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Spanish state: Bulk of Forward Andalusia MPs expelled from their caucus — just desserts for turncoats or pre-emptive purge? 

 

 

By Dick Nichols 

January 3, 2020 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — On the morning of October 27, Maribel Mora, representative on the Parliament of Andalusia’s speakership board of radical left coalition Forward Andalusia, got a nasty surprise: minutes before the board was due to meet in the capital Sevilla, Inmaculada Nieto, spokesperson for the coalition’s parliamentary caucus, rang Mora to say that she would be asking the board to expel eight MPs from their 17-member group for being “defectors”. If most MPs from the other parties on the board voted for expulsion, the eight Forward Andalusia representatives would be reclassified as “unassigned”. 

Forward Andalusia is an electoral coalition. Its founding affiliates were the United Left Andalusia (IU Andalusia) and Podemos Andalusia: they were soon joined by the two smaller left-nationalist (andalucista) parties Andalusist Left and Andalusian Spring[1]. Anticapitalists, which had been the major tendency in Podemos Andalusia from its foundation in 2014, became the coalition’s fifth affiliate in May after it finally left Podemos in March. That move followed the decision of Unidas Podemos (basically Podemos plus IU at the level of most of the Spanish state), to take part in the Spanish government as junior partner to the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). Anticapitalists had always opposed entering a PSOE government as what it called a “sidecar”. 

In the caucus, formed after the December 2, 2018 elections for the Andalusian “autonomous community”[2] six MPs were from IU or aligned with it (including Nieto): the other 11 were either members of or, like Mora, close to Anticapitalists. Following the agreement regulating the group’s functioning, Podemos Andalusia as majority provided the caucus leader (Teresa Rodríguez) while IU as minority provided the spokesperson (Nieto). 

In the round of regional elections that took place between December 18, 2018 and May 26, 2019 Forward Andalusia won the highest vote (16.2%) of all the various “forces of change” (alliances involving Podemos, IU and in some places left-nationalist and left-regionalist groupings). Yet now, after nearly two years of uncontested occupation of their seats, the eight Forward Andalusia MPs charged with “defection” (including leader Rodríguez) were being branded as usurpers who were holding onto their positions without the consent of Podemos Andalusia. This was despite their having won Podemos primaries to be part of the Forward Andalusia ticket in the election and never having broken caucus discipline. 

Nieto’s letter to the board, quoted in the October 28 edition of web-based daily El Salto, said: “It is a consensus position among democratic political forces that defection is a pathology[3] that perverts the mandate of the people and defrauds the citizenry. To provide a response to this undesirable phenomenon the regulation of the Parliament of Andalusia created the category of unassigned MP.” 

Mora said she had received a communication from the Podemos Andalusia secretary of organisation, Jesús de Manuel, notifying that the eight MPs were no longer members of Podemos Andalusia and were thus “in a state of defection”. If the board now voted to support expulsion they would, as unassigned MPs, lose speaking time, rights to participation in parliamentary committees and access to the funding provided by the Spanish state to recognised parliamentary groups (€1.666 million for 2020 in the case of Forward Andalusia). 

With this move de Manuel, who was elected as part of the new Podemos Andalusia leadership in June, passed over the agreement reached between Rodríguez and Podemos general secretary Pablo Iglesias at the time of Anticapitalists’ departure from Podemos. Under that “amicable divorce settlement”, done as a joint video statement by the two leaders, Anticapitalists agreed not to stand a leadership ticket in the forthcoming Podemos Andalusia congress but its members elected as part of the Forward Andalusia ticket would continue to hold their representative positions. 

In response to Nieto’s bombshell, Mora wrote to the board that the petition “does not have the support of the parliamentary group, does not reflect any agreement taken through formal and democratic channels, but is a personal, unilateral action without any legal backing” (cited in the October 28 edition of online daily Público.) 

The road to Forward Andalusia 

Why did matters reach this point of split only two years after Rodríguez and Antonio Maíllo, IU’s coordinator for Andalusia from 2013 to 2019, came together to launch a united left challenge to the 36-year-long regime of the tired and corrupt[4] PSOE of Andalusia (PSOE-A)? 

The glue that held the Forward Andalusia project together had two main ingredients: the prospect of increasing the 21.7% vote that Podemos and IU won running separately in the 2015 Andalusian elections, and the understanding that the PSOE-A was “not an agent for change with the intention of taking on the structural transformations this country and Andalusia need”. These words of Maíllo in June 2019, reflecting on the experience of the 2012-2015 PSOE-IU Andalusian government, represented a change from the traditional orientation of IU and of its main affiliate, the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). This had been to pressure the PSOE into forming coalition governments that would be more progressive than if the PSOE governed alone. 

Given this shared understanding, the new Podemos-IU bond in Andalusia could withstand ongoing tension on other issues. These were, principally, whether Andalusia should be regarded as a distinct national entity requiring its own political representation within the institutions of the Spanish state (like Catalonia, Euskadi and Galicia) and, relatedly, whether federal or confederal ties should hold between Andalusia and the other nations and regions in the state. It could also withstand the tensions within Podemos between its Andalusian organisation espousing regional autonomy and the centralist Madrid apparatus, controlled by Iglesias and his supporters. Under this arrangement, tickets for Spanish elections are preselected on a basis that includes Andalusia with the rest of the state (minus Catalonia, Euskadi and Galicia), with the result that Podemos MPs elected for the region align with the party’s state leadership. 

The PSOE-A’s refusal to deal with IU Andalusia ended when the right-wing People’s Party (PP) came in first in the 2012 Andalusian poll: co-government with the left coalition was now the only way Andalusia’s main establishment party could maintain its rule. This gave birth to the fraught experience of the 2012-2015 PSOE-IU coalition administration: it was ended by PSOE premier Susana Diaz when she called elections a year early, sacking her IU ministers in the process. With the exception of an anti-eviction law that was later overturned in the courts, that government did not introduce reforms of any great importance, but it did implement cutbacks under the pressure of the austerity policies of the Spanish government of PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy. 

In the 2015 election, the PSOE-A held on to its 47 seats in the 109-seat Andalusian parliament, the PP lost 17 of its 50 seats, while IU’s tally more than halved, from 12 to 5. A repetition of PSOE-IU “co-government” was now impossible, even if the two sides had wanted it. The big winners were the newcomers born of mass disillusionment with “old politics”, the radical Podemos Andalusia with 15 seats and Citizens (the “Podemos of the right”) with 9. With Podemos Andalusia, led by Teresa Rodríguez, presenting what for Susana Díaz were impossible demands for supporting the PSOE’s investiture as a minority government, the outgoing premier did a deal to her right, with Citizens. 

These difficult experiences for IU Andalusia, combined with an internal financial crisis, led Maíllo to consider how unity to the left of the PSOE-A might be achieved with Podemos. He faced some scepticism within the IU Andalusia ranks: “In Andalusia, these are the same-as-ever Trotskyists, those who call us traitors for governing with the PSOE, or just for governing”, was the opinion of one older Communist Party of Andalusia (PCA) leader, quoted in the June 27 edition of the web-based daily el diario. Nonetheless, Maíllo, also from the PCA, convinced an IU Andalusia membership partly demoralised by being overtaken by Podemos Andalusia, that an electoral alliance of all forces to the left of the PSOE, including andalucista and ecological currents, would give the left its best chance of challenging PSOE hegemony.

The IU Andalusia coordinator would also have been encouraged by the victory of Pedro Sánchez over Andalusian PSOE leader Susana Díaz in the May 2017 PSOE leadership primaries, a win for the party rank-and-file disgusted with the PSOE apparatus’s sacking of Sánchez for his refusal as PSOE leader to allow a Rajoy PP government to form after the 2016 Spanish general election. Some of the 31.7% of PSOE-A members who voted against Díaz in that primary would surely be potential supporters of a united ticket to the party’s left. 

Secretary general Ernesto Alba put the PCA’s position towards the PSOE-A at this time in a July 31, 2018 interview with Andalusian web-based daily La Voz del Sur

After governing the Junta [government] of Andalusia together with the PSOE and finding out what they are like, we’ve got it clear. We’ve got it clear that we’re not going to do deals with the PSOE over agreements for government. In the municipalities, what we will evaluate [after the May 2019 local government elections] are the situations that would be very justifiable politically, but we maintain that the PSOE-A and Susana Díaz do not represent change, that with the regional elections an electoral cycle starts towards the general elections, one that passes through the local government and European elections, and where everything forms part of a whole. We are going to make sure that there are no agreements with the PSOE-A that would continue maintaining their regime. 

On the side of Podemos Andalusia, the ground for unity in a new “Andalusian political entity” was cleared by the overwhelming victory of Rodríguez in the July 2018 primaries to preselect the movement’s lead candidate for the December 2, 2018 Andalusian elections. An unrelenting champion of Podemos Andalusia’s right to autonomy from the central Podemos apparatus in Madrid (including the right to preselect its candidates for Spanish elections), Rodríguez won 75% of the vote of 11,000 members against Isabel Franco, the Podemos MP for Huelva in the Spanish congress and candidate supported by Iglesias. With this win, Podemos Andalusia had the strength to resist a rearguard action from the Iglesias leadership to have “Forward Andalusia” as only a slogan of the campaign in the Andalusian poll. 

