Socialists attack Podemos for calling itself “the new social democracy”

Critics highlight the communist component within the anti-austerity group, which is poised to take second spot in the upcoming general election

Pablo Iglesias in Madrid.
Pablo Iglesias in Madrid.Samuel Sánchez

As Spain’s four main candidates in the upcoming general election prepare for the only televised debate of the campaign race, new ideological battle lines are being drawn in the center-left.

With polls showing that Podemos could bump the Socialist Party (PSOE) down to third place on June 26 – a reversal of roles from the inconclusive election of December 20 – the Socialists are denouncing what they see as attempts by the anti-austerity party at passing itself off as “the new social democracy.”

Andalusian premier Susana Díaz, a Socialist, is calling it “the greatest operation of political camouflage in Spain’s recent history.”

The Communists have never been social democrats and in fact they have always stood out for their attacks against that doctrine and anyone who embodied it

Socialist official Oscar López

PSOE leaders note that Podemos has just teamed up with United Left (IU), a coalition led by the Spanish Communist Party, for a joint run in the repeat election.

“They are the anti-capitalist left and they are an amalgam of over 20 parties that defend everything from nationalizing banks to the right to self-determination within Spain,” said Óscar López, the PSOE’s deputy campaign manager.

Despite Podemos leaders’ evident discomfort with some of their new partners’ outward displays of Communist symbols, the decision to run together as Unidos Podemos seems to be favoring them in the polls.

The latest Metroscopia survey shows Unidos Podemos taking a 25.6% share of the vote, 5.4% ahead of the PSOE.

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This means that the Socialists have less than three weeks to convince undecided voters that they are the only true representatives of social democracy in Spain. To that effect, their message will focus on the communist component of the Unidos Podemos alliance.

“The Communists have never been social democrats and in fact they have always stood out for their attacks against that doctrine and anyone who embodied it,” said López. “Nothing has changed.”

Socialist candidates, said López, will challenge Pablo Iglesias and his team on their ideas for pensions, jobs, education, production model, territorial issues and the European project. But Socialist leaders admit that it will not be easy, as Podemos nominees tend to avoid getting into details, favoring sweeping statements instead.

Based on two documents that Podemos sent the PSOE during failed attempts at reaching a governing alliance earlier this year, Socialist election commission spokesman Antonio Hernando said that “Podemos’ proposals are either impossible to fulfil or else they would mean a real democratic regression or inflict serious harm on Spain.”

Iglesias and Socialist nominee Pedro Sánchez are scheduled to discuss these issues on June 13, at a televised debate that will also include Popular Party (PP) candidate Mariano Rajoy and Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera.

English version by Susana Urra.

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