Podemos, Spain’s new anti-corruption party, is finding replacements for its European members of parliament now that local, regional and general elections are getting underway back home.
Out of the five deputies that Podemos sent to the EU’s lower house following elections on May 25 of last year, only two will remain by March. One of these is party leader Pablo Iglesias, although he is widely expected to give up his seat later this year to run in Spain’s general elections in the fall.
Podemos has a shortage of modesty and an excess of hubris”
Gaspar Llamazares, IU
Another one of the best-known faces in the anti-establishment party, Pablo Echenique, will give up his seat next month to run in regional elections.
On Thursday, Iglesias, who has styled himself as the only real rival to the ruling center-right Popular Party (PP) – a fact that has irked left-wing forces as much as it has the PP – was criticized by most Spanish parties for missing a Europarliament vote the day before.
The secretary general of Podemos instead spent Wednesday in Spain to deliver a speech meant as an alternative to the State of the Nation Debate that was taking place in Congress.
Although Iglesias has in fact participated in nearly every Europarliament vote since his election – 379 times altogether – this fact did not stop the criticism from other political leaders, who voiced their anger at Podemos’ counterprogramming.
“I think Mr Iglesias is the member of a chamber, the European Parliament, where there was a debate yesterday, and I think that’s where he should have been. I think he wasn’t there,” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría told reporters in the halls of Congress.
At his political rally, Iglesias challenged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to a televised debate, reiterating his view that only Podemos has any chance of beating the incumbent.
Gaspar Llamazares, the former leader of Spain’s United Left (IU) coalition, said that “there is a shortage of modesty and an excess of hubris” among Podemos. IU is one of the political forces that stands to lose the most votes to the new leftist party.
Podemos’ secretary for politics, Íñigo Errejón, said on television network La Sexta that he found it “ironic that they should criticize Pablo Iglesias for being absent from the European Parliament after seeing Celia Villalobos playing video games,” a reference to the deputy speaker in Congress, who was caught on camera apparently playing popular game Candy Crush on her iPad during the State of the Nation Debate.