Podemos Endorses Hard-Left Course of Leader Iglesias

Rather than accept the possibility of compromise, Spain’s anti-establishment movement sticks to its far-left guns.

Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias speaks at a congress in Madrid, February 12, 2017
Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias speaks at a congress in Madrid, February 12, 2017 (Podemos)

On Saturday, I wrote that the smart thing for Spain’s Podemos party to do was embrace the pragmatic vision of its number two, Iñigo Errejón.

So of course they did the opposite the following day.

At a party congress in Madrid, Pablo Iglesias was reelected as leader with 90 percent support

His loyalists also retained 60 percent of the seats on the party’s leadership council while his policy platform was backed by 51 percent of members against 34 percent who voted for an alternative proposal introduced by Errejón.

When to say “yes”

The two men have few policy disagreements per se. They are both in favor of canceling Spain’s debt, nationalizing industries and a host of other far-left policies that are unlikely to see the light of day.

Where they disagree is how the party should conduct itself now that it’s the third largest in parliament.

Errejón argues for pragmatism. When the center-left and the center-right agreed to raise the minimum wage in December, for example, Podemos, despite being an advocate of higher wages, voted against it, because it felt the proposal didn’t go far enough.

Errejón wondered if Podemos shouldn’t occasionally say “yes” if it is offered 80 or 90 percent of what it wants.

Iglesias said no.

Hail to the chief

Members also voted down proposals from Errejón’s side to give lawmakers more independence and empower the collective party leadership.

Right now, deputies must toe Iglesias’ line and he can call grassroots consultations without getting a green light from the leadership council first.

Iglesias defended this by saying, “We must never resemble the old political class.”

But the concentration of power in the hands of the party leader obviously benefits him personally as well.

Similar choice

Iglesias’ victory must come as a relief to Spain’s mainstream Socialist Party. A left-wing coalition has been all but ruled out, which means a vote for Podemos is effectively a vote for the conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

The Socialists now have a similar choice to make: whether to stay the center-left course under a moderate like Susana Díaz, and compete with the conservatives in the center, or tack to the left under Patxi López or Pedro Sánchez, and vie for left-wing voters with Podemos.

The Socialist leadership primary is in May.

If my track record is any indication, they’ll probably go with the least electable candidate…

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