terça-feira, 5 de julho de 2016
Podemos cracks up after electoral setback
Podemos cracks up after electoral setback
Clash pits ‘more predictable, less sexy’ against hardline true believers.
By DIEGO TORRES 7/5/16, 5:36 AM CET Updated 7/5/16, 6:18 AM CET
MADRID — A bitter blame game is underway in the ranks of Spain’s far-left Podemos after it failed to beat the Socialists into second place in elections on June 26 and lost more than a million votes since a ballot six months earlier.
Pablo Iglesias, the ponytailed leader of the anti-austerity movement, which emerged in just two years as a serious challenger to the venerable Socialist Workers’ Party’s (PSOE) hegemony on the Spanish left, said the election marked the end of an era.
“It’s the end of the Blitz[krieg],” Iglesias said in a lecture at Madrid’s Complutense University, and the start of “trench warfare” which Podemos has no guarantee of winning.
Podemos (We Can) will now have to prove itself in Congress, where it has less experience than its rivals and holds a weaker than expected position. If the past week is any guide, it will also struggle to maintain unity among its many parties and factions.
Podemos, which linked up with the communist United Left ahead of June’s vote, came in third with 71 seats in Congress, after acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party with 137 seats and Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE with 85 seats. Albert Rivera’s centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens) was fourth with 32 seats.
The results put Rajoy in a stronger position to renew his mandate — even if it’s with a weak, minority government — and keep PSOE as the main opposition party.
That took Podemos by surprise and kicked off infighting among its leaders. One of the party’s co-founders, Juan Carlos Monedero, pointed the finger in a blog post at the campaign’s direction and a lack of ideological authenticity.
‘Internal wars bleed us, burn us and annoy us’ — Pablo Echenique
It was a direct attack on Podemos’ number two and campaign leader, Íñigo Errejón, who tempered the party’s usually more extreme leftist messages. For his part, Errejón partly blamed the alliance with United Left, saying it hadn’t worked out.
Both Podemos’ Iglesias and Unidos leader Alberto Garzón defended the alliance after the elections, arguing that it would have been worse if they had run separately and vowed to stick together.
Social networks were full of aggressive commentaries from supporters and critics of the alliance, prompting an intervention by Pablo Echenique, Podemos’ organizational chief, who tried to end the blame game by threatening to “clear the weeds,” a reference to disloyal party members. “Internal wars bleed us, burn us and annoy us,” he said in an internal message leaked to the press.
What really bothers Podemos leaders is that they may missed a window of opportunity offered by the economic crisis to beat the establishment, a chance they may not have again.
When Iglesias analyzed the defeat on a TV show, he rejected the organization of the electoral campaign and the alliance with Unidos as potential causes of the electoral disappointment.
Instead, he pointed at a less controversial reason: the existence of a large group of citizens who were planning to vote for Podemos as a way to shake up the establishment, but were afraid to cast their vote as intended when it seemed as if the far-left would actually seize power.
Podemos’ leadership also commissioned a poll into the causes of its failure and asked local party groups to have their say on what went wrong.
Among the possible reasons suggested by party leadership were Podemos’ continued calls for independence referendums in Catalonia and other breakaway-minded regions, the way it handled coalition negotiations after December’s election — its out-and-out rejection of a potential Socialist prime minister —its links with Venezuela, the alliance with United Left, and the conduct of the electoral campaign.
There was no mention of the performance of Iglesias. Polls put him second behind Rajoy in terms of unpopularity and according to some surveys, citizens see him as “arrogant.”
‘It may well be that we win the elections in four years or that we knock ourselves out’ — Pablo Iglesias
Iglesias, however, said on Monday he had more backing than ever as Podemos leader.
As long as he stays in the role, Iglesias will have to deal with disputes over the party’s future direction, especially its alliance with Unidos. Many in the party want to stick to far-left, anti-capitalist ideals while others would like to build a more moderate political force with broader appeal among the middle classes.
“The possibility that Podemos can rule Spain in the future is not excluded at all, but it will be a drastically different Podemos from the one we have now,” said Errejón at the same lecture at Complutense University on Monday.
According to Errejón, the Podemos that can win elections will be a “more predictable and less sexy” organization, with stronger appeal among a wider electorate.
Working out those differences will take place at a party conference scheduled for next year, but which will be probably be brought forward to the last quarter of 2016, after regional elections in Galicia and the Basque Country.
Iglesias on Monday summed up his party’s uncertain future, saying: “It may well be that we win the elections in four years or that we knock ourselves out.”