• Spain's news in English
Five years on, the Indignados have changed Spain's politics
With more than 20 percent unemployment, floods of exasperated people around the country took to the streets. Photo: AFP

Five years on, the Indignados have changed Spain's politics

AFP · 14 May 2016, 11:04

Published: 14 May 2016 11:04 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In the spring of 2011, as an economic crisis tore through Spain leaving countless jobless and homeless in its wake, a dozen bloggers and online activists decided to write a manifesto titled "real democracy now" and called for a demonstration.

Under a clear blue sky on May 15th, thousands responded to the call, gathering on the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid where they set up camp, refusing to budge for weeks just like Egyptian youth had done on Cairo's Tahrir square.

With more than 20 percent unemployment, floods of exasperated people around the country followed suit, taking to the streets and organising meetings in what became known as the Indignados -- or 15-M, short for May 15 -- movement.

"It was a major event, which resulted in a new political and historical era in Spain," says sociologist Jaime Pastor.

Initiated when the Socialists were still in power, the Indignados claimed to transcend political cleavages.

"Some of us are more progressive, others more conservative... But we are all worried and 'indignant' about the political, economic and social situation," read their manifesto.

That year, 21,000 protests took place throughout Spain.

And the movement quickly spread beyond Spain, inspiring Occupy Wall Street protests in New York as well as gatherings in other European cities.

As the crisis deepened, Spaniards chose to vote in the conservative Popular Party (PP) in November 2011, chasing away the Socialists.

The PP continued and deepened a policy of spending cuts and tax rises put in place by the previous government in a bid to steer the country away from economic collapse.

They achieved that, bringing Spain back to growth, but at a cost.

Austerity measures increased inequalities and a string of corruption scandals that hit the PP only deepened resentment of the elite.

And so it was that Podemos, a far-left, anti-austerity party inspired by the Indignados movement, was born in January 2014.

Criticised as a populist, anti-establishment grouping by its detractors, the ally of Greece's Syriza leftists nevertheless swept into third place in general elections less than two years later.

In a historic move, the December 2015 polls put an end to Spain's long-standing two-party system thanks to the rise of Podemos as well as that of Ciudadanos, another new grouping considered more to the right, leading to a hung parliament.

A new political generation was born: out of 350 lawmakers, 211 had never held a parliamentary seat -- suited men and women contrasting with those sporting jeans and dreadlocks.

The Indignados movement also filtered into city halls in major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, with activists now holding prominent positions after municipal elections in May last year.

Ada Colau, the current mayor of Barcelona, rose to prominence as an activist who protested against forced evictions.

"Politics has once again become an instrument for change," says Podemos lawmaker Juantxo Lopez de Uralde, the former head of Greenpeace in Spain.

But this sweeping change has yet to make an impact.

Coalition talks to form a government collapsed after bickering parties failed to come to any form of agreement, leaving the country in political limbo.

As a result, Spaniards are having to go back to the polls in June in the first repeat elections since the country returned to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

In the meantime, Spain is still being ruled by a caretaker conservative government blamed for the very austerity that the Indignados movement wants to quash.

Story continues below…

"There is still a lot to do," acknowledges Fabio Gandara, one of the founders of the movement.

"The majority of our demands have yet to be fulfilled."

Still, according to Podemos activist Tristan Duanel, there have been some achievements.

"Young people have joined parties," he says, adding that some themes advocated by the Indignados -- such as transparency -- have now become mainstream.

"But change is slow," he adds. "We have to do something at a European level."

Pastor believes that is beginning to happen, with initiatives such as the Plan B Europe-wide anti-austerity movement created by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, or the youth-led "Nuit debout" protests in France.

"We are going back to transnationalism," he says.


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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
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.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

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