Spain: Huge advance for left in local/regional elections, but 'Spanish SYRIZA' sorely needed
In Barcelona, central St. James Square was packed with chanting, whooping and confetti-throwing supporters of the winning Barcelona Together and its leader, housing rights activist Ada Colau.
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By Dick Nichols
July 1, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On Saturday, June 13, the squares in front of scores of town halls across the Spanish state were jam-packed with enthusiastic crowds: tens of thousands were gathering to celebrate the inauguration of the progressive administrations created by the leftward swing in the May 24 local government elections for the country’s 8122 councils.
The joy was probably greatest in the provincial capitals where “popular unity” tickets (citizen electoral platforms supported by the majority of the radical left, including Podemos and the United Left) had prevailed. They threw out the conservative People’s Party (PP) in Madrid, A Coruña (Galicia) and Cadiz (Andalusia), the Catalan right-nationalist Convergence and Union (CiU) in the Catalan capital Barcelona, and replaced the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) administration in Zaragoza (Aragón).
The enthusiasm was also great in Santiago de Compostela (capital of Galicia but not of any Galician province), where the Open Compostela popular unity platform replaced a PP administration drowning in corruption and incompetence, and in the crisis-stricken Galician ship-building town of Ferrol (won by popular unity ticket Ferrol Together).
(The process of creating popular unity platforms is most advanced in Galicia, and began with the formation of the Galician Left Alternative (AGE) for the 2012 elections to the regional parliament.)
The vote for these platforms wasn’t only an indignado vote—for a democratic, participatory politics as against the old PP and PSOE “caste”—it was also, even primarily, a class vote. In Madrid, the better-off northern suburbs voted PP, in Barcelona they voted CiU, while popular and working-class suburbs in both cities voted for the popular unity tickets of Madrid Now! and Barcelona Together.
In Barcelona, central St. James Square was packed tight with chanting, whooping and confetti-throwing supporters of the winning Barcelona Together ticket and its leader, former housing rights activist Ada Colau.
When the time came for the city’s newly elected councillors to make the traditional courtesy visit to the premier of Catalonia (Artur Mas, of CiU), who was waiting in the Catalan government headquarters 50 metres away, they took ten minutes to push through a crowd set on greeting mayoress Ada Colau and the rest of the Barcelona Together team.
In Cadiz, a wildly enthusiastic crowd of thousands greeted José María González (”Kichi”), the victorious mayoral candidate for the For Cadiz Yes We Can ticket (supported by Podemos). González repeated the inaugural speech he had made in the council chamber to a crowd chanting “Sí, se puede” (Yes, We Can) and “How lovely is Cadiz, how lovely is my city, which overflows with joy, when Teo [Teófila Martínez, PP mayor for 20 years] disappears!”
In an interview later in the week, González described what the day had meant: “What we lived through in the city on June 13 was something historic. I saw people moved, people full of hope, people who were again believing—or believing for the first time—in a political project, a political project of change.”
He added: “People don’t believe in the political class, and it’s up to us, the new political people, to revive their trust and restore prestige to a task that must be voluntary and for a limited period.”
In A Coruña, Xulio Ferreiro, the successful mayoral candidate for the citizen platform Atlantic Tide, handed the mayoral baton (symbol of municipal authority in the Spanish state) to people in the crowd outside the town hall, commenting: “We have come into office as ordinary people and we’ll leave as ordinary people.”
The municipal police looked on with concern as the precious piece of council property passed through the hands of pensioners, unemployed workers, students, housewives and other “untrustworthy elements”.
In Zaragoza (capital of Aragon), Pedro Santisteve, human rights advocate and incoming mayor from Zaragoza Together, had to issue an “apology” for the “naturalness and spontaneouness” of his team of young councillors: some citizens had interpreted their jumping for joy after inauguration as an offense against the solemnity of council protocol.
Gains for left nationalism and regionalism
The gale of fresh air represented by the citizen platform wins also blew through other provincial capitals where they had not achieved a relative majority but supported other left forces, usually nationalist and regionalist.
In Iruñea (Pamplona in Spanish), capital of Navarra, the Basque left nationalist coalition EH Bildu received the support of the Navarra regionalist force GeroaBai, the citizens’ platform Aranzadi (supported by Podemos) and the Navarra affiliate organisation of the all-Spanish United Left (IU).
