A new left wing party has broken Spain’s two party system for the first time since the death of Dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. Podemos (Spanish for ‘We Can’) beat the socialists in a nationwide poll over the weekend to take second place on 24.1 percent, just ahead of Spain’s official opposition, the socialist PSOE which garnered 23.7 percent.
The ruling People’s Party, headed by conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is still in the lead, on 28.3 percent, The Local has reported.
Podemos has been making waves by tapping into widespread discontent with the establishment parties since it was founded earlier this year. Raising money through crowdsourcing, the party raced to fourth place in the European Elections in May, just four months after their official launch, securing 8 percent of the vote and five MEPs.
Since then they have gone from strength to strength under the leadership of university professor Pablo Iglesias. The poll, by Sigma Dos for TV station Telecinco, is the first to put them ahead of the socialists.
Podemos’s policies have a very left wing flavour. They support a guaranteed minimum wage, the lowering of the retirement age to 60, blocking hospital privatisation and eliminating tax havens. In a bid to become more respectable, the party recently approved a resolution to abandon its policy to default on Spain’s public debt and now favour a policy of debt restructuring.
Last week, party members were balloted on new formal structures for the party including formation of a secretary general post and a citizen council. A management team will also be put in place after elections for the posts in mid November. The changes, proposed by Iglesias’s faction, were approved by over 80 percent of the members. Over 122,000 people took part in the ballot.
The rise of Podemos as an outsider party mirrors that of other parties across Europe, including the National Front in France and UKIP in the UK. Although the policies of the parties are very different, all have tapped in to a growing feeling that the established parties are more concerned with shoring up their own position and a corporate line than in representing the wishes of the people at large.
In Spain, the rise of the smaller parties has come as a massive shock to the system. In 2009, the two main parties secured 80.9 percent of the vote at the European elections between them. When the results were returned this year, that tally had dropped to just 49.06 percent as anti-establishment parties, led by Podemos, decimated their support.