My name is Héctor. I am 25 years old and I am a political and international relations analyst. I work at a think tank in the beautiful city of Barcelona. What I write here reflects solely my own views.
One of the most surprising facts in the European election in Spain were the five seats gained by a three-month old party called Podemos (We can) whose leader, Pablo Iglesias Turrión, who is currently the GUE-NGL group’s candidate for the Presidency of the European Parliament. This new party is at the left of the social democrats, it claims to have a vertical organisation with a bottom-up decision making-process and it looks as if it has managed to transform the ‘indignation wave’ that shook the country in 2011 into a political party.
Until now Podemos is Pablo Iglesias Turrión, who has become a celebrity in Spain through his television appearances where he proved himself capable to deliver a clear message against the politicians who have been governing Spain and whom he accuses of being casta (the establishment). I must confess that I failed as a political scientist because I had never heard of Podemos until a week before the elections; it was my brother, who generally is not interested in politics, who told me about it. This should give those people a hint who have been criticising Podemos since the moment it won five seats. The party has managed to collect a great part of the collective anger; it has connected with people not usually interested in politics, and I am sure that had the king abdicated before the elections Podemos would have achieved an even better result. The reason for this is that the two main parties in Spain, the People’s Party (PP) and the socialists (PSO –who are part of the EPP and the S&D respectively at the European Parliament– reformed the Constitution in a way that allowed the king’s abdication, the ratification of his son’s succession and settled the former king’s legal protection of.
As mentioned before, recently there has been much criticism on Podemos, criticism on the part of the PP but also (un)surprisingly from the socialist party. Members of the People’s Party have claimed that Podemos’ funding comes from Venezuela, because Pablo Iglesias allegedly worked for the government of Venezuela a long time ago. Although this may be true, I do not understand how this is an argument against Podemos when governments that consider themselves democratic have done worse things than just funding political parties that participate in elections according to the rules of the game. In addition, some media close to the PP have associated Podemos to the terrorist group ETA which is an absurdity. The socialist party is afraid of Podemos because some studies show that former socialist voters have voted for Podemos and the socialist party has suffered significant loses. The socialists accuse Podemos of being populist, as if other parties were not, especially the socialists themselves, who say one thing during the electoral campaigns and then go and do the opposite. They also deny being part of the casta. Many socialist rank and file activists have complained about being called casta, but they have to understand that this term is not meant for them but for the leaders of the party, mainly those who have forgotten every possible meaning of the word ‘socialism’.
In my opinion, the criticism on Podemos is unjustified and unfair. It will be possible to be clearer once we can see how they act in the European Parliament and how they will manage with the upcoming local, regional and general elections which are due next year. Then we will know whether in the European election they profited from a favourable electoral law and the general attitude among the electorate towards the European election as being second rate, or whether they have come to stay. In the Spanish elections, the electoral law will be against them and they will not be able to present a leader as charismatic as Pablo Iglesias in every important place in Spain. So it is likely that Iglesias will leave his seat in the EP to be the candidate of Podemos in the general election in 2015.