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A vacuum on Spain’s political left

Center-right group Ciudadanos cannot be the only alternative to the governing Popular Party. Ideas are needed from the Socialists and Podemos

Andalusian premier Susana Díaz and PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez.
Andalusian premier Susana Díaz and PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez.PACO PUENTES (EL PAIS)

Practically all of the opinion polls published in recent months – including those carried out by Metroscopia for EL PAÍS – show the ongoing weakness of the electoral prospects for the governing Popular Party (PP), while simultaneously evidencing the strengthening of center-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens), placing it potentially as the most popular political force in Spain.

Meanwhile, the traditional main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) and left-wing anti-austerity group Podemos appear to be either in decline or at least stagnating, without being able to attract either new or former voters. The fact that the parties led by Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias, respectively, are unable to make political capital from a time when Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his PP are at one of their weakest moments, nor are they able to offer citizens an alternative to the policies of the government, should be cause for serious reflection.

Podemos has made serious mistakes in its approach to the Catalan crisis

News this week that the Socialists in Madrid have offered current city Mayor Manuela Carmena the opportunity to head their electoral slate in upcoming municipal elections, as well as the revelation that Carolina Bescansa could team up with Íñigo Errejón to take over the leadership of Podemos, confirms the huge concern that many in both parties feel regarding the lack of a roadmap ahead of the upcoming municipal and regional elections.

A large part of this electoral stagnation is down to the confusion that reigns in both groups. The PSOE, which always was and always wanted to be a party of government, has sought to bolster itself ideologically by employing discourse that asserts the left and its symbols, but in exchange has lost a large part of its moderate voters. It has also closed the door on any chance of working with Ciudadanos in order to get Rajoy out of office, and it is no longer perceived as a majority alternative: all of this without having managed to wear down Podemos.

PSOE and Podemos appear to be either in decline or at least stagnating

For its part, Podemos, under the leadership of Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero, has marginalized or shed several of the group’s most valuable figures – including three of its founding members, Íñigo Errejón, Carolina Bescansa and Luis Alegre – in a bid to build a highly centralized party. What’s more, it has made serious mistakes in its approach to the Catalan crisis and it has become radicalized in terms of its ideology, all of which has seen it move away from a position from which it could exercise a positive influence.

The result is that Ciudadanos today presents itself as the only alternative to the PP, while the possibilities of a useful, reformist center-left, which accepts the normal institutional game and presents attractive policies for a large majority of citizens, is progressively fading away.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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