The reaction by the two establishment parties in Spain to the showing by the hard-left Podemos party is much like the reaction of a Lexus driver after being blind-sided by a Suzuki Bandit: “Where the hell did that come from?”
Because Podemos – it means “we can” -appeared from nowhere in the elections to the European Parliament. Really from nowhere: the party was officially established only two months ago and as recently as May 11 it did not even figure in most opinion polls. Yet when the count was in on Sunday night, Podemos had taken almost eight per cent of the vote and five seats.
The result has been a shock to Spain’s traditional two-party system. The establishment parties, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP) and and the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) won 80.9 per cent in the last elections to the European Parliament in 2009.
On Sunday night, their share was slashed to 49.06 per cent, destroyed by anti-establishment parties, in particular Podemos.
Yet before the elections, despite the economic suffering and high unemployment in Spain caused by the country’s membership of the eurozone, the EU-obedient PP and PSOE felt safe because there is no right-wing eurosceptic party in Spain as there is in France, Denmark, Britain, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria.
What the establishment parties overlooked was that the people who have suffered most in the years of misery inflicted by Spain’s membership of the euro have been the people who traditionally vote left.
Podemos suddenly appeared and offered Spanish voters an anti-establishment vote pitched from the left. The party calls for political control over the European Central Bank and unlimited purchases of government bonds.
According to a Bloomberg report, Podemos may provide a natural ally for Alexis Tsipras’s anti-austerity Syriza party, which won the biggest share of the vote and six seats of Greece’s seats in the European Parliament.
“We’ll work with other colleagues in southern Europe to say in the European Parliament that we don’t want to be a colony of Germany or the troika,” Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, said in a televised news conference last night.
The troika is the name for the group of bureaucrats from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF who direct Spain’s austerity policy.
In another blow from the left, in Catalonia the Convergència i Unió party of President Artur Mas was beaten into second-place by the left-wing separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya. ERC won 24 per cent of the vote to compared with 22 per cent for CiU, according to Bloomberg.