Leaders of Spanish Far Left Split

Iñigo Errejón breaks with Pablo Iglesias, who is unwilling to compromise on his party’s principles.

Podemos deputies Iñigo Errejón and Pablo Iglesias listen to a debate in Spain's parliament in Madrid, April 12, 2016
Podemos deputies Iñigo Errejón and Pablo Iglesias listen to a debate in Spain’s parliament in Madrid, April 12, 2016 (Podemos)

The relatively moderate number two in Spain’s left-wing Podemos party, Iñigo Errejón, has broken with the leader, Pablo Iglesias, weakening the far left in a potentially crucial election year.

Errejón, who failed to unseat Iglesias in a leadership election in 2017, has formed his own pact with the incumbent mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, for the municipal elections in May.

Errejón wants the whole of Podemos to team up with Carmena, but Iglesias has ruled this out — and accused Errejón of betrayal.

Pragmatic

Although there are few ideological differences between the two men — both support canceling Spain’s debt, nationalizing industries and a host of other far-left policies that are unlikely to see the light of day — Errejón is more pragmatic.

When other parties agreed to raise the minimum wage in 2016, Iglesias instructed his deputies to vote against it, arguing the increase wasn’t big enough.

Iglesias rejected a deal with the center-left Socialist Party that same year — but led Podemos into just such an alliance two years later, when its power had been reduced.

Iglesias stills balks at a formal coalition with the Socialists. The party has influence but is unwilling to compromise on its principles for the sake of power.

Errejón and other moderates believe Iglesias’ alliance with the communist-led United Left has scared away center-left voters. Iglesias and his loyalists blame internal critics like Errejón for confusing voters.

Relief

The division in Podemos will come as a relief to the Socialists, who govern without a majority.

Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, is personally popular and his party is the single largest in the polls. But only because the four major parties — the conservatives, the Socialists, the liberal Citizens and Podemos — split 80 percent of the vote, with the remainder going to the far right and regionalist parties.

After the Socialists lost power in Andalusia, traditionally their stronghold, in December, it put an end to speculation that Sánchez might call an early election this year. Now that Podemos is tearing itself apart, maybe he will reconsider.

Thirteen of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities elect regional parliaments in May. Elections for provincial and city councils as well as the European Parliament are held simultaneously.