The Forward Andalusia election campaign was the most enthusiastic of that contest, with overflow meetings in 14 cities and towns across the two weeks of official campaigning. However, the actual result for Forward Andalusia (5.5% less than for IU and Podemos in 2015) was a disappointment, especially after some last-minute polling showed the left coalition neck-and-neck with the PP for second place. It led to the first-time investiture in Andalusia of a PP-Citizens government dependent on the far-right Vox. This result sharply shifted the political ground: the defeat of the PSOE had come at the hands not of forces to its left but of those who had campaigned on the “threat” to Andalusia from Catalan separatism, migrants and refugees. 

The main factor determining the result was the abstention of up to half a million traditional PSOE voters: because they did not shift across to Forward Andalusia the vote for the conventionally defined right (Citizens, PP and Vox) exceeded that for the conventionally defined left (PSOE and Forward Andalusia) for the first time since the end of the Franco dictatorship. 

The 2019 municipal and general elections: tensions emerge 

Despite this disappointment and criticism from the IU Andalusia current opposed to coalition with Podemos, Maíllo made a positive reading of Forward Andalusia’s campaign and potential in a December 21, 2018 interview with La Voz del Sur. He stressed that disillusioned PSOE voters could not be won across in one election campaign, that the 17% vote was a solid basis for expanding beyond the best result that IU had achieved running alone, and that Forward Andalusia was not just an electoral formula: 

Is convergence a merely electoral concept or the building of a bloc of the people who are suffering the crisis? Which is to say, at bottom, of the people who come together in stopping an eviction, in the struggle for a collective work contract, of the kellys [women cleaners] who win fights with their companies: do you set them in an electoral or a social framework? Electoral unity is the response to unity achieved in the social sphere, not the opposite. 

To the question whether IU or Podemos voters had been more responsible for the failure of the Forward Andalusia vote to exceed that for the two organisations running separately in 2015, Maíllo replied: 

Careful. I think that it is a mistake to put the question as one of people failing: the ones who have failed are those of us who haven’t been able to persuade. Our political space was at a dead end before the creation of Forward Andalusia. We know that there were IU and Podemos voters who would not have voted for a united space, but we also know that had we stood separately many people would not have voted for a divided space. Unity is the only road that we popular classes have for organising ourselves: the others have their boardrooms, their inherited money and lots of media. 

The May 2019 municipal elections confirmed the value of Forward Andalusia as an expression of left and popular unity. In an election where local branches, mainly of IU but sometimes of Podemos Andalusia, could choose to stand separately, the united ticket scored better in seven of Andalusia’s eight provinces, the exception being Granada, where IU tickets won 5.28% of the province-wide vote compared to 3.72% for Forward Andalusia. In the provinces where Forward Andalusia stood as a united presence, in most centres it came in as third force behind the PSOE and PP. This was the case in the provinces of Cádiz (with IU sixth), Málaga (IU fifth), Sevilla (IU fifth) and Huelva (IU fifteenth). 

With general elections set for November 10, 2019, would Forward Andalusia also be the united ticket of all left forces in Andalusia, as proposed by Podemos Andalusia? José Ignacio García and Ángela Aguilera, joint spokespersons for Forward Andalusia put the case in favour in an article in El País (September 19, 2019)

We are experiencing a territorial crisis and Andalusia is absent. Spain is not coming apart because of Catalonia, it is coming apart because of inequality, privatisation of public services, dismantling of territorial relations. We need a decentralised country, built upward from its peoples and cities towards the State, and not the other way round. We need Andalusia to be heard in Madrid, we need defence of the reality of our accumulated debt, of our underfinancing, of our shortfall in public services and of the need to overcome our role as economic and cultural periphery. Andalusia has the historical, cultural and legal identity to be like others […] 

That is why, conscious of the huge difficulties involved, we are convinced that we need a Forward Andalusia ticket in the coming general elections, with its own group within the confederal group already formed by Unidas Podemos, Catalonia Together and Galicia Together, with a candidate range representative of all sectors within the bloc for change, elected in their provinces and representing the feeling of the memberships of the organisations that make up Forward Andalusia. 

Iglesias’s reply to the proposal (in a September 24 interview on Público TV) was that Unidas Podemos would be standing in all parts of the Spanish state where it had been present to date, but if Forward Andalusia wanted to be another split like former Podemos leader Iñigo Errejón’s More Country (Mas País) that was up to it: “Everyone is grown-up enough to make their own decisions.” He also rejected Rodríguez’s call for all left forces — Podemos, IU, Mas País and others — to stand under a Forward Andalusia umbrella. Podemos Andalusia resigned itself to this decision and came behind the Unidas Podemos campaign for the November 10, 2019 general election. 

Compared to the previous general election (held in April), the Unidas Podemos vote in Andalusia fell from 14.25% to 13.06% (99,000 votes) but its seat tally fell from nine to six, mainly due to the Mas País draining off 55,000 votes. The lost seats were in Andalusia’s western-most provinces of Málaga, Cádiz and Huelva. 

After these poor results, Iglesias redoubled the effort to achieve junior partnership in a PSOE-led Spanish government, an invitation that the PSOE now had to accept because its preferred partner, the neoliberal and catalanophobic Citizens, had seen its seat tally collapse from 57 to 10 while the far right Vox’s had more than doubled, from 24 to 52. The possibility of Podemos and IU entering government in the Spanish state now exacerbated the tensions in Forward Andalusia because of Podemos Andalusia’s longstanding opposition to governing as a subordinate to the PSOE. It supported the “Portuguese tactic” followed by the Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist Party in relation to the Socialist Party of Portugal — of investing it as a government, supporting it against the parties of the right, voting for any positive legislation it might propose, but permanently pressuring it from outside to introduce more progressive policies. 

The Iglesias Podemos leadership asked in an online plebiscite for members to support the in-principle agreement for a PSOE-UP coalition government but offered no alternative course except rejection. As a result, 96.44% of those voting in Andalusia supported the position put forward from Podemos in Madrid, with 22,426 voting. This was 18,200 less than those who voted in the last Podemos poll in Andalusia for which there were public statistics, the 2016 primaries for Podemos’s Second Citizen Assembly (congress), which was won by Teresa Rodríguez with 44% membership participation. The result suggested prima facie that many of those opposed to co-government with the PSOE had not bothered to vote. 

Which Forward Andalusia? 

Previous to the 2018 Andalusian poll, Podemos Andalusia and IU Andalusia had registered Forward Andalusia as a party with the Spanish interior ministry, to give the Andalusian left unity project “certainty in law” and to forestall any attempts at stealing a name which had already acquired much visibility and power of attraction: Errejón was mentioned as a potential suspect with an interest in using it. The legal representative of the registered party was an Anticapitalists member, with IU providing a witness. A year later, at a December 19, 2019 meeting of Forward Andalusia’s steering committee after the Spanish general election, IU Andalusia asked Rodríguez to withdraw this registration. The reply of the Podemos Andalusia leader was that discussion of the organisation’s political tasks should precede any such decision. 

In early January 2020, the Podemos Andalusia leadership presented a document called “Being a Full Moon” [to impel the tides of social protest and resistance] to a Sevilla political conference organised as a first step towards the party’s next citizens’ assembly, set for March 2020. This text criticised discipline imposed from central Podemos in Madrid, made a detailed defence of the “Portuguese tactic” based on the Andalusian experience and asserted the perspective of consolidating Forward Andalusia as an autonomous andalucista force able to attract and organise people who were not members of its founding organisations. It concluded: 

We will therefore move to build assemblies of Forward Andalusia, village by village and neighbourhood by neighbourhood, to carry out tasks, campaigns and activities in appropriate territorial or sectoral spheres: our priority and tendency will be to build social mobilisation against the policies of the Andalusian government and an alternative for power independent of the two-party system. 

This vision for Forward Andalusia clashed with that of IU’s and the Iglesias leadership of Podemos: while IU saw the coalition as a social as well as an electoral bloc, it resisted its transformation into a force that might rival Unidas Podemos electorally and, naturally enough, IU itself as the most implanted left organisation in the region. However, while Podemos Andalusia was still subordinate to Podemos at the level of the Spanish state, these concerns of IU’s were effectively attended to by the Iglesias Podemos leadership.

At this point in the looming conflict, IU Andalusia’s new coordinator Toni Valero was reported in the January 11 edition of el diario as saying that what was important was to save the brand name Forward Andalusia from falling victim to the tensions in Podemos. Valero had replaced Maíllo, who had been suffering from cancer, in June 2019. 

This situation of nervous coexistence of potentially antagonistic strategic lines changed with the February 12 announcement of the “amicable divorce” between Rodríguez and Iglesias. This was triggered by the January 18 decision of the central Podemos leadership to bring forward the Spain-wide Third Citizens’ Assembly (congress) of Podemos and thus force the postponement of the organisation’s regional assemblies, including Andalusia’s. Valero stated in response that IU Andalusia was not bound by the Rodríguez-Iglesias accord: the agreement to form Forward Andalusia was with Podemos Andalusia “independent of who its leaders might be”. IU Andalusia’s position was that Anticapitalists’ proposed affiliation to Forward Andalusia, which became an issue after the tendency voted in late March to leave Podemos, and which was formally sought on May 11, should be postponed until the election of a new Podemos Andalusia leadership. Nonetheless, in the words of Valero, reported in the May 14 el diario, “obviously there will be no problem”.

According to this report, the affiliation of Anticapitalists was done via the Telegram group of the Forward Andalusia steering committee during Spain’s COVID-19 lockdown, with IU voting against and Podemos Andalusia, under the interim control of Rodríguez, and the two andalucista affiliates voting in favour. IU complained that there had been no meeting to discuss the issue. Nonetheless, IU Andalusia was to effectively acquiesce in having Anticapitalists admitted as a fifth affiliate of Forward Andalusia by taking part in meetings in which its representative was present. 

