Following the 2011 anti-austerity protests known as the 15-M (Wiki), Podemos appeared three years later as a party created by a professor of politics who wanted to address the rampant corruption evident at that time in Spain. While we were distracted by his silly hairdo, Pablo Iglesias managed something that his eventual ally the Izquierda Unida had never achieved in forty years – and that was to bring far-left politics to the front of Spanish life. The other more traditional parties were understandably aghast, and with the help of the media have been fighting hard ever since to remove this populist leader and his Marxist dogma from society.
It looks like, with some bad calls on Iglesias’ part - some party defections (we remember the Life of Brian Judean Liberation Front scene), together with an ill-judged move with his family to a fancy house in a Madrid suburb followed by an untimely three-month baby-leave, that the party is currently in a calamitous free-fall.
The largest problem is, of course, the issue of the decomposition of the party as splinter-groups such as Compromís, En Marea, En Comú, and even allies like the Izquierda Unida and Equo, along with the party co-founder Iñigo Errejón, not only move away, but sometimes put themselves in political opposition to Podemos. El Independiente looks at this here, The Guardian features the issue here.
Pedro Sánchez is as almost as worried as the still-absent formula-mixing Pablo Iglesias about the party’s precipitate fall – with Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos promising that his ‘centrist’ party will not pact post-election with the PSOE.
The worry is that the PSOE, faced with the tres amigos of the Right, need Podemos’ support following the April elections. Unidos Podemos could fall in deputies from its current 71 to something nearer 39, says a poll (IU and Podemos revalidated their union this Wednesday).
Spain has in effect returned to a new left-right divide as El Mundo notes here – but will the spirit of the 15-M still find representation in future parliaments. Let’s hope so.