SPANISH ELECTIONS

Podemos plays blame game after poor performance at the polls

Co-founder criticizes the campaign’s “hollow rhetoric” while some supporters wonder why Pablo Iglesias led them down this road

Pablo Iglesias (left) and Iñigo Errejón.
Pablo Iglesias (left) and Iñigo Errejón.BERNARDO PÉREZ

The leadership of Podemos is feeling disconcerted. A day after coming in third at a general election where it had been widely expected to take second spot, the anti-austerity party decided not to offer any explanations for its underperformance.

Opinion polls had been forecasting that the Unidos Podemos alliance would leapfrog over the Socialist Party (PSOE) at this fresh election, in what would have represented a historical moment in Spanish politics. Instead, the leftist coalition lost 1.2 million votes compared with the sum of each alliance member’s individual outcome at the original election of December 20.

The party has been hostage to childishness

Juan Carlos Monedero

The disappointment has opened up an internal dispute, especially between followers of Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and supporters of number two official Iñigo Errejón, two currents that were already divided over the issue of whether Podemos should have entered into a governing coalition with the PSOE after December 20.

“Right now, nobody knows why the outcome was not what the surveys had been forecasting. Not even us,” said Podemos executive committee spokesman Pablo Echenique, after meeting with other party leaders for over two hours. The party has commissioned a study to analyze what went wrong.

How did Podemos’ alliance with the United Left (IU), a federation led by the Spanish Communist Party, influence the result? Did it help contain a drop in votes that would have been even bigger had the party run alone? Were Pablo Iglesias and IU leader Alberto Garzón right to defend the pact? Did the problem lie with Errejón, who designed the campaign? Did Brexit play a role?

For now, there are no official answers to these questions. But Echenique has admitted that the internal debate has begun. “Many opinions have been voiced in the executive: one thing and its opposite,” he said.

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The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that there were several factors, not just one, behind an outcome that brought Unidos Podemos 71 seats in Congress, just two up from the 69 that Podemos and its regional allies secured on December 20 without IU’s help.

But the social media show that the blame game has begun. A message on Telegram posted by a group of Errejón supporters who call themselves Pueblo, Patria, Podemos reads: “Last night, after a heartbreaking outcome and seeing that 5+1 do not make 6 but 5 or even less, Pablo Iglesias hastily told us that this road, this road that did not oust the Popular Party or the PSOE, was the right way. Why?”

“Do we want to go on being Podemos? That is the question that many of us must ask ourselves after listening to the words of our secretary general yesterday,” the post went on to say.

Meanwhile, a group of Iglesias followers blamed Errejón’s campaign instead.

“Perhaps the campaign was too dominated by contention, by attempts at not scaring people, and in the end we failed to provide reasons for voting,” wrote a group called Los muchachos de la coleta (The ponytail boys, a reference to Iglesias’ hairstyle). “We need to assess whether [the campaign] was aimed at reality or had its back to it; whether campaign leaders were not affected by the survey-fueled mirage produced by the adversary’s media outlets.”

Podemos co-founder Juan Carlos Monedero, who resigned in April 2015 following a financial scandal, is the only one who has openly criticized Podemos’ strategy. He says that the party “has been hostage to childishness” and believed the surveys that said it would bump the PSOE down on June 26.

“It is not enough to offer hollow rhetoric adorned with matchless loquacity and embellished with the glitter of television, if you do not provide a clear alternative,” he wrote on his blog, Comiendo tierra.

English version by Susana Urra.

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