Spain’s Socialists (PSOE) and anti-austerity party Podemos are competing to cast themselves as closest to the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.
On Monday, PSOE secretary general Pedro Sánchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias both referred to an issue that is grounded in a deeper rivalry: their parties’ attempts to become Spain’s main political alternative to the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP).
With general elections coming up in December, the struggle for hegemony over Spain’s political left has become a pressing matter. For the first time since the country’s return to democracy in the 1970s, other parties besides the PSOE and the PP stand a chance at earning a significant slice of power.
The socialist parties became social-liberal parties under Tony Blair”
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias
But Sánchez feels that his Socialist Party is still the main leftist choice for Spanish voters, and that Podemos is simply a replacement for the United Left (IU), a smaller bloc to the left of the PSOE.
In the May 24 municipal and regional elections, Podemos did indeed take over the political space once occupied by IU, which suffered a huge blow at the polls. But Iglesias is still hoping to reach out to PSOE voters in time for the general elections.
On Monday, Sánchez insisted that Iglesias had excluded himself from the political left with his early rhetoric about “the caste” and a new paradigm in which the left-right axis no longer had a meaning.
The PSOE leader also expressed skepticism about Iglesias’s attempts to make Corbyn’s success his own, as he did in January when Alexis Tsipras was elected Greece’s new prime minister. “How can he say that, if a little while ago he was asserting that talking about left and right was for card sharks and tantamount to fraud?” he said on the Cuatro TV network.
Sánchez added that Britain’s Labour Party and the PSOE were “like sister parties,” that they were both old parties with experience in government, and that “the UK’s Podemos is not Jeremy Corbyn.”
But Pablo Iglesias is seeking to tap into Corbyn’s symbolic value, arguing that he is a new “ally in the UK” and that Podemos “shares his diagnosis.”
His newfound affinity for the Labour Party is based on the fact that he feels Corbyn represents a return to true socialist values after his predecessors had gone down a different road.
“The socialist parties became social-liberal parties under Tony Blair,” said Iglesias on the television station La Sexta.
English version by Susana Urra.