Colin Fox: Podemos looking to make history in Spain

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias. Picture: Curto de la Torre/AFP/Getty Images
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias. Picture: Curto de la Torre/AFP/Getty Images
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COLIN Fox is off to Madrid on Sunday to observe the Spanish general election at the invitation of insurgent left-wing opposition Podemos.

SPAIN has been without an elected government for six months. The last election resulted in a four-party stand-off with no group able to command a majority in parliament. As all attempts to form a coalition failed the Spanish Constitution decreed a new vote must be held. But the opinion polls suggest little has changed and the new general election on June 26 may not break the deadlock. This political impasse mirrors the deep crisis at the heart of Europe’s fifth biggest economy.

With 50 per cent of the country’s young people out of work and Spain’s national debt larger than its annual income the country is in turmoil. A third of the population cannot afford the electricity that keeps them warm in winter and cool in the summer heat. One million people have emigrated in the last five years.

Podemos (“We Can”) are the political party with momentum having tapped into the widespread anger and frustration throughout Spain. They grew out of “Los Indignacios”, a movement of impoverished young Spaniards that itself emerged from the 2008 economic collapse. The corruption that crisis revealed in both Spain’s financial elite and the country’s political establishment, the Popular Party (PP) and the Labour Party (PSOE), added fuel to the flames of dissent. Millions turned to Podemos for answers and the party won 65 seats in the Cortes last December on an anti-austerity programme that promised jobs, public ownership of utilities and environmental justice. They are now in second place trailing the PP by just three per cent.

I met their pony-tailed leader Pablo Iglesias in Athens in January 2015 when we were both over for the Greek general election. He lived in Scotland for four years while studying at university he told me and had followed the fortunes of the Scottish Socialist Party closely.

Podemos have joined forces with the Spanish Communist Party to form the alliance Unidos Podemos (“United We Can”). Their manifesto includes plans to renegotiate Spain’s huge debts, create one million jobs, develop renewable energy programmes and grant referenda on independence to Catalonia, the Basque Country, Valencia and Galicia. If Unidos Podemos emerges as the biggest left party on June 26th it will press PSOE to join them in a coalition government led by Iglesias. We may therefore be about to see Spain’s first left-wing government since the 1930s and Europe’s first pony-tailed prime minister.

• Colin Fox is leader of the Scottish Socialist Party