante took her seat as the first black parliamentarian in Spain’s history.
The youngest member of Spain’s parliament is also a woman. The Socialist MP Maria Such Palomares is just 25-years-old.
— Maria Such Palomares (@SuchMaria) January 13, 2016
While the day marked new beginnings, what happens next is anyone's guess as the four main political parties – the PP, PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos – must struggle on in an attempt to form a government or risk new elections.