Spain’s radicals Podemos seize the initiative

Last Saturday, Podemos´ leader, Pablo Iglesias, galvanized a large crowd gathered in Madrid by delivering a scathing attack on the establishment. He uses old left-wing ideals and is turning them into a new credo supposedly based on direct democracy. While keeping a firm grip on the movement, he boasts about giving back a voice to citizens on all matters. He skillfully avoids putting forward concrete proposals, canvassing a campaign exclusively devoted to denouncing abuses from those holding the economic power, depicting other parties as mere puppets.

Podemos´ tactics may well reap wide support from voters in the coming elections but can hardly hope to secure an overall majority in townhalls and regions. Thus it will have to choose  whether to strike a deal  with the other left-wing parties it despises or transfer power to the Partido Popular. It also places the socialists in a difficult position. They cannot support Podemos candidates, nor can they enter into coaltion with them. At most, they may be able to count on Podemos to enforce minority governments.

A similar pattern may materilse in the general elections. Podemos could hardly support a minorty socialist Cabinet unless it enforced attractive proposals such as a debt restructuring. But opening the way for a right-wing government might prove fatal for its future prospects. Should the outcome derive into a stalemate, a snap election shortly after might severely cut down popular support for Podemos, as voters would turn back to the old bi-parisan model. Should the Partido Popular win that contest, Podemos´ backing might fall sharply.

About the Author

JP Marin Arrese
Juan Pedro Marín Arrese is a Madrid-based economic analyst and observer. He regularly publishes articles in the Spanish leading financial newspaper 'Expansión'.

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