On May 21, the majority on the steering committee — Anticapitalists and the two andalucista organisations — adopted a statement with the same basic position as “Being a Full Moon”: 

It’s time for Andalusia. It’s the moment of the men and women of Andalusia. There will be no future unless we build it ourselves. 

The statement included the perspective that Forward Andalusia would be present in all future elections in its own name. It also urged individuals to sign up as members. According to IU sources, cited in the May 24 edition of La Voz del Sur, for the first time in the history of Forward Andalusia this decision was not taken by consensus: 

They called us to a meeting and we told them we couldn’t go, that they should wait a week so we could discuss the issue and take it to our leadership bodies. They had the meeting anyway, voted and counted us as absent.

Anticapitalists, Andalucista Left and Andalusian Spring voted in favour of the statement, Podemos Andalusia, represented pro tempore by its outgoing Anticapitalists leadership, abstained and IU was absent. This vote would focus attention on the fact that all decisions in Forward Andalusia had previously been taken by consensus and that no agreed mechanism for decision-making in its absence had been agreed. 

By June, IU Andalusia was beginning to contrast the alliance between Podemos and IU at the level of the Spanish state to the evolution of Forward Andalusia. Valero told the media on June 9 that he was looking forward to working with Martina Velarde, the pro-Iglesias lead candidate in the coming elections for the new leadership of Podemos Andalusia.

The confluence between Podemos and IU is irreversible and is not questioned by the new leadership that seems likely to take the reins of Podemos Andalusia nor by the leadership of IU […] Without IU or Podemos, Forward Andalusia would be the brand name of something different. 

In late June, the first meeting of the incoming Podemos Andalusia executive voted to remain affiliated to Forward Andalusia, ending the period of ambiguity that had lasted during the Podemos Andalusia internal election because of Martina Velarde’s refusal to take a stance on the issue. 

Beginning of the end game 

The opening of the end game towards split in Forward Andalusia came on June 25 with a public ultimatum by IU to Anticapitalists: either they removed the name Forward Andalusia from the Spanish interior ministry’s list of registered parties or IU would launch a “legal and political” battle for control of the coalition. Calling for an emergency meeting of Forward Andalusia affiliates, Valero said that acquiescence by Rodríguez in this demand, ending what he called “democratic anomalies”, was “the last chance to avoid a split”. According to the June 26 el diario, the IU leadership’s viewpoint was that: 

Anticapitalists have kidnapped Forward Andalusia. They make political decisions without consensus and we can’t continue on board a ship that’s heading in a direction opposite to that of our political project. The rank and file need to know that they have stolen our party. 

But had Anticapitalists and the andalucista parties “stolen our party” or had IU and the new Podemos Andalusia leadership changed their position on governmental alliance with PSOE-A now that Unidas Podemos was governing with the PSOE in Madrid? That was the nub of the issue. With Rodríguez calling on IU not to air the differences in the coalition publicly, the battlelines in the impending propaganda war over responsibility for a split that seemed increasingly probable also became clear: for IU and the new Podemos leadership, Anticapitalists were usurpers of a shared project, for Anticapitalists and the nationalist parties, IU and Podemos had abandoned the founding commitment of Forward Andalusia to an autonomous Andalusian project independent of PP and PSOE. 

A battle over Forward Andalusia’s assets now loomed on two fronts, in the courts over legal ownership of the name and in the Andalusian parliament over right of access to the funding of the Forward Andalusia caucus. On June 29, Valero and Velarde together called on Rodríguez to agree that decisions of strategy and political line in Forward Andalusia, for example candidacies, tickets and pre- and post-electoral alliances, “be submitted to the rank-and-file and not decided on in a Telegram group”. Congress MP María Márquez, the new Podemos Andalusia spokesperson, said: “We owe it to the membership. We’ve always taken the important decisions via membership consultation. We don’t have a conflict, Teresa Rodríguez, who has decided to do things in a different way, definitely does.” 

Rodríguez told radio Cadena Ser on July 7 that she would be striving to maintain the five affiliates of Forward Andalusia united without abandoning the idea of “a clearly Andalusist force with representation and its own voice in Madrid so as to have a space for direct negotiation for an autonomous community that needs it in a special way.” 

By late July, anticipating a split at the level of Andalusia, the coalition’s group in the town council of Jérez (Cádiz province) agreed an “amicable separation”, with the local IU organisation resuming its discipline over the vote of the IU representative in the group. According to councillor Ángel Cardiel, who left Podemos with Anticapitalists but was not a member: 

The IU comrades have decided to re-emphasise their brand name before situations of conflict are produced. We have reached a point of working as always, but with those interests of IU represented by them and with us working to do our joint work as well as possible. […] We want to be responsible and we have outlined the differences, but without messages in the media. They have the right to change their approach and to reinforce their organisational identity, and we have too. […] I am experiencing this as a completely natural situation. I represent all those who voted for us, that continues. We can do things well so that we allow for our [different] ways of thinking in each party (quoted in the July 19 edition of La Voz del Sur). 

However, an Andalusia-wide repetition of this approach was not possible. The five Forward Andalusia affiliates met for seven hours on July 23, but without success. It was their first physical meeting after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the first with representation from the new Podemos Andalusia leadership. IU repeated its demand that Rodríguez cancel Forward Andalusia’s official registration as a party, while Rodríguez insisted on the need for Podemos and IU to recognise the “imperative necessity” for the Andalusian left to have its own voice in Spanish politics: this was even more important for the Forward Andalusia leader than differences over tactics towards the PSOE. She denied that Anticapitalists had “kidnapped” Forward Andalusia: the coalition now had three more affiliates than when Podemos Andalusia and IU Andalusia had first signed the agreement founding the coalition. 

A further meeting on August 11 also ended in failure, with Rodríguez stating that IU had refused to enter into any debate of political issues while Forward Andalusia remained on the list of registered parties. At the same time, Javier Moreno, the IU Andalusia head of communication claimed that Anticapitalists had “usurped in undemocratic fashion first the brand name and now the social networks”. An IU communiqué on the same day said: 

Yesterday afternoon, Monday [August 10], members of Anticapitalists without forewarning took control of Forward Andalusia’s profiles on the social networks, among them Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In this way, these publications and control over them are exclusively in their hands after they eliminated the IU Andalusia administrators from them during yesterday afternoon, modifying the passwords and profiles of Forward Andalusia so that neither IU Andalusia or Podemos Andalusia could have access to them […] [T]he most basic democratic principles of participation and dialogue have again been violated by Anticapitalists. Forward Andalusia is not Forward Andalusia without the United Left and Podemos (cited in the August 11 edition of La Voz del Sur). 

The response from Anticapitalists and the two other andalucista affiliates came immediately in the form of a communiqué in the name of Forward Andalusia: 

Yesterday the meeting envisaged two weeks ago took place and Podemos and IU came to it with split already agreed. In the days previous IU, without notification, withdrew money from Forward Andalusia’s Huelva and Malaga deputation [provincial level] accounts, thus beginning the split at the deputation level. 

During the meeting, the consensus proposal of Anticapitalists and andalucistas was to agree a calendar of discussion to resolve the issues of a specific Andalusian presence in the [Spanish] congress, alliance policy in the Junta [Andalusian government], the regulation of functioning and party registration, that is, the political and organisational together, but they did not want this. 

They refused any option that was not [obeying] the ultimatum of unconditional withdrawal of party registration to avoid Forward Andalusia being able to again stand in elections. 

The intention of IU and Podemos with this move is to prevent Forward Andalusia being able to again stand in elections, despite its being a consolidated brand name enjoying sympathy and counting independently on 3000 members apart from the political organisations (cited in the August 11 edition of website El Plural). 

IU replied, justifying the withdrawal of funds in these terms: 

It is absolutely false that IU has “emptied” any account of Forward Andalusia in the provinces of Málaga and Huelva. A financial protocol exists signed by the forces associated in Forward Andalusia at the provincial and autonomous community level. The only new element is that the leadership of Podemos Andalusia now no longer resides with Anticapitalists after they voluntarily left the organisation […] This budget is audited by the Court of Public Accounts. Any movements [of monies] not covered by the financial agreement would therefore be illegal and automatically detected by the aforementioned Court. Anticapitalists is making this serious allegation to try to justify and divert attention from the usurpation of Forward Andalusia (statement cited on the August 12 edition of web-based journal Cuartopoder

On August 12, Rodríguez, Pilar González (Andalusian Spring) and Pilar Távora (Andalusist Left) sought to explain the political core of the conflict in this video, appealing to Podemos Andalusia and IU Andalusia not to break the unity of Forward Andalusia.

On August 28, the parliamentary caucus majority withdrew IU’s access to the caucus’s bank account and opened a second account into which they asked the parliament to pay the caucus´s allowance. The majority did not inform the minority of this action. 

On September 12, after the Spanish summer break, Valero gave an extensive interview to the Madrid daily El Mundo in which he repeated the charge that “Anticapitalists set traps so as to get hold of Forward Andalusia”. He added:

When a minority lays hold of that which belongs to everyone it is hard to tackle the political debates that could consolidate Forward Andalusia. We are in the opposite scenario. Nonetheless, within this worsening situation there is a solidly set cornerstone which is where the future of the Andalusian left is heading and it is the alliance, shoulder-to-shoulder, back-to-back, of IU and Podemos Andalusia, which is unbreakable and guaranteed to continue. In this crisis the alliance between IU and Podemos Andalusia has become even stronger. 

