The party leader and the congressional spokesperson for Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos have survived a confidence vote over their purchase of a luxury home outside Madrid.
Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero had put their positions on the line after a national controversy erupted over their acquisition. They were backed by 68.42% of registered party members who participated in the online vote.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias
Participants were asked the question: “Do you think Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero should continue as party leader and congressional spokesperson?”
The confidence vote followed a public outcry over the couple’s purchase of a €615,000 country house with a swimming pool and guest house, and the €540,000 mortgage that they took out to pay for it.
Around a third of the voters, 31.58% (representing 59,224 out of 128,300 votes) said that Iglesias and Montero should quit over their new house in Galapagar, near the Guadarrama mountains north of Madrid.
“My obligation is to remain at the helm of Podemos and to represent with dignity both the 70% who supported me and the 30% who would prefer a different secretary general,” said Iglesias following the vote count. “I accept this with greater enthusiasm and maturity than ever before. I’m making a note of the message delivered by that 30% of voters who did not support us.”
The couple, who are expecting twins, said that they did not buy the house for speculative purposes but to live in.
They have faced accusations that the luxury property contradicts the party’s core values and makes it difficult for its top leaders to continue defending the interests of “the people” against those of “the [political] caste.”
“I make mistakes and I will probably keep on making them, but nobody can say that we cling to our posts or that we hide from our critics,” added Iglesias in a statement that criticized the way his private life has become a source of public debate in recent weeks.
“We have faced the most powerful of adversaries, the nearly unanimous position of published opinions, which managed to turn a private matter into a national debate.”
Within Podemos itself, the most vocal criticism has come from the mayor of Cádiz, José María González, better known as “Kichi.” In an open letter published on Wednesday of last week, González wrote that Podemos supporters are “willing to forgive their leaders nearly everything” but that they would find it hard to forgive them for “switching sides.”
With less than a year to go before local and regional elections kick off across Spain, losing Iglesias and Montero would have created a significant power vacuum in the party.
A record 188,176 registered members participated in the online confidence vote. Iglesias had suggested that a low turnout would also force him and his partner to step down.
English version by Susana Urra.