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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meet Podemos, the great newcomer of the European elections

The European Parliament elections have dealt a blow to Spain's traditional two-party system. Together, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Partido Popular (PP) and the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) won 49% of votes. In 2009, their combined score was 80.9%. No wonder Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has decided to step down following his party's poor showing.

But the big story coming out of Spanish ballot boxes is the success of Podemos (We Can), a new left-wing, anti-austerity movement that came from nowhere to become Spain's fourth largest party and win five seats in the new European Parliament.

And 'nowhere' really means 'nowhere' in this case. Podemos was officially registered as a political party in March 2014 - which makes its performance extraordinary. Its leader, 35-year-old Pablo Iglesias (see picture), is a Political Science professor but also a bit of a TV star in Spain. Interestingly, his parents called him Pablo so their son could bear the same name as Pablo Iglesias, the founder of the Spanish Socialist Party.

Factoids apart, we have been flicking through Podemos's European elections manifesto. The following bits give a good feel for what Podemos stands for in a number of policy areas:
  • "Citizens' audit of public and private debt to find out what parts of it can be considered as illegitimate...and declare that those won't be paid back."
  • "Creation of democratic and parliamentary control mechanisms for the European Central Bank...Creation of a European public credit rating agency."
  • "Regain public control over strategic sectors of the economy: telecommunications, energy, food, transport, health, pharmaceutical and education."
  • "Budgetary support for and increased development of public R&D centres, in order to favour the return of Spanish researchers and scientists from abroad."
  • "Right to a basic income for each and every citizen, for the mere fact of being citizens" - which sounds a lot like the 'citizenship wage' advocated by the Five-Star Movement in Italy.
  • "A moratorium on mortgage arrears for the first houses of families with difficulties in paying their loans back."
  • "Increase the EU's social budget, and establish a levy on capital movements within its boundaries" - which basically means saying adiós to free movement of capital. Podemos also calls for a "bigger levy" on movements of capital from the EU to third countries.
  • "Establishment of trade agreements among small producers in Southern European countries. Development of specific cooperation mechanisms among Southern European countries." On the other hand, Podemos wants to "abandon" negotiations over the EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP), and calls for a "substantial revision" of the existing EU-Latin America free trade deals.
  • "A derogation from the Lisbon Treaty so that public services are exempted from the competition principle." 
  • "Stop the use of Memoranda of Understanding" - which set out the conditions attached to EU-IMF bailout loans to struggling eurozone countries.
Call it left-wing, anti-establishment, anti-austerity (but clearly not anti-EU), the rise of Podemos is significant because - similar to what the Five-Star Movement has done in Italy - it can give Spaniards a channel through which they can voice their dissatisfaction with the political establishment (and the current eurozone economic policies), something which has been lacking at the peak of the eurozone crisis.

In an interview with today's El Mundo, Pablo Iglesias has refused to reveal whether he and his movement will stand in next year's Spanish general election. For now, though, it seems Beppe Grillo may just have found someone to work with in the new European Parliament.


Rik said...

When the current crisis started imho it would ultimately lead to a bipolair Europe.
-An Irish model (low taxes, worldwide competitive); or
-A French model (French, white flags, smelly cheese, no soap, high taxes and protectionism). That is before they would go bust and had the adopt the Irish model.

Guys like this arenot the solution. You simply donot attract investors to your country (unless it is solar panels, the recently in Colorado legalised crops and organic soybeans of course).
Their solution will always result in redistributional schemes. Which would even by fine when there would be sufficient capacity to tax to pay for it all.
There is however clearly not. There isnot even for the present welfarestate.

Looks like the dysfunctional countries are moving into the 'Germany Pay' model, to continue their present 'livingstyle'.

Rik said...

On populist Spain

Imho Spain doesnot have a real populist alternative because of a mix of reasons.

1. Effectively the regional parties play that role. However the discontent from that angle is mainly about independence (and not immigration or anti-EU). Like Belgium.
Regional parties as well make the part of the protestmarket for general populist parties simply smaller.

2. For a general populist party Spain simply misses one of the basic conditions: an appealing leader. Appealing as in appealing to the target audience not in general (Au contraire I would say. The 'elite' should hate him/her)).
a) There is general discontent. Check
b) A flag. There are several possibilities (immigration, economy, high unemployment etc). Check
c) A Leader. There simply isnot.

Doubtful if this guy will be the answer. Donot know anything about him but just on general appearance.
Rightist works in general better. He simply looks like as left as they go.
In general age group (grumpy old greys) is older than 35. Hardworking slightly undereducated doesnot meet any of these..

However Greece shows that there is a market for the young and Spain has similar issues.
Difference with Greece is that there are already reasonably established regional parties.
Anyway these (regionals) are the ones most likely brushing up the older vore.

So there looks to be potential (unemployed youth, no future generation). But a lot smaller than in Greece.

Academic: doubtful about that. You can, as again Greece (and Salmond) shows tell a lot of unrealistic nonsense without any logic in it and get away with that.
Hard to see Spain in this part of the market being different.
Have to see how he does in this respect, but I am doubtful. AfD is also an academic club and it simply has the same sort of problems likely we will see here. Too complicated to appeal to many.
Simply 'Salmond-style' rubbish sells a lot better than Lucke's sense.

Youth go for hypes. So this might be one as well and lets be honest the rest is utter crap as well so why not take a gamble.

Wait and see. But potential by itself looks limited and there are clearly questionmarks.

The good news/opportunity. National Spanish parties are even considerable bigger rubbish than in most countries in civilised Europe. They simply havenot been able to move forward after the de-francoisation (which is already 2-3 decades ago).
Air of corruption, totally incompetent, unappealing leaders etc. You name it they made something horrible out of it.
Wouldnot at all be surprised that like in Greece some or even all of the traditional parties end up in the garbage bin of history when this eprisode is over. In other words a proper populist party has huge potential (even considering the regionals). Very few will even remotely be happy with the current bunch. And might go with anything even remotely looking like an alternative.

Average Englishman said...

Same old thing. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher: all socialist eventually fail when they run out of other people's money.

Anonymous said...

All of the Above Ideas are a breath of fresh air, it's about time people copped that the Capitalist Free Trade thing only works for the rich, I especially like the basic income idea as it would eradicate poverty overnight plus it would free up a lot of people to go be productive! To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher is to paraphrase the failure that is capitalism!

Anonymous said...

Laissez faire capitalism has been a catastrophic failure - not just in Spain, but everywhere. The only countries where vulnerable people aren't literally dying as a result of neoliberalism, are ones that started out with a strong socialist base... and who have hung onto it.

Good on them - I hope they win.