Spain’s anti-austerity party flounders

Stephen Beard Dec 18, 2015
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Spain’s anti-austerity party flounders

Stephen Beard Dec 18, 2015
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This weekend sees the most unpredictable election in recent Spanish history. Over the 40 years since the death of the dictator Franco, power has alternated between the conservative and the socialist parties.

But this weekend there are four horses in the race, including the new, far left, anti-austerity party Podemos. What are its chances of winning power? Podemos means “we can.” Can they? 

The party was born out of the angry demonstrations that swept across Spain after the great financial crisis. Young people joined in their droves protesting against austerity, sky-high unemployment, corruption and the old two party political system.

“They were just fed up with the existing way of doing politics, that it didn’t matter who you voted for they were only in it for themselves,” said Madrid-based commentator Martin Roberts. “There was a feeling that the traditional parties didn’t have the answers to the crisis.”

Almost two years after the birth of the new party, the air of crisis has receded. Spain is now growing at more than 3 percent a year and that’s faster than any other large eurozone economy. But David Perejil of Podemos says his party is still needed, in spite of the country’s apparent recovery .

“These numbers are good, but they are hiding a very difficult situation in Spain with a lot of unemployment, with a lot of people who have to go abroad for a job. Unemployment is running at more than 20 percent,” Perejil said.

Among Podemos’s economic remedies: more public spending, scrapping the conservatives’ labor market reforms and imposing a 35 hour working week.

Many business people are nervous about the new party.

“I think they’re very focused on a model that doesn’t make any sense in Spain right now and that has shown very bad results in other countries such as Greece,” said Victoria Sanz, founder of a marketing firm in Madrid.

The handling of the Greek economy by the left-wing Syriza party has damaged Podemos’ chances of winning power in Spain. But the party has already succeeded in one fundamental aim: to shake up Spain’s stagnant two party system. 

With four parties in the running, and with none of them headed for outright victory, the outcome of a Spanish election is, for once, anyone’s guess.

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