Contributed by Joe Montero
Following a period of internal consolidation of anti-austerity party Podemos, as a political party that emphasises organising a grass roots movements, it followed up on 14 June, with a parliamentary no confidence motion against the government.
There was no chance of getting the numbers. But it did brig to attention continuing opposition to the direction in which the country is being driven. It also put pressure of the Socialist Party [formally the Socialist Workers Party of Spain (PSOE)], which has played the role of savior of the right wing Popular Party government led by Mariano Rahoy. it has been allowed to exist as a minority government by abstention of the Socialist vote. This is regarded by critics as akin to the new agreement between the British Conservatives and the DUP.
The Podemos no confidence motion has proved to be an effective tactic, to pressure the Socialist Party, at a time when its internal differences reached a peak.
Last year, leader Pablo Sanchez, who had not long before, came in representing the party’s left base, was toppled by a combination of members and the party machine. Now he has come back on a wave of support from the membership.
Sanchez had been critical of Podemos’ alliance with the Communist Party led United Left, while Podemos saw the Socialist Party as part of the traditional political elite of the old two-party system that it is striving to break. Podemos was angered by the Socialist alliance with Ciudadanos, the new conservative party that is now consistently voting with the government.
Sanchez remains constrained by the party machine and the reality that most of the party’s members of parliament continue to see Podemos as their main threat.
So far, the Socialist Party has preserved the Popular Party government, arguing that political stability and the preservation of the two-party system are the most important issues in the present political climate.
There is another more pedestrian reason to accommodate the Rajoy government and this is that the Socialist Party stands to lose heavily, if a new election was forced in the short-term. Being seen as the main prop for one’s supposed political enemy is not a good path to electoral success.
Countering the old guard, is the wish of a large part of its membership for change and considerable sympathy for Podemos. Like most of the Spanish population, they also want change and are not happy that the leadership has been refusing to listen.
This division leaves the Socialists in a vulnerable position and this has been to Sanchez’s benefit. The Socialists have not yet turned away from keeping the government in place. But it hasn’t stopped the start of dialogue with Podemos.
Sanchez met Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias on 27 June and they discussed possible joint initiatives in areas ranging from youth unemployment to the defence of Spain’s pension system. The two parties will set up joint working groups on issues of agreement and will form a parliamentary block. It spells trouble for the Rajoy government.
There will be further meetings between the two leaders that could lead to further cooperation.
During an interview on the Sexta television station after the meeting, Sanchez said: “My priority is that Mariano Rajoy is no longer the head of the government”. But this is to be achieved by a longer-term strategy and not through backing a no confidence motion.
It is not clear yet how the new cooperation will translate to joint activity at the grass roots. This is what is most critical. there is also the relationship with the unions, which like Podemos, have been critical of the planned European Union/Canada Free Trade Agreement that is due to be debated in the Spanish parliament, on Thursday Spanish time.
The old guard are likely to continue to resist. But their position is considerably weakened and it is far from certain that they will continue to have the capacity to block it. Only time will tell.
In the end, it is the prospect of a broader base of cooperation is the most significant development and it has the potential of ushering in a new shift in the political landscape of the country.