Valero denied that IU wanted the registration of Forward Andalusia withdrawn but that “it should belong to everyone” and asserted that the accusations of withdrawals of money were “out of place, very ugly and rather thoughtless”. Asked as to whether IU Andalusia was closer to the PSOE than a year ago, Valero replied: 

The United Left is in the same position as a year ago. It is the PSOE that is moving from where it was one or two years ago. IU has been calling for a change in productive model, for the strengthening of public services, for years now and the PSOE — over the last year, the last months — has been moving after having lost its bearings for a long time. It is not that IU is today closer to the PSOE, but that the PSOE, in its opposition to the PP and Citizens, is adopting the message that IU has been proposing for years now. 

On September 20, IU released a statement signed by about 800 elected representatives from IU, Podemos and Forward Andalusia who: 

called for the correction of the antidemocratic anomalies that have been perpetrated within Forward Andalusia (misappropriation of the electoral brand, misappropriation of the social networks, publication of political statements without the consensus of the political forces aligned together in Forward Andalusia), so as to be able to save a united, participatory and democratic space […] 

The Andalusian people asks and requires of us every day that we resolve our differences, that we avoid the division and fragmentation of the left. We cannot allow sectarianism and the interests of a minority to distract us from the central, the priority, goal: to build a united, solid and viable political project that offers an alternative to the uncertainty caused by the present crisis and the reactionary, neoliberal offensive of the forces of the right. 

The propaganda struggle: Maíllo and Rodríguez 

The struggle over the narrative about responsibility for a split that now looked inevitable became more intense on September 29 when Maíllo, whose formerly good relationship with Rodríguez had helped Forward Andalusia consolidate, emerged from political silence with an article in el diario called “Some notes on Forward Andalusia”. In it he said that the polemic over building an “Andalusian political entity” was false: 

Why is there an attempt to justify a split because of disagreement over the concept of an “Andalusian political entity”? In IU Andalusia we never had any problem with it, quite the opposite. IU Andalusia has been and has acted as an Andalusian political entity since the 1990s and has had its own voice in the Congress of Deputies. We are an entity with political and legal status, just as the Communist Party of Andalusia (PCA) has been since the 1980s. As a result, I do not think that there is debate over this issue within IU Andalusia or the PCA because it is what we have always defended and implemented. 

Where then is the problem? I hear that IU Andalusia is accused of having changed its position, but the reality is that the only change since the formation of Forward Andalusia is that Anticapitalists have left Podemos along with their people elected to public office under the umbrella of this last formation, and that this is what now explains the attempt to hide what is really being aimed for behind the concept of “Andalusian political entity”—construction of a nationalist party along the lines of the [left independentist] Catalan People’s Unity Lists (CUP), controlled by Anticapitalists, a respectable thing but nothing to do with Forward Andalusia […] 

It will soon be two years since the last Andalusian elections. Time in which the government of the right with the support of the extreme right has begun to carry out its plan for Andalusia. And in this dramatic situation, aggravated by the pandemic that is strangling us as a society, I watch perplexed as part of Forward Andalusia, whose parliamentary group compared to a brain-dead PSOE-A has the stuff to lead the opposition, is engaged in a sort of game of thrones absolutely alien to the concerns and questionings of the people we represent, and not only this; it is leading opposition to the co-government in Spain for which the rank and file of both IU and Podemos voted massively. 

Far from fulfilling this role (that of leading an opposition that shows that a solid alternative for government exists that does not go through the PSOE-A), I follow with stupor how a part of Forward Andalusia has embarked on a manoeuvre that aims to leave the space’s two founding forces, Podemos and IU Andalusia, in an administrative minority. I even have to listen to IU Andalusia and Podemos being branded as minorities compared to Anticapitalists, Andalusist Left and Andalusian Spring. Really, with almost a thousand town councillors and 98% of Forward Andalusia’s mayors, IU Andalusia is a minority force in the space? […] 

We are seeing every day how in Spain the forces of the right, the financial elites, the judicial powers-that-be and the Crown are harassing the Unidas Podemos project by land, air and sea. Let’s not make it easy for them.

On October 1, Rodríguez replied with “Notes on Antonio Maíllo’s Notes”, taking up the issues in dispute: 

What should a ‘Andalusian political entity’’ be? 

I call on the United Left not to break with the project that we founded together, an unquestionably Andalusian project that came into being against the grain of Unidas Podemos’s centralist tendencies. In fact, it can be said that Forward Andalusia came into being despite Unidas Podemos, which at the outset would have preferred that its Andalusian brand were a simple branch of the state organisation. That was precisely why Andalusian Spring and the Andalusist Left signed up to the project, because we told them, Antonio, that Forward Andalusia was a distinctly Andalusian entity, with the intention of transcending the founding organisations, with the intention of having its own life and membership, organised via mass assemblies going beyond the founding organisations. 

Nobody asked you to disaffiliate from the federal United Left, certainly not; what we asked of you is that you treat Andalusia as you do Catalonia, where you take part in Together We Can, a distinctly Catalan entity in a confederal relation in the congress with Unidas Podemos, but with its own ballot paper, its tickets voted on in the territory and not imposed from Madrid, and its own access to government to discuss budgets and policies from a Catalan viewpoint […] 

We used to say — you used to say — why Catalonia yes and Andalusia no? Didn’t we win that right with blood, sweat and tears on December 4 in the streets and on February 28 at the ballot box?[5] The debate over whether we are federalists, confederalists or independentists is simply an argument about words. The question is: who goes to negotiate about the state budget from an Andalusian viewpoint. The Catalan, Galician, Basque, Canary forces and even Teruel Exists [representing southern Aragón] will legitimately do it, but Andalusia will not be there […] 

We used to speak out against the financial mistreatment of Andalusia, which is why we say that it is you who has changed: now, for you, raising that banner means disloyalty to the PSOE-UP government in Madrid. 

Governing with the PSOE? 

In this our position was unquestionable, the agreement in Forward Andalusia took place after thinking through the experience of the last government that you were involved in with the PSOE and in which you were a senior official. The government that sadly carried out the worst cuts to education, health and social services in the history of Andalusia […] 

Membership plebiscite supporting government with the PSOE?

And don’t talk to me about the rank and file deciding on co-government [with the PSOE]. You only ask the rank and file when you intend to enter a co-government and you always present the issue without any desirable alternative. Suddenly it’s “either we go into government or the right wing governs” or it’s “either us or chaos”.

Result of governing with the PSOE? 

I’ll put another simple question to you, Antonio. Would you be able to tell me of one single place in Andalusia where after co-government you have improved your election results, a single town or city? I’ll explain. If the PSOE governs well, it usually wins an absolute majority and if it does it badly, the right gets in. The PSOE has an enormous capacity to foist its own contradictions onto us at the same time as pocketing our achievements for itself. 

Not fighting the right? 

There is a false and unfair argument in your article, Antonio. You say we have given up opposing the trifachito [triple-headed fascist beast] so as to oppose the co-government of Spain. That is not true, Antonio. With little impact, maybe — you know a lot about what it’s like — we break an arm and a leg every day against the Andalusian trifachito, with initiatives and with a tough and tireless opposition, as we have always done, which is why it’s tremendously unfair of you to toss this work into the dirt, which is also the work of your six IU comrades. That is not the way. 

The status of Anticapitalists after leaving Podemos Andalusia? 

You consistently forget that our exit from Podemos was agreed. In a civilised way, the former leadership and regional teams of Podemos Andalusia, where there were members of Anticapitalists but not only us, agreed with the state leadership to leave Podemos because of disagreements over the government of coalition and the lack of decentralisation of the Podemos project. We agreed a “see you later” in a video I did with Pablo Iglesias in which we launched a message of meeting up again and of collaboration. In that video there was respect for the position of the other side, also for the institutional positions that you question today but that my former organisation does not question, given that agreement. 

On October 1, IU Andalusia and Podemos Andalusia rejected a proposal from the three other Forward Andalusia affiliates to maintain the “legal unity” of the parliamentary group under the name of Forward Andalusia-Unidas Podemos, but with each side pursuing its own positions within it where they diverged. Valero denounced this offer as “embarrassing”, considering that it amounted to de facto expulsion from Forward Andalusia. The split within Forward Andalusia was now only a matter of time, with neither side objecting when the September edition of the Andalusian government’s opinion poll listed them separately (with Unidas Podemos winning 10-13 seats and Forward Andalusia one seat if an Andalusian election were held at that moment). 

MPs expelled… 

When the vote of the Andalusian parliament’s speakership board vote was taken on October 28, the IU minority within Forward Andalusia got support from the two PSOE representatives, the two representatives of the ruling PP and the representative of the far-right, xenophobic Vox. The two representatives of the neoliberal Citizens, one of them the board’s chairperson, abstained. (Citizens is the junior partner in the Andalusian administration.) The board did not consider a written submission from Maribel Mora, contesting the legitimacy of Nieto’s request. Before this expulsion, the majority in the Forward Andalusia caucus suspended Nieto as spokesperson. 

Interviewed on the Spanish national broadcaster RTVE on October 29, Rodriguez, who was on maternity leave when the expulsion took place, stated that the vote had been “pre-cooked”:

They are suggesting that we have changed political group when the fact is that all the organisations that formed part of Forward Andalusia took part together in its primaries and the result of the elections was the election of a Forward Andalusia ticket and all the MPs who were elected form part of this political group. 

Valero, scorning what he called Rodríguez’s “deplorable ethical behaviour”, replied on the same day: 

This has been a clear, patent and obvious case of defection of which IU is victim, Podemos is victim and, it has to be said, all those who voted for this ticket are victims. A moment came when the situation had to be resolved, and it has been resolved.

