ANALYSIS: Is Podemos heading for a terrible result at the May elections in Spain?

Matthew Bennett
Matthew Bennett - [email protected] • 22 Jan, 2019 Updated Tue 22 Jan 2019 15:38 CEST
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What happened to the Podemos revolutionary drive that made so many voters' eyes sparkle at the height of the unemployment crisis five years ago?


Podemos founding member Iñigo Errejón has resigned his seat in parliament, days after announcing he was going to run in May's elections for the region of Madrid (not City Hall), not as the Podemos candidate for First Minister but in a group called Más Madrid ("More Madrid"), alongside the current mayor of the Spanish capital, Manuela Carmena, who will attempt reelection (her current group is called Ahora Madrid, "Now Madrid").

"I am fine with paying the price of taking the right decision", said Mr. Errejón, insisting he is still a member of Podemos, "I couldn't leave Podemos even if I wanted to", and that he hoped a joint candidacy for the spring ballot, with Podemos, would still be possible.

In an open letter explaining how they mean to broaden the lessons the alternative left has learnt over the last four years running Madrid City Hall to the regional government level, the pair said "the majority needs a project that renews hope and trust that things can be done even better". That implies people have lost faith in Podemos, which is not doing things better. "We are at a crossroads", they continued, in reference to the sudden rise of Vox: "Andalusia is a warning. Today everyone knows we need a wake-up call".

The missive ended with a not very camouflaged reference to Pablo Iglesias: "spring always follows winter", they wrote, adding that a new way of doing politics was needed "that listens more than it shouts, proposes more than it imposes, and works together more than competes".

Mr. Iglesias, still on paternity leave, did not take the news well, fuming on Facebook about having to interrupt his time off "for such a sad reason". He said the joint move had "affected and saddened me" and that the well known pair, "Iñigo and Manuela", had "hidden preparations for their own electoral project from us".

Mr. Iglesias referred to a divided party conference two years ago, with members split between his own supporters and those of Mr. Errejón.

The solution announced at the time was that the baby-faced intellectual would become the party's candidate for First Minister of Madrid at the next regional election, which is what was supposed to happen this May. Mr. Iglesias is now the only major founding member left in front-line Podemos politics.

Mr. Errejón (along with Mrs. Carmena) has just demonstrated that he knows both how to wait patiently for his revenge and that timing is of crucial importance in politics. Two years have gone by since that party conference and they have this very month celebrated their fifth birthday. It is "not a happy one", ranted Mr. Iglesias in his Facebook post, warning of the threat from Vox, "a new reactionary block that threatens to destroy democratic conquests". The Podemos leader is currently on his three-month paternity leave, in theory an enjoyably quiet period away from politics and the public spotlight. And there are only four months to go until all the ballots in May; there is no time for him to control this problem as he would wish.

Podemos will now be forced to look for another candidate or cede to Mr. Errejón's wishes for a joint project, and that would mean Podemos losing all control of the alternative left options at both the local and regional government levels in the Spanish capital. Maybe they have just already lost it anyway.

Branding problems in Madrid will be added to those in Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia and Andalusia, where before the ballot in December, regional leader Teresa Rodriguez, in an electoral list called Adelante Andalucía ("Forwards Andalusia"), called for a more autonomous Andalusian subgroup of Podemos in parliament in Madrid. Every time Podemos or the alternative left goes to the polls, they seem to have to come up with a new name and there is squabbling about who is really in charge.

In the polls, Podemos placed fourth (out of four, until Vox showed up) throughout 2018 and Mr. Iglesias appeared not to have any big ideas or great energy to change that state of affairs. What happened to the righteous revolutionary drive that made so many voters' eyes sparkle at the height of the unemployment crisis five years ago? Where are the big new ideas for changing Spain? Has Mr. Iglesias basically given up, even, at this point? With Vox set to scoop up the angry vote this time round, and Pedro Sánchez's Socialist Party hanging on (by a thread, admittedly) to first place in the polls, is Podemos headed for a terrible set of results in May?

Matthew Bennett is the creator of The Spain Report. You can read more of his writing on Patreon, and follow him on Twitter. Don't miss his podcast series with weekly in-depth analysis on Spain.



Matthew Bennett 2019/01/22 15:38

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