Former Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Felipe González, an icon of the Spanish center left, has joined the campaign fray ahead of the December 20 general election by launching a harsh attack against his party’s main rival, Podemos.
After Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias questioned PSOE candidate Pedro Sánchez’s leadership abilities, González came out in defense of his party chief with a direct hit against the emerging leftist group’s origins.
Not voting for the Socialist Party is like giving away your vote to the leader of unemployment and corruption, Mr Rajoy” Socialist contender Pedro Sánchez
Speaking in Madrid’s Vicálvaro neighborhood on Tuesday, Spain’s longest-serving prime minister (1982-1996) told his audience: “Don’t trust anybody who charges for advising a government like Venezuela’s.”
González, who has recently been working as the legal defense for opposition leaders in the South American country, insisted on Podemos’s early links to the populist administration of late president Hugo Chávez and other leftist Latin American governments.
“The people who advised governments like Venezuela’s, which have brought disaster to their country, now want to give us lessons in principles?” asked González.
In February of this year, Podemos co-founder Juan Carlos Monedero came under fire after it emerged that he made €425,000 from advisory work for the governments of Venezuela and other left-wing Latin American regimes, then failed to declare that income to Spanish tax authorities. Monedero left the party amid allegations of illegal financing.
Since then, Podemos’s leaders, several of whom worked as advisors for Venezuela’s Chávez, have shifted the party away from left-wing populism and toward the center of the political spectrum, where polls show that it is taking many potential voters away from the Socialist Party.
But González also reserved some criticism for Ciudadanos, the other emerging party that is challenging the hegemony enjoyed by the Socialists and the conservative Popular Party (PP) since the 1980s, following Spain’s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.
“[Ciudadanos leader Albert] Rivera says that a second transition will begin under his mandate. But we old folks have an advantage over the young: that is exactly what [former PP leaders] José María Aznar and Rodrigo Rato said back when they were at the helm of the PP,” said González, who is seeking to cast the 36-year-old Rivera as a younger version of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
González also told Socialist candidate Sánchez not to trust the opinion polls, which show him running behind the PP and Ciudadanos. “I always used to lose in the surveys but win the elections,” he noted.
Socialist nominee Pedro Sánchez, for his part, sought to stem the flow of votes by telling sympathizers that voting for Podemos would be like voting for the PP.
“Not voting for the Socialist Party is like giving away your vote to the leader of unemployment and corruption, Mr Rajoy,” he said at a rally in A Coruña on Tuesday. “There are some new faces who sound old: they want to do what the Socialist Party has already done. We created the same-sex marriage law, the disability law, the pregnancy termination law, we managed the end of ETA terrorism! So no lessons for the PSOE!”
But Iglesias is trying to convey the sense that the Socialist contender “is out of the race” and has been unable to regenerate his party, which is the reason why many voters are turning to Podemos instead.
Iñigo Errejón, Podemos’s number two official, issued a warning to the “political elites”: “Be careful. Arrogance has done you bad turns in the past.”
English version by Susana Urra.