Velarde claimed: 

Anticapitalists have destroyed all bridges. Anticapitalists has been taking unilateral decisions. Anticapitalists, as I remember, did not form part of the convergence when we stood in the elections. This cannot happen. There are thousands of voters in Andalusia who don’t feel represented by the decisions that Anticapitalists are making inside the Andalusian parliament (cited in October 28 La Vanguardia). 

Forward Andalusia’s non-voting representative Mora and the two other Podemos MPs (both members of Anticapitalists) who were not expelled from the caucus demanded a reversal of the decision.

The only motive that occurs to us as to why they have wanted to make use of us and keep us in the parliamentary group with IU is for a question of numbers: so as to avoid drawing attention to the fact that IU has only 6 MPs out of 17 and that a minority would be expelling a majority of the group. 

The board’s vote was also taken against the advice of the parliament’s chief legal officer, who maintained that the targeted MPs should be allowed to present their case and that documentation had to be provided supporting the claims in Nieto’s letter.

Social network reactions 

When news of the expulsions became public, the reaction on the social media was mainly one of shock and confusion: how could a minority in the Forward Andalusia caucus block with right-wing parties to expel the majority, and how could that majority include the caucus leader while she was on maternity leave? 

On October 29, Rodríguez gave her explanation to La Sexta TV channel

IU Andalusia has decided to use Podemos and its leadership to get us out of the way because they are preparing the ground for a joint government with Susana Díaz. That’s the crux of the matter and the central political reason for the conflict in the Andalusian left. 

On October 30, UP supporters of the expulsion counterattacked. Interviewed on public TV, Irene Montoro, the UP minister for equality, said that “I’m afraid that the two sides, not only from the UP side, have not found a possibility of de-escalating this conflict.” When asked as to the appropriateness of Rodríguez being expelled while on maternity leave, she answered that she too had had two pregnancies but that “politics does not stop”.

Rodríguez replied: “I thought that ‘sisterhood’ was a red line, an unquestionable consensus among those of us who call ourselves feminist, a gender solidarity going beyond our political positions, but no.” Montero’s argument that “politics does not stop” was the equivalent of an employer telling a worker that “the factory does not stop because you’re pregnant. You’re fired!”

Montero retorted: “Teresa, they haven’t sacked you. You continue to be an MP and to get your politician’s wage even though you’ve left the party that lifted you into the institutions. Comparing yourself to a sacked casual woman worker is shameful.”

Rodríguez replied: “I didn’t compare myself to a casual woman worker, I said that the argument is the same. I receive my teacher’s wage, the rest I donate. Everyone knows that I’m not in politics for the money because I for one have a job to go back to and politics didn´t change my suburb for me” (a reference to Montero and her companion Iglesias moving from the poor and run-down inner-city Madrid neighbourhood of Lavapiés to the more comfortable outer suburb Galapagar). 

For the right wing, this “feminist cat fight” was too tempting to ignore and, given its priority of bringing down the PSOE-UP government, an opportunity to attack Montero and feign sympathy for Rodríguez. According to Citizens´ leader Inés Arrimadas:

That’s how they work in Podemos — they openly defend that a woman can be sacked during her maternity leave and afterwards go around giving lessons in feminism. Unacceptable and shameful statements from someone who is nothing less than minister for equality. 

Rodríguez declined the “support” of hard right PP youth leader and MP Bea Fanjul: 

Don’t support me, Mrs Fanjul, to take shots at Podemos and Irene Montero. Your party did the labour market reforms that casualised us more, the cuts that increased our workload as carers, and the threats to our abortion rights. Best you don’t support me. 

Rodríguez also came under ideological fire on October 30, when Enrique Santiago, Communist Party general secretary and UP congress MP, accused her of having a “very limited and very mediocre political perspective”. He also said that Rodríguez’s agreement with Iglesias only amounted to an understanding not to “kick up a fuss”. 

Advising that the door was still open for Anticapitalists to return to UP, Santiago nonetheless warned: 

They shouldn’t have any idea about concocting a political party of Andalusia, and then one of Sevilla, then one of Écija [town in Seville province] and then one of a neighbourhood in Écija, so to speak — you can’t go on subdividing to a ridiculous degree. We are working on a political project at the level of the state, not in having provincial or local projects: that is to have a very limited and very mediocre political perspective (cited in October 30 edition of La Vanguardia). 

For Santiago such projects would be “easy for the oligarchs to tame”. The day after, Valero added the comment that Anticapitalists were guilty of “uncompromising maximalism that leads nowhere and nullifies the other side”, adding “that’s what happened and that’s what has finished.” 

Rodríguez’s reply to Santiago was a short tweet

WTF [now a naturalised expression on Spanish social media]! When you are in Madrid wearing your centralist bottle-bottom glasses you see everything else as provincial, parochial and mediocre. Enrique Santiago should be reminded that Andalusia is not a province (like Madrid) but a historical nationality. 

Opposition minorities forces past and present in both Podemos and IU also had their say over the expulsions. For José Antonio García Rubio, who will stand against IU federal coordinator and minister for consumer affairs Alberto Garzón in the coming IU congress, “this is just one more indication that Unidas Podemos is more a force for dispersion than a factor for popular unity.” For Podemos co-founder Carolina Bescansa, “I read the news about the expulsion of Teresa Rodríguez and I simply can’t believe it’s true. One day someone is going to have to be held accountable to the five million people who once voted for Podemos and the hundreds of thousands who came around the Circles [branches].” For Ramón Espinar, the former Iglesias supporter who was the once Podemos general secretary in the Madrid region, “Let no-one grow who might overshadow me [Iglesias]. What a pain to think what it all might have been.” 

MPs reinstated… 

The expelled MPs immediately appealed the board’s decision, stating that it represented a “serious and irreparable violation of the rights we have as MPs, as recognised in the Constitution, the Statute of [Andalusian] Autonomy and the Regulations.” If the board persisted in its stance, “the paradox will come about of us enjoying immunity for the public opinions we express outside the Chamber while being persecuted inside Parliament.” 

The board retreated on November 5, on the recommendation of the chief legal officer, leaving its expulsion decision “without effect” and reinstating the expelled MPs. Nieto was given 48 hours to provide documentation confirming that they had resigned from the Forward Andalusia parliamentary group as a consequence of resigning from Podemos Andalusia. The legal service was to prepare a report evaluating whether the evidence provided was enough to justify their expulsion. The vote on suspending the expulsion decision passed 4-3, with Citizens and the PP in favour but with the PSOE and Vox maintaining their support for the board’s original decision. 

The pressure was now on Podemos Andalusia to provide the evidence of the MPs having resigned from the organisation. Also at issue was whether resignation, if proven, automatically entailed resignation from the Forward Andalusia group.

Rodríguez had told the Antena 3 program Espejo Público on November 2 that she had not resigned from Podemos — the agreement with Iglesias had only been not to stand a ticket in the forthcoming congress — but that she had been expelled just after the October 28 meeting of the speakership board: “I said that I would not stand for the leadership of Podemos Andalusia but would continue as a member of Podemos and offering to help the incoming leadership, but the expulsion came afterwards and ad hoc so as to justify the story of defection.” 

Nieto put IU’s position in a November 9 interview in el diario. Claiming that “what has happened in Forward Andalusia is not persecution or phobia, but defection”, she offered the following answers to the questions being asked about the legitimacy of the expulsions. 

Why are the expelled MPs defectors? 

Because they have abandoned the party to which they owe the position of public office that they now enjoy and have departed from its code of ethics and statutes. 

There were MPs affected who didn’t resign from Podemos but were removed from the membership list after the presentation of Nieto’s document seeking their expulsion from the Forward Andalusia caucus. 

They were all notified previously that they had effectively resigned. This happens either because one has asked to resign or because one’s behaviour makes the fact of disconnection from an organisation obvious. 

The chief legal officer advised the speakership board of the document’s lack of legitimacy. 

The legal position, on the grounds of which it is not up to the speakership board to decide about defection, was perfectly clear. What is needed, in complete normality and with all guarantees, is that the status of unassigned MP be accredited, and, yes, that is the job of the board. 

Why did Nieto not consult the Forward Andalusia parliamentary group beforehand? 

The decision to maintain a series of persons in public office in the institutions belongs to the organisation that put those persons on the ticket that led to them being in office. It is not a deliberative process within the ambit of any institutional grouping. I did what the spokesperson for a group has to do: inform the parliament’s speakership board of the resignations. 

Did the PP, Citizens and Vox know about the document before its presentation? 

No. The sequence was: registration of the document, I brought it to the attention of the chairperson and the legal officer, I spoke by telephone with all the spokespersons, I spoke by telephone with Maribel Mora and I sent an email to the eight MPs. 

Was Podemos’s branding of only eight of the 11 Podemos MPs as “defectors” arbitrary? 

That’s a question they’ll have to answer. 

In what state does what was called the “new Andalusian political entity” now find itself? 

The most solid structure of the space of social transformation to the left of the PSOE is still intact: it is the alliance between Podemos and IU. In fact, an important part of these frictions has come about because the people who left with Anticapitalists didn’t understand that agreements aren’t signed between individual names. Antonio Maíllo didn’t sign with Teresa Rodríguez: the general coordinator of IU signed with the general secretary of Podemos. The continuity of those agreements and the request that they be observed has been one of the things she has not accepted. 

