Political change almost irreversible, says Podemos after voter poll

New Spanish leftist party drops to second behind the Socialists in latest survey

Pablo Iglesias (in white shirt and ponytail) with members of Podemos' leadership.
Pablo Iglesias (in white shirt and ponytail) with members of Podemos' leadership.ULY MARTÍN

Time and exposure are beginning to take their toll on Podemos, the new leftist party that has taken Spanish politics by storm with its powerful anti-corruption message.

The latest voting intention survey conducted for EL PAÍS by Metroscopia shows that Podemos no longer tops the list as it did in the previous poll a month ago.

But the group, which was created less than a year ago, still comes in second with a predicted 25 percent of the vote should a general election be held tomorrow, behind the Socialist Party (PSOE) with 27.7 percent, and ahead of the ruling Popular Party (PP), which collapses with a mere 20 percent support.

Podemos leaders were prudently optimistic about the results, noting that they have yet to reach a social majority but that “change seems pretty much irreversible.”

Party number two Iñigo Errejón said the really good news was that “the monopoly on politics held by the traditional parties is broken.”

“Trends are consolidating and the breakdown of the party system is now clear,” added Carolina Bescansa, a university professor and Podemos’s chief electoral analyst, in reference to the PP and PSOE’s political supremacy since the Socialists’ 1982 election victory.

Party number two Iñigo Errejón said the good news was that “the monopoly on politics held by the traditional parties is broken”

But the newcomers, whose leaders are all political and social scientists, are aware a long time remains until the 2015 general election, and that voter sentiment can easily change. “Many, many things could happen in that space of time,” said Bescansa. “But things are never going back to the way they were.”

In the month between the two voter intention surveys, Podemos – which means “We Can” in Spanish – has already experienced change and controversy.

Its secretary general, the media-savvy Pablo Iglesias, is no longer an outsider with a brand new message about wiping out Spain’s corrupt and self-serving political “caste.”

Instead, he has become a political leader being asked to formulate specific proposals for specific problems whose views are now being questioned like any other leader’s. The party has been criticized for the vagueness of its economic reform program and its radical proposals, such as defaulting on Spain’s sovereign debt, which have since been toned down.

The latest survey shows that Iglesias’s popularity ratings have dropped after a poor performance in a television interview on La Sexta. Since then, Podemos’ secretary general has been lying low to prevent overexposure. The survey shows his rating fell from +1 to -17, which still puts him out in front compared with other political leaders.

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At the same time, Iglesias’s top aide, Iñigo Errejón, has been ensnared in controversy involving a university research project, whose contract terms he allegedly breached.

But Podemos still has the potential to become a major force at its first general elections next year, which are the party’s main goal. Meanwhile, the Socialists are hoping to gain some ground at next May’s local and regional elections and win back some of the voters who have switched allegiances and now profess support for Podemos.

PSOE leaders figure that up to a third of their regular voters may have gone over to Podemos, which represents a major threat to the center-left party. By comparison, the conservative PP is less affected by the new group, although recurring corruption scandals may cause some of its own voters to stay home at the next elections.

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