Podemos drops most radical ideas in program focusing on “citizen rescue”

Leader Pablo Iglesias promises to help people and small businesses deal with their debt

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias is promising to come to citizens' rescue.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias is promising to come to citizens' rescue.EFE

Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos on Tuesday presented its political program ahead of local and regional elections scheduled for May 24.

The much-anticipated document, which party leaders describe as “realistic,” shows that Podemos is struggling to please a moderate majority of voters while trying not to let down its core supporters.

What emerges is a vague program that drops some of Podemos’s most radical early proposals, such as a universal minimum wage and defaulting on Spain’s debt, and adopts other measures aimed at what it calls “citizen rescue.”

Podemos is promising to halt evictions in cases where debtors are unable to meet their payments

Podemos’s program still needs to be developed at the regional level and checked for economic feasibility. As it stands, the document makes no reference to the euro, to Spain’s EU deficit targets, or even to Brussels at all, despite the fact that the party’s first victory came at last year’s European elections, where it earned five seats.

Party head Pablo Iglesias described it as “a program for change” that works on the assumption that “things have not been done right so far.”

“Will everyone like this program?” he asked the crowd. “No. People who have to get up at six in the morning to take the metro will like it a lot. Other people will not like it, such as [former Popular Party economy minister] Rodrigo Rato, his friend [Treasury Minister Cristóbal] Montoro and his friend [Economy Minister Luis] de Guindos.”

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There was a conspicuous absence at the event. Juan Carlos Monedero, one of Podemos’s original founders, left the party leadership last week after criticizing the group’s alleged drift toward mainstream politics.

While some sources say his departure is linked to a recent tax evasion scandal, others hold that Iglesias and Monedero had fallen out over the content of the 215-point party program, which the latter was in charge of coordinating.

Many of Podemos’s proposals aim to help households and small and medium businesses repay their debts. One way to do this would be by allowing borrowers struggling with their mortgage payments to return the house keys and walk away debt-free, rather than remain beholden to the bank. In a country with home ownership rates of around 80 percent that has been hard hit by the crisis, the problem of home evictions has been a sensitive political issue.

Juan Carlos Monedero was conspicuously absent from the event.
Juan Carlos Monedero was conspicuously absent from the event.Emilio Naranjo (EFE)

Podemos is promising to halt evictions in cases where debtors are unable to meet their payments despite their good faith because of personal economic difficulties. People who fall into poverty would also not get their water or electricity cut off.

On the tax front, the party wants similar taxation across the country instead of the current regional differences, and promises to reduce income tax rates for lower earners while raising them for top earners. A wealth tax will be reinstated.

The party will also work to revert the privatization of the health system and repeal the latest education law.

Corruption is another major topic on the program of a party that owes its popularity to its promise to sweep the self-serving economic and political elites off the map. Podemos wants to give citizens access to information about monthly expenses incurred by all elected officials, regulate lobbies, and create an anti-fraud agency.

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