Also on November 9, Podemos Andalusia organisational secretary Jesús de Manuel told the Granada-based web daily Ideal.es: 

For me, the fact of being on the membership list does not mean being in a party. You have to have loyalty and a minimum of honesty when taking decisions…How can you create a bank account in August and ask the parliament’s legal officer to pay the allowance into it without even mentioning that to your coalition partner, IU? 

With this comment de Manuel, who found resignation statements for five of the eight MPs and removed the other three from the membership list, explained why the charge of defection had been launched when it was: the fear of IU and Podemos that the caucus majority was moving to secure control of Forward Andalusia’s resources in a situation of inevitable split.

De Manuel also ventured onto the ground of the underlying political debate, describing Anticapitalists’ orientation towards the PSOE as “pre-political”: 

[I]n all the meetings we have had we’ve made it clear that we are prepared to talk about agreements with the PSOE in a discussion in which the membership participates. It’s a question we haven’t decided on and neither should it be decided on now. Moreover, it [the orientation of Anticapitalists] is pre-political. Each new situation and each new moment has to be analysed. Nobody now has an absolute majority and you have to look for agreements. Saying that your own party will only govern when it has an absolute majority, which doesn’t seem very foreseeable in the short run, only sends a disheartening message to the electorate of the left. Refusing to take part in a government because that’s your doctrine of faith is a pre-political attitude that we don’t share. 

Jesús de Manuel presented the actions of IU and Podemos Andalusia as essential to the health of politics in the Spanish state generally: 

Whoever opens a second bank account without informing their coalition partners could do anything at any time and take serious decisions that would later be irreversible. This is a textbook defection operation. What is happening to us today could happen to any other party. To the PP or to Citizens. That’s why there is an agreement that’s about to be sealed between 20 parties at the national [all-Spanish] level. Andalusia cannot be an exception or a paradise for defectors. 

The war over resources 

The bitterness of the developing split was intensified by the war over resources — chiefly the Spanish state subsidy to parliamentary caucuses. In a November 15 interview with el diario Rodríguez conceded that restricting the “amicable divorce settlement” with Iglesias to a video without documented terms of settlement was “a big mistake on my part”. It guaranteed that the intended civilised separation would be overwhelmed by a fight over money and parliamentary rights. 

There were no problems in dividing up the funding between the Forward Andalusia affiliates while Anticapitalists remained in the leadership of Podemos Andalusia. Problems began with the election in June of the new leadership of Velarde: was Podemos Andalusia to receive any portion of this funding or was it all to go, as Anticapitalists argued was implied by the Iglesias-Rodríguez agreement, to those who had stood in the December 2018 elections? IU’s position was that Rodríguez should propose a new formula for dividing up the funding with the new Podemos Andalusia leadership, while Velarde said that Podemos Andalusia should receive all the funds involved because Anticapitalists was not part of Forward Andalusia at the time of the 2018 elections. For “central Podemos leadership sources” cited by the November 7 el diario, the agreement between Rodríguez and Iglesias only involved recognition that the Anticapitalists members elected as Forward Andalusia MPs would continue in that role. 

On October 28, IU denounced that Rodríguez had removed the right of their financial administrator to access the Forward Andalusia account and had opened a new account into which the Andalusian parliament was asked to deposit the next quarterly instalment in the state subsidy to the caucus. For Anticapitalists, this change had been backed by the majority of the caucus and done to prevent Podemos Andalusia, via IU, obtaining “wrongful” access to these resources. That action was the trigger for launching the charge of defection: at the same time IU claimed that it had not received the monies due to it under the original agreement for dividing the state subsidy. 

On November 6, after her reinstatement by the speakership board, Rodríguez defied anyone who thought that the group’s funds had been misused to take the issue to the courts, asserting that IU had “received every last euro that they are entitled to receive and are going to have difficulty maintaining their argument because they will go on receiving it.” 

On December 4, Rodríguez sought damages of €60,000 from Dina Bousselham, the editor of the web-based daily La Última Hora. The website had published an article on October 30 titled “The reasons for the expulsion of Teresa Rodríguez: she kept €109,000 of IU’s and Podemos Andalusia’s monies”. The article repeated IU claims that Rodríguez had “left IU workers of the parliamentary group unpaid” and charged Rodríguez with a double standard for not criticising Errejón when he “secretly set up another party during Pablo Iglesias’s paternity leave.”

Rodríguez’s damages claim stated: 

The article does not seek to inform, but rather to construct a falsified version of reality, with the goal of eroding the public image [of Rodríguez] […] [It is] obvious that the digital means of communication has not checked the information it publishes nor realised the minimum necessary research. 

Asserting that Bousselham was “not carrying out the work of providing information but providing a service to one of the parts in the political conflict in Forward Andalusia”, the claim outlined Bousselham’s career as an adviser to Iglesias when he was a Member of the European Parliament, candidate in Madrid regional elections for Podemos and a member of the management committee nominated to run Podemos in the Community of Madrid after the resignation in January 2019 of Ramón Espinar. 

Parties right and left to the rescue 

The eagerly awaited parliamentary legal service report, which was delivered on November 11, refuted the IU-Podemos case for expulsion. It first noted that the parliament’s regulations were silent about the grounds for expulsion from a caucus. It also stated that “resignation from a party does not automatically imply resignation from a parliamentary group”: expulsion in such a case could violate the constitutional rights of MPs, as established in a Constitutional Court case regarding the parliament of Navarra. In addition, there was nothing in the parliamentary regulation giving the group spokesperson the power to propose the expulsion of its MPs, nor was the speakership board obliged to process such a request. In the absence of any such rules, it was up to the internal regulations of the group, not the parliament, to decide on the issues at stake.

It became clear at this moment that the scandal “down south” in Sevilla had also been getting close attention at the centre of Spanish politics in Madrid. The same day as the legal service’s opinion was tabled in Sevilla, half of the parties in the 22-member Monitoring Commission of the Anti-Defection Pact of Spanish registered political parties released Addendum III, an “agreement for institutional stability” ostensibly aimed at updating this pact. The commission had not met for 10 years and had been under pressure to do so from Citizens, which had suffered a number of desertions to the PP. According to a November 16 statement by the 11 MPs making up the majority of Forward Andalusia MPs, on July 29, Pilar González, in representation of the coalition in the Spanish Senate, had been excluded from the deliberations of the Monitoring Commission on the urging of the representative of Unidas Podemos. 

Addendum III, supported at the time of release by the PSOE, PP, UP, Citizens, IU, the Basque Nationalist Party, Galician Nationalist Bloc and four other smaller forces, proposed that elected representatives who leave parties that gave them access to broader electoral coalitions be considered as defectors and that it be up to the parties themselves to decide whether MPs have committed defection. Previously this criterion only applied at the municipal level. 

The “agreement for institutional stability” was made-to-measure for the situation in Forward Andalusia and, for the first time ever, was made public before all signatories to the Anti-Defection Pact had made up their mind about it: they were given a further ten days to decide. On November 15, the federal leadership of IU called on its regional organisations to press the other political forces in their jurisdictions to sign up to the addendum. 

The agreement’s relevant sections, including its amended definition of “defection”, read: 

[Defectors are] those representatives at the local, autonomous community and state level who, betraying the electoral political entity (political parties, coalitions or groupings of electors) who stood them in the relevant election, leave it, are expelled or diverge from the rules fixed by its appropriate bodies. A person elected on a ticket presented by a coalition is considered to be a defector if he or she leaves, rejects the discipline of, or is expelled by, the affiliated party that proposed his or her inclusion on the ticket […]

When doubts arise as to whether persons have engaged in defection, for the purpose of their classification as defectors it will be up to the political entity that stood them, and/or the party that stood them, to clarify in writing who left the formation, or was expelled from it or rejected its discipline […] 

Unassigned persons shall not enjoy the economical and administrative rights that belong to political groups and their members, with their rights limited to the minimum required constitutionally […] 

The political group harmed or reduced in composition [by defection] should not suffer any institutional reduction in the economic and administrative means and allowances that previously belonged to it as a group. 

Addendum III drew considerable negative comment. For Koldo Martínez, senator for Navarra for centre-left nationalist party Geroa Bai, the addendum created a “Stalinist” definition of “defector”, imposing total loyalty to party chiefs. Had it applied, for example, when 15 MPs of the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC) voted against the PSOE’s line of allowing the 2016 investiture of Mariano Rajoy through abstention, they could have been branded as “defectors” and expelled. 

Similarly, had Addendum III then been in place in October 2019, Unidas Podemos labour minister and MP Yolanda Díaz, who resigned from IU at that time because she disagreed with Garzon’s proposal to allow a PSOE minority government to form on the basis of an agreed platform but without Unidas Podemos ministers, could have been declared a “defector” and sacked at the behest of IU. 

In a comment (“Imploding parties”) in the November 23 issue of web-based daily InfoLibre, political scientist Cristina Monge said: 

The momentousness of the decision is confirmed by the debate over the way it should be adopted. Up until now, any position in the Anti-Defection Pact was agreed by consensus. This time, however, given the criticism manifested by various parties, a form of voting to modify this all-or-nothing method is being proposed: when there is no unanimity, adoption will be by a majority, careful! … not of the parties, but of the parties weighted by their number of representatives. This is, indeed, a move with a broad scope. 

Monge summarised the meaning of Addendum III as “disagreement gets classified as treason”. It is an axe held over the neck of public representatives to dissuade them from contemplating a vote against the party line when this contradicts the platform on which they were elected. 

…and expelled again 

The advice of parliamentary legal services is not binding on speakership boards, but it takes some nerve to go against it. Addendum III was in part a shot of rum designed to instil courage into Andalusian board members who might have worried that expelling the eight MPs from their caucus on grounds not specified in the parliamentary regulation could be unconstitutional and they might be exposing themselves to possible charges of perverting the course of justice. 

