New party Podemos claims it is victim of an organized “slander campaign”

Leftist group hits back at accusations its number two failed to honor a research contract

Podemos policy chief Iñigo Errejón.
Podemos policy chief Iñigo Errejón.Nacho Gallego (EFE)

Podemos is fighting back against its critics. After facing the toughest days of its short existence last week over accusations that party number two Íñigo Errejón failed to honor a research contract he signed with Málaga University, the new leftist grouping on Monday said it had become the object of a “slander campaign” against the changes it is advocating.

Speaking after the second meeting of its organization board, presided by leader Pablo Iglesias, lawyer Rafael Mayoral – the party’s secretary of relations with civil society and social movements – announced that it would be beginning a new social mobilization process aimed at counteracting the criticism under the slogan, Su odio, nuestra sonrisa (Their hate, our smile).

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Neither Podemos nor Errejón himself – who heads up the party’s policy department – have provided deeper explanations about the research work, though both have denied any wrongdoing and defended the need for awareness about the use of public funds. For the moment, they are opting to wait for the conclusions of the investigation the university has opened into the matter.

Since March 17 Errejón has formed part of a group of 12 researchers commissioned to write a report on housing for the Andalusia regional government. The contract carries with it a monthly wage of €1,825 and stipulates that Errejón carry out his work on the Málaga campus from 8am to 4pm. The director of the project, Alberto Montero, who is also a Podemos member, has said he gave Errejón verbal permission to work away from the university, in Madrid.

On Friday, the head of the regional government department responsible for supervising this kind of project ordered Montero to present a “detailed and written report” about Errejón’s situation, saying the department was particularly interested in whether or not the politician had fulfilled his “contractual obligations.” The Junta’s public works department, to which Montero has to report every two months, was also due to meet with him in person on Tuesday to discuss “the control and supervision” of the project.

Sources there said that at its last meeting with Montero it warned that the pace of the project, whose €284,604 budget is jointly supplied by the European Union (80 percent) and the regional government, was slow. Between March and December 17, when Errejón is due to leave the project, he would have earned €16,425, on top of his Podemos salary.

“We know this campaign exists because there is fear of change in certain sectors,” said Mayoral in only the second press conference given by the group since it became an organized political force on November 15. “They are well-known people who are appealing against [the Podemos project].”

Meanwhile, the deputy secretary general of the ruling Popular Party (PP), Carlos Floriano, attacked Podemos anew over the issue: “They are asking for a minimum wage and now we find out that their leaders already have a minimum wage for not working,” the PP’s number three said.

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