Podemos leader wins overwhelming support in grassroots vote

Pablo Iglesias, the media-savvy founder of the new political party, will continue at helm until fall

Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid.Bernardo Pérez

The original founders of Podemos, the new Spanish political party led by a young, media-savvy politics lecturer, will continue to act as leaders until an assembly to decisively determine the party’s structure is held in the fall.

The list headed by Pablo Iglesias obtained 86.8 percent of the vote in internal elections, compared with an alternative list of candidates presented by a group – or circle, to use Podemos’ terminology – of nurses.

Until now, participation in the party has been channeled through these “circles” – around 300 working groups distributed across city neighborhoods, towns and villages. Thousands of people have used the circles to voice their ideas on the kinds of changes they would like to see in Spanish politics.

Podemos became the fourth-most-voted political force in Spain at last month’s European elections, despite only being registered as a party three months earlier. Many of its voters are young and maintain leftist affinities, although Podemos leaders have denied accusations of left-wing populism directed at them from mainstream parties.

Iglesias said the party would not remain mired in internal debate but instead “take a step towards political change”

Over 55,000 people cast online votes on Thursday and Friday to designate the group of 25 individuals who will lead Podemos until the foundational assembly is held after the summer.

The winning list includes some of Iglesias’ most trusted aides, many of whom have already held positions of responsibility in the last few months. His number two is Luis Alegre, a journalist and philosophy lecturer, who will be in charge of collecting all citizen input (not just from the circles but also from online messages that anybody is free to send to the party’s website).

Around 300 sympathizers from across Spain gathered at the Friday assembly for a brainstorming session meant to define the structure of a party that obtained 1.2 million votes at the European elections yet still lacks a well-defined structure.

But the debate got stuck in an argument between proponents of a system of delegates (the circle representatives) and supporters of a different participation model based on the internet.

For now, the party’s first major organizational decision has been unilaterally adopted by Pablo Iglesias and his closest circle of aides: to organize a closed-list vote to choose the 25-member team that will head Podemos until the fall. A dozen circle representatives questioned the legitimacy of such a decision during a five-hour debate held in the philosophy department at Madrid’s Complutense University.

Podemos became the fourth-most-voted political force in Spain at last month’s European elections

What seems clear is that the group of 25 will be much more than just a “technical cabinet,” as described before the vote. Juan Carlos Monedero, a political scientist and one of the founders of the movement, has admitted that the group will also be in charge of suggesting future political alliances, to be later confirmed by grassroots supporters.

A 51-year-old lecturer of political theory at Complutense University, Monedero worked for nine years as an advisor to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, a fact that has earned the party accusations of populism and being undemocratic.

Upon learning of his list’s victory, Iglesias said the party would not remain mired in internal debate but would instead “take a step towards political change in our country and in Europe.” The goal now, he added, was “to open up a constitutional period to return the voice to the people.”

Iglesias recently stated that he would uphold the Spanish Constitution “until citizens change it to win back their sovereignty and social rights.”

Rules
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS