Socialist Worker

Poor choice for voters in the Spanish State as Podemos shifts to the right

Andy Durgan looks at the roots of the political crisis gripping Spain—and says this month’s election won’t resolve the turmoil

Issue No. 2484

Pablo Iglesias (centre right) leads left wing party Podemos

Pablo Iglesias (centre right) leads left wing party Podemos (Pic: Flickr/Cyberfrancis.)


Voters in Spain will go to the polls on 20 December at the end of a year of elections.

Polls took place in Andalucia in January, followed by local and regional elections in May and another vote in Catalonia in September.

The context for this is the economic crisis. Almost 22 percent of people in Spain are unemployed and up to 30 percent live below the poverty line.

First the Socialist Party (PSOE)—Spain’s equivalent of Labour—and then since 2011 the conservative People’s Party (PP) have pushed through austerity.

That has led to massive resistance. There have been three general strikes and rank and file anti-cuts campaigns.

In 2011 the Indignados movement saw tens of thousands of people occupy public squares against corruption and for social justice.

As a result the two-party system, which has dominated Spain since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1977, has collapsed. The PSOE and PP are challenged on the left by Podemos (We can) and on the right by Ciudadanos (Citizens).

Some opinion polls point to a PP “victory” with a little over 25 percent of the vote. The PSOE and Ciudadanos expect to get around 20 percent, and Podemos slightly less, although some polls showed a surge in its support.

In a proportional electoral system this means that no one party can govern alone. A government could be based on the PP and Ciudadanos.

Elections earlier in the year led to widespread political instability. They also produced important victories for the left. In Barcelona, Madrid and many other cities radical left coalitions have pushed out the right.

Defending 

In Catalonia, parties defending Catalan independence won a majority in September, including ten MPs from the anti?capitalist CUP (Popular Unity Candidatures). Only Podemos promises a referendum.

The PP is set to lose around four million votes, mainly to Ciudadanos. Its message centres on opposing corruption and defending Spanish nationalism.

However many of its largely unknown candidates have a history on the right. And where it has had representation it has voted systematically with the PP.

Ciudadanos also advocates Spain joining in the bombing of Syria—something that even the PP balks at given the massive opposition to war.

On the left, the PSOE is not expected to recapture the millions of votes it has lost recently. Hopes for change are pinned on Podemos.

But the moderation of its programme in recent months has led to growing disquiet among some of its supporters.

Podemos, led by the charismatic Pablo Iglesias, emerged from the political mood generated by the Indignados.

Its leadership has always argued that the key question is not being left or right but defending policies that benefit the vast majority of people.

This has included raising taxes, reversing cuts, ending corruption and a complete overhaul of the flawed democracy inherited during the late 1970s.

Faced with the emergence of Ciudadanos and being overtaken in opinion polls by the PSOE, Podemos has turned to the right.

It now speaks of only reforming the constitution, rather than far-reaching democratisation. It has dropped its pledge for a minimal social wage for all and is no longer calling for Spain to leave Nato.

Mass mobilisation must return to centre stage if real change is to be achieved.

Andy Durgan is a member of En lluita in Barcelona

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