Citizens, citing the agreement, announced on November 17, the day before the board was due to finally take its decision, that its two representatives would now vote for the expulsion of the eight MPs, even though the parliamentary regulation remained unchanged. The instruction came from leader Inés Arrimadas after Citizens, a victim of turncoats defecting to the PP, had pushed hard for the new definition of defection. Before this about face, Juan Marín, Citizens’ leader in Andalusia and deputy premier, had told conservative web-based daily OKDiario that “neither Teresa Rodríguez nor any other member of Forward Andalusia are defectors”. Citizens’ media release on the issue read in part

Thanks to the pressure from Citizens for the agreement, the political formations committed themselves to urge all institutions, including the parliaments of autonomous communities, to carry out the legal and regulatory modifications needed to give effect to the agreement. 

Citizens’ change of position from abstention to support meant that the ruling PP could now pretend to be concerned about due process and constitutionality without putting the eight MPs’ expulsions at risk. When the board voted on November 18, the representatives of the PSOE, Citizens and Vox supported expulsion while the PP abstained and feigned concern about the treatment of Rodríguez during her maternity leave. The affected MPs immediately announced that they would appeal the decision of what they called “a banana parliament” to the Constitutional Court. 

For IU and Podemos, the vote “restored democratic normality” (Velarde) and guaranteed “the preservation of popular sovereignty” (Valero). But for Mora, “they have stolen the seats of these comrades using political criteria and skipping all legal and juridical considerations. This is going to be a stain and a disgrace in the history of our parliamentarianism.” 

For José María González (“Kichi”), mayor of Cádiz and partner of Rodríguez: 

The political cycle that gave birth to Unidas Podemos has come to an end. Now they’re establishment. But no-one should doubt that a new cycle is beginning. “They can cut the flowers, but they can’t stop spring” — Pablo Neruda 

The week leading up to the final vote also saw a curious episode when the web-based daily Andalucía Información published a report on November 16 from “sources close to IU” that four days before Nieto presented her statement demanding the expulsion of the eight MPs PCA general secretary Ernesto Alba and Sergio Mesa, PCE general secretary Ernesto Santiago’s head of cabinet, had met with Vox’s representative on the Andalusian parliament’s speakership board, Manuel Gavira Florentino. 

The goal of the alleged meeting was to guarantee Vox’s vote for expulsion: the inducement for the far-right xenophobes would be that application of the amended Anti-Defection Pact would be a sobering reminder to its own dissenters not to defect, as had Francisco Serrano, a former Vox MP in the Andalusian parliament. 

Alba and Mesa immediately denied the report, with the PCA leader stating that he had been in quarantine in Malaga because of a COVID-19 infection, while Mesa stated that on the day in question he was in Madrid. Podemos Andalusia also denied it while IU Andalusia threatened legal action against the website. 

Meanwhile Rodríguez had tweeted: 

Eliminate disagreement in whatever way. Including by doing deals with the far right. I can’t believe it. I didn’t expect it. I had a feeling about it, but I didn’t expect it like that, so crass. 

Rodríguez also told 7TV that Vox was aware of information about Podemos Andalusia that could only have come from internal sources. In response, IU Andalusia posted a meme with Rodríguez’s photo and the word FAKE. At the same time, Anticapitalists’ leader Brais Fernández said that a document purportedly from the organisation and posted on social networks by IU was a fake. The truth about these events cannot be established at the present time. 

Justifications

In a November 16 article on the el diario web site (“Reasons for the split in Forward Andalusia”), Jesús de Manuel sought to explain why the action to expel the eight MPs, painful politically and personally, was nonetheless inevitable and had to take place when it did, and why the real victims of the conflict were not Rodríguez and her followers, but Podemos Andalusia. 

We know that there are few words that sound as bad as the word “expulsion”. And that, at the outset, the person doing the expelling is suspected of cruelty, unfair punishment, arbitrariness and gagging the voice of dissent. And yet it’s not like that, it isn’t so simple. A dissident is someone who within a political project evinces positions that differ from the official line, but at the same time with loyalty to the common project. What we have been though in recent months, I would almost say in recent years, has nothing to do with that. We have been witnesses to is a typical entrist manoeuvre by a small group that has taken advantage of a much broader project (emphasis in original). 

De Manuel paints Rodríguez’s and Anticapitalists’s alleged capture of Podemos Andalusia as a rarely successful example of this “classic of organisations of Trotskyist inspiration, like Anticapitalists”, and then stresses how overwhelming the support in Podemos Andalusia was for Podemos entering government with the PSOE and how small the support for the Anticapitalists position on this issue was among councilors elected on Podemos and Forward Andalusia tickets in the 2019 local government elections. As a result, the 11 MPs who hold that position “have abandoned the party because their political position didn’t even represent 4% of the members of Podemos Andalusia on an issue that is crucial for Anticapitalists, as they have taken it upon themselves to insistently assert”.

Nonetheless, Anticapitalists from their tiny minority position had tried to maintain monopoly control over Podemos Andalusia’s share of the resources available via the Forward Andalusia parliamentary caucus, wrote De Manuel: 

Over the months in which we’ve tried to reach an agreement, the position of Anticapitalists consisted in telling the Podemos leadership something like this: if you want to use the brand that Podemos established as an electoral coalition, use the social networks of the coalition and of the parliamentary group that has resulted from it, access the resources of the parliamentary group in the terms envisaged in the agreement between Podemos and the United Left after the elections, you have to adopt the political hypotheses of Anticapitalists. The 4% imposing on the 96% their criterion as a precondition for sharing a space of convergence that belongs to everyone (emphasis in original). 

For the reader who might still feel uncomfortable about the timing of Podemos-IU operation (during Rodríguez’s maternity leave), de Manuel gave this explanation: 

[N]either IU or Podemos chose the moment. The moment was determined because, at the end of October, IU discovers that the leadership of the parliamentary group, in the majority but not linked to Podemos and without the consent or knowledge of Podemos, had created a new current account and forwarded a document to the legal service of the Parliament of Andalusia so that the parliamentary group’s allowance would be paid into that new account without there having previously been any problem with the old account that would justify opening the new one. Podemos could not agree to the systematic breaching of agreements, most of all when these breaches could affect the obligation upon us to justify before the Court of Public Accounts the economic management of a parliamentary group from which we have been excluded. This was why it was imperative to act to reestablish the democratic legitimacy of the Forward Andalusia parliamentary group, to restore its connection with the political forces that promoted the coalition, so as to end the hijacking of the popular will expressed at the ballot box that defection implies. 

Valero spelled out IU Andalusia’s version of events in a December 19 meeting of the organisation’s Coordinating Committee. It was essentially the same as de Manuel’s and can be viewed here (starting at 21 minute 20 seconds into the video). 

Conclusion 

De Manuel’s argument pivots on one event: the overwhelming majority of Podemos Andalusia members who expressed support for the proposal to enter the PSOE government of the Spanish state — that is the event that confers political legitimacy on the IU-Podemos request for the expulsions and illegitimacy on the actions of the Anticapitalists MPs and their sympathisers. 

However, the argument is flawed from the outset. The program on which the Forward Andalusia MPs were elected was their agreed platform of proposals for Andalusia, for which 580,000 Andalusians voted: no-one, certainly not IU, has suggested that any of the charged MPs “defected” from that program, the only platform to which Forward Andalusia MPs were bound. Indeed, as far as Andalusian politics was concerned the caucus operated normally right up until the expulsions. In the words of Rodríguez: “No-one called us defectors until yesterday”. 

The argument also assumes that the plebiscite that got a 96.4% vote in favour of entering a PSOE government of the Spanish state — actually irrelevant to the charge of defection — was a fair and accurate measure of the opinion of Podemos Andalusia members, despite the apparent contradiction that the Rodríguez leadership of Podemos Andalusia always won large majority support for its positions against those of Iglesias when these diverged.

However, it is impossible to say what real sentiment was (or would have been after genuine debate of the issue), because Podemos online plebiscites under the leadership of Iglesias have always been structured as a rubber stamp vote for or against what his leadership wants adopted, without any alternative being presented let alone properly discussed. The democratic legitimacy of any “plebiscite” conducted by the central Podemos leadership under such conditions is completely suspect. 

A similar caveat applies to the statement of the “overwhelming majority” of local councilors organised to support IU’s declaration: this was not a considered vote on the political issues in dispute after a proper discussion by the membership of the affiliate organisations, but a salvo in the propaganda war preparing the expulsion of the Forward Andalusia caucus majority. 

Jesús de Manuel’s presentation of Anticapitalists as “entrists” in Podemos Andalusia is curious, inviting the question as to when “entrism” (leading to “defection”) began to be implemented. Not from the 2014 founding of Podemos Andalusia, because Rodríguez right from the start never disguised her membership of Anticapitalists; nor during the 2015-19 session of the Andalusian parliament, when de Manuel sat with her as part of the Podemos Andalusia parliamentary group and would surely have denounced any “entrist” operation on the part of a fellow MP; nor during the first year of the present parliamentary session when, despite rising tension, no-one accused Anticapitalists of “entrism”. Given that Anticapitalists as a tiny minority has only been “violating the will of the majority” since the plebiscite on Podemos participation in the Spanish PSOE government, the only conclusion possible is that Anticapitalists began practicing “entrism” in Podemos … just as they were deciding to leave Podemos. 

