January 8, 2016

New Spanish progressive party already in third place

Richard Brenneman - Podemos, a political movement born on Span’s college campuses 22 months ago out of anger of the extreme austerity measures immiserating Spain’s young people, [became] the third most powerful political force in the country in elections 20 December, capturing 21 percent of the national vote, one point behind the Spanish social democrats [PSOE], and just eight points behind the ruling neo-liberal Popular Party.

Their rise to big numbers effectively ended Spain’s long duopoly and gave organizational form to the demands expressed by the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who took to the streets for the marches of the 15-M Movement in 2011.

Writing in the 17 December issue of the London Review of Books, Dan Hancox examines the party’s origins:
    The roots of Podemos lie in the huge 2011 indignados protests against the Spanish political system in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008. The crisis left a quarter of Spanish families living below the poverty line, and a majority of the rest earning no more than a thousand euros a month; 400,000 families were evicted over the next few years, while more than three million homes lay empty. Unemployment rose above 26 per cent, and above 60 per cent for 16-24-year-olds; a significant proportion of Spain’s graduates left for the US and Northern Europe. In 2012, under the guidance of the Troika, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who has led the PP since 2004, made deep cuts to public sector jobs and public spending while also introducing labour reforms to make it easier to sack employees.
    The Spanish establishment, meanwhile, thrived. The market for luxury goods soared, and rates of corporation tax plummeted: revenues dropped from €40 billion in 2007 to €22 billion in 2012, while income tax revenue rose by €10 billion. Spain’s nightly TV news was dominated by corruption scandals affecting both of the main parties, the judiciary, the unions, the royal family and any number of private sector corporations. Few of these scandals have been prosecuted, let alone ended in convictions. It is unsurprising that a new political formation emerged to challenge the complacency and corruption of the politicians, bankers, royals, media barons and judges: the political and economic establishment Podemos refers to as ‘la casta’.

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