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Communist symbols jar with Podemos’s message of moderation

Coalition with United Left runs risk of alienating center-ground voters, say some in leadership

Podemos and IU supporters mingle at Tuesday's meeting.
Podemos and IU supporters mingle at Tuesday's meeting.

There was visible unease on Tuesday evening among the senior figures in Podemos attending the anti-austerity party’s first major campaign event ahead of the June 26 elections with its new coalition partners of the United Left.

Among the crowd in the city of Ciudad Real, the bright red hammer and sickle flags and tricolors of the Second Republic waved by supporters of the Communist-led United Left stood out in stark contrast with the more sober purple banners of Podemos and its grass-roots neighborhood associations.

The two parties have joined forces as Podemos Unidos in a bid to capture the support of voters disenchanted with Spain’s traditional two-party system that has seen power divided between the Socialists (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) since the early 1980s.

The recent agreement with the Communist Party-led IU appears to have benefited Podemos after weeks of dwindling ratings caused by the prolonged gridlock in Spanish politics

But many in Podemos fear that the presence of the United Left will scare center-ground voters away. Iñigo Errejón, Podemos’s number two official, has said that he believes the two parties should campaign separately.

Many Podemos supporters are also concerned: a message posted on the popular app Telegram sums up the mood among many activists: “The powers that be in Spain would be delighted if we continued to pursue politics on the basis of symbols that, besides not representing the majority of society today, have also lost any symbolic, political, or cultural meaning. The fight to recover our institutions and popular sovereignty requires intelligence, responsibility, and aiming high.”

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The message emphasizes the importance of Podemos’s strategy of trying to reach out to as broad an electorate as possible, adding: “We have to connect with the majority in society around a consensus based on common sense. Not everybody who has been hit hard by years of cuts responds to the same symbols, but they can share an awareness of the need to recover the dignity of our people.” It concludes: “We cannot allow ourselves to make one wrong move in the difficult task of fighting to recover our country.”

Nevertheless, the recent agreement with the Communist Party-led IU appears to have benefited Podemos after weeks of dwindling ratings caused by the prolonged gridlock in Spanish politics following the inconclusive December 20 elections.

A Metroscopia survey for EL PAÍS in mid-May showed that the new leftist alliance would push the Socialists down to third place, while the conservative Popular Party (PP) would renew its December 20 victory, possibly with an even greater lead over its rivals.

With barely three weeks to go before Spaniards go to the polls, the sum of forces led by Podemos’s Pablo Iglesias and IU’s Alberto Garzón has a three-point advantage over the Socialists, the poll shows. Voting intention for Unidos Podemos, as the alliance has been branded, is 23.3%.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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