Until evidence to the contrary comes to light it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Forward Andalusia caucus majority has been the target of a coordinated Podemos-IU-PCE operation to rob it of its political identity and marginalise it institutionally. With Unidas Podemos in government in the Spanish state, its greatest concern is that of facing a left opposition with social and institutional weight. The Forward Andalusia majority, with its message of an autonomous left Andalusian voice at all levels of politics in the Spanish state, its resistance to governing as a “sidecar” to the PSOE and its irritating opposition to parliamentary perks and privileges, could only be felt as a threat.

The IU Andalusia and Podemos Andalusia coalition’s approach from the beginning was to avoid any real discussion of its emerging political differences among the memberships of the Forward Andalusia affiliates. Having made the political decision in favour of reopening the door to a PSOE-UP alliance in Andalusia, it kept the dispute on the grounds of process and procedure with a view to either forcing withdrawal of Forward Andalusia’s registration as a party or, in case of failure, finding the procedural path to ridding the Forward Andalusia parliamentary caucus of its majority. The operation looks to have been set in motion by July 29 at the latest, date of the reconvening of the Monitoring Commission of the Anti-Defection Pact. 

This reading alone explains the following features of the actions and justifications of IU and Podemos: 

  • The fact that de Manuel makes no mention of the February “amicable divorce settlement” between Rodríguez and Iglesias. Referring to it would only (1) either remind people that it was being broken or (2) if interpreted as only covering elected positions but not finances, potentially ignite a media dispute between Iglesias and Rodríguez as to what was really agreed. Iglesias’s silence throughout the whole business, including his refusal to answer phone calls from Rodríguez, can only mean that he has, at the very least, been acquiescing in what IU and Podemos Andalusia have been doing. This behaviour looks like one more case of the chief saying “do what you have to do but don’t involve me in it”. 
  • Given the gravity of the charge of “defection” (“hijacking the popular will”), why did Podemos Andalusia, operating through de Manuel as organisational secretary, decide that three “hijackers” were to remain unclassified as “defectors” and allowed to remain in the Forward Andalusia caucus? This odd exemption, which Nieto declined to explain in her November 9 el diario interview, can only have been determined by the desire to mask the blatancy of an operation in which a minority, without consulting the caucus leader, moved for the expulsion of the majority, including the caucus leader. 
  • IU Andalusia and Podemos Andalusia’s refusal to countenance a compromise arrangement that would have kept both sides of the dispute in the same caucus, but free to issue their own statements on points of difference. This proposal would have left existing financing arrangements unchanged and freed IU MPs to express their own positions. How, then, to avoid the conclusion that the goal being pursued was not an arrangement that would guarantee both sides the same rights and resources but liquidation of the institutional position of the majority? 
  • De Manuel’s silence on the majority’s reasons for setting up the second account. In his interviews with various media and his el diario article de Manuel makes the discovery by IU in late October of the second caucus account the trigger for the appeal to the speakership board to reclassify the MPs. Any mention of the majority’s reason for setting up the account — that IU had already emptied two provincial accounts and had the power to do the same with the caucus account — would have spoiled the narrative of IU and Podemos having no choice but to act at that moment. 
  • The refusal to engage with the real political positions of the majority, and instead caricature them. The most extreme example was Enrique Santiago’s reading of the andalucista positions of Forward Andalusia as parochial and easily controlled by the oligarchies, despite having been defended by the PCA itself before its reversion to seeking governmental alliance with the PSOE. In a November 11 article in the web-based journal El Salto, Extremaduran Anticapitalist members Francis Reina Corbacho and Julian Coppens replied to Santiago: 

Contrary to what Alberto Garzón and Enrique Santiago say, a project based on the realities of each territory, on the right to decide (both of the historical nationalities as well as of Extremadura) within a constituent process, socially implanted and expressing solidarity from below between peoples, would not be easily tamed “by the oligarchs”. In fact, the history of Unidas Podemos is a living example of the total taming of “a state-wide political project” that is incapable of responding to the particular needs of the territories. 

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, all the IU-Podemos propaganda aimed at persuading left and democratically minded people in the Spanish state that the Forward Andalusia parliamentary caucus majority are “defectors” can be treated as one more case of thieves yelling at the top of their voices “stop, thief!”

It is a case that holds irrespective of any mistakes — admitted or possible — on the part of Anticapitalists. The most serious of these, due to ingenuous trust in the word of Iglesias, was the failure to get a “divorce settlement” in writing: this opened the door to the war over resources. The indefiniteness of the agreement also facilitated the IU-Podemos narrative about a minority of defectors hijacking the inheritance of everybody and the recasting of the Anti-Defection Pact as a made-to-measure weapon against the caucus majority.

Tactical issues such as whether Rodríguez and her team might have been on stronger ground with the Podemos Andalusia members had they stayed at the helm of the organisation, contested the legitimacy of Iglesias’s “plebiscites”, and only broken with Podemos after a serious fight over the organisation’s course and culture, are important but not relevant to the fundamental issue in the conflict. 

That can be simply put: who are the real defectors? Those who have continued to fight for the program and approach on which they were elected? Or those who, as admitted by Garzón and Velarde, are open to re-editing in Andalusia the PSOE-UP pact in Madrid, refuse debate over any alternatives and block with the right to marginalise left resistance to their about-face? 

After the initial October 28 expulsions of the core of the Forward Andalusia caucus that were finally confirmed on November 18, Unidas Podemos spokesperson Rafa Mayoral spoke of the business as a “page turned”, a regrettable necessity now best put behind the left given the pressing tasks of the pandemic and the economic crisis. On December 27, in an interview in el diario Podemos ideologue and Iglesias ally Juan Carlos Monedero presented what had happened as a dispute between IU and Anticapitalists in which the central Podemos leadership had had no part: 

Teresa Rodriguez’s conflict was with IU, not with Podemos. She hasn’t been as honest as we could have required her to be because she wanted to present it as a discussion with Iglesias. But then she would have been left without a narrative in which to be able to present herself as victim. 

Why, then, hasn’t Iglesias said anything during the whole episode? According to Monedero’s theorem the Spanish second deputy prime minister’s silence would seem to have been due to his concern or hesitation about depriving Rodríguez of her “narrative” as a victim. 

Anyone seriously interested in unearthing the truth about the affair will have to choose between that hypothesis and its opposite: that Iglesias arranged to be looking away while others, including his followers in Podemos Andalusia, did the agreed dirty deed of liquidating the Forward Andalusia caucus majority 

[Dick Nichols is Green Left’s European correspondent. An initial version of this article has appeared on the web site of Green Left. Thanks go to Julian Coppens for invaluable help.] 

Notes

[1] Andalusist Left (Izquierda Andalucista) and Andalusian Spring (Primavera Andaluza) both emerged from the former principal party of Andalucian nationalism, the Andalusist Party (PA, Partido Andalucista), which dissolved in 2015 after failing to win any seat in the 109-seat Parliament of Andalusia. A formation that covered nearly all trends within Andalusism, the PA at its high points won five seats in the 350-seat Spanish congress (in 1979) and 10 seats in the Parliament of Andalusia (1990). Andalusism’s main intellectual inspiration is Blas Infante (1885-1936), killed by the Francoists at the outset of the Civil War (1936-39). Infante’s main work is La Ideal Andaluz. A useful bibliography (in Spanish) on Andalusism is available here

[2] Unit of regional government. Equivalent to a state in Australia and the US or province in Canada and South Africa. 

[3] Since the end of the Franco dictatorship, “defection” (transfugismo) has been a feature of Spanish electoral politics. The most notorious case took place after the PSOE won the May 25, 2003 elections for the Community of Madrid. In the vote for the speaker of the parliament and the investiture vote for PSOE Madrid leader Rafael Simancas, two PSOE MPs, Eduardo Tamayo and María Teresa Sáez, factional opponents of Simancas, abstained. As a result, the PP won the speakership, the PSOE lost the investiture and the election had to be repeated in October, when it was won by the PP. It has long been suspected, but never definitively proven, that the vote of Tamayo and Saéz was bought by Madrid real estate speculators operating through the PP. The event is known in Spain as the tamayazo

[4] The patronage system run by PSOE administrations in Andalusia was based on misappropriation of funding received under the Employment Regulation Procedure, (Expediente de Regulación de Empleo, ERE in its Spanish initials). An ERE is a court application made by a company in economic difficulties for permission to reduce or dismiss its workforce. When an ERE is granted, the workers affected are sometimes entitled to receive a payment from the regional government where the affected company operates. In the case of Andalusia, a November 19, 2019 sentence of the National High Court’s Seville branch found that the previous PSOE government had run a “system of fraud” in which a €680 million slush fund, supposedly for workers displaced under EREs, had also been devoted to paying people who had never worked for companies affected by EREs. The eventual destination of these funds was the PSOE’s clientelist network. The court sentenced former Andalusian premier José Antonio Griñán to six years jail for embezzlement and perverting the course of justice and banned him from holding public office for 15 years. Four former PSOE ministers in Andalusia also received prison terms (from six years to seven years and 11 months) while former Andalusian premier Manuel Chaves, other ministers and senior government officials were banned from holding public office for terms ranging up to nine years. The verdict is being appealed to the Spanish Supreme Court. For further background in English on what has been called “EREgate” see here, here and here

[5] On December 4, 1977, between one-and-a-half and two million Andalusians took part in mass protests demanding that the region be granted a Statute of Autonomy. On February 28, 1980, a referendum proposal on whether to begin the process of developing a Statute of Autonomy under article 151 of the Spanish constitution was supported by 87% of those voting (participation 64.2%). February 28 is now the Day of Andalusia. 

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