This alliance won the mayoralty for EH Bildu’s lead candidate, Basque nationalist historian and teacher Joseba Asirón. In his inaugural speech, delivered in Basque and Spanish, Asirón committed to working for peace and “achieving a space for coexistence based on respect for all persons, their ideas and projects”.
This was a reference to the divisions in Navarra between its Basque-speaking and Basque Country-oriented community and its Spanish-speaking community, which mainly votes for the right-regionalist Union of the People of Navarra (UPN) and the Socialist Party of Navarra (PSN), the Navarra affiliate of the PSOE.
The result in Navarra, which the Spanish-centralist mindset views as a frontline in the ongoing war against Basque nationalism, was paralleled in Valencia, capital of the Valencian Country and in Palma, capital of Mallorca (Balearic Islands).
In Valencia the PP lost out to the Valencian regionalist Commitment Coalition, in PP eyes a dreadful win for “pan-Catalanism” (the Valencian language is a variant of Catalan).
Defeated mayoress Rita Barberá (€140,000-a-year), was so outraged by the decision of the Socialist Party of the Valencian Country (PSPV, the PSOE’s Valencian affiliate) to support the Commitment Coalition’s Joan Ribó for mayor that she resigned from the council. Anything rather than face the humiliation of seeing Ribó, one-time communist and union leader, grasp the mayoral baton.
Ribó’s special contribution to June 13 was his statement that he would be locking the baton away because, while respectful of traditions, “I want to work through participation, through dialogue with people, and the baton really isn’t the best symbol of that.”
As Ribó opened the town hall doors to address supporters, they broke into singing L’Estaca (The Stake), the popular anthem of the anti-Francoist struggle.
The contrast between Ribó arriving for work on his pushbike the following Monday, after 24 years of Rita Barberá being chauffeured up in her bullet-proof Audi 2000, dramatised how much changed in this former PP stronghold on June 13.
In Palma, the PP was replaced by an alliance of green regionalist formation More for Mallorca (MÉS), the citizens’ platform We Are Mallorca (supported by Podemos) and the PSOE’s local affiliate, the Socialist Party of the Balearic Islands (PSIB). Much of the fuel for the win came from the massive 2013-2014 teacher, student and parent protests (the “green tide”) against the crude attempt of PP premier José Ramón Bauzá to downgrade Balearic Catalan as the islands’ language of instruction.
[Note: At the time of writng We Are Mallorca is conducting a binding consultation on whether it wishes its five councilors to continue to be part of this administration.]
The rout of the right
It is hard to exaggerate the scale and traumatic impact of PP losses (and those of the UPN in Navarra).
Figures 1 and 2 show the leading party in Spain’s 50 provincial capitals for the 2011 and 2015 municipal elections, as well as for those for Mérida and Santiago de Compostela, capitals of the autonomous communities of Extremadura and Galicia, but not provincial capitals.
Figure 1 also shows the leading party for three major cities that are not provincial capitals, Vigo (Galicia), L’Hospitalet (Catalonia), and Gijón (Asturias). These are not shown in Figure 2, which colours the province in the colour of the leading party in the provincial capital.
When the dust had settled after the earthquake of June 13, the PP had retainedonly 19 of the Spanish state’s 50 provincial capitals (down from 36), while the PSOE had won 17 (up from nine). The new citizen platforms had won five (up from none), the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) three (up from one), and IU, the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), Commitment Coalition, EH Bildu and the Catalan right-nationalist Convergence and Union (CiU) one apiece.
However, these bare numbers underestimate the social weight of PP and right-wing losses. Before these municipal elections, the PP ran 20 of the Spanish state’s 30 biggest cities, and right-wing forces as a whole (including the UPN, CiU, PNV and Forum Asturias) ran 24. After June 13, the PP was left with four cities out of 30, one of these as junior partner to the Canary Coalition (in Santa Cruz de Tenerife) and the right as a whole was left with seven.
The devastation also touched heartland PP fiefdoms, including Oviedo, capital of Asturias, held by the PP for 24 years, the main regional cities of the Valencian Country, provincial capitals Zamora (lost to IU) and Valladolid (popularly known as “Fascistolid”) in Castilla y León, a string of towns on Galicia’s Costa do Morte (Coast of Death), as well as Maó and Palma, capitals of Menorca and Mallorca.
Working-class and dormitory cities and towns in the greater Madrid region, which had gone PP in 2011, nearly all returned to the PSOE.
In the Basque Country (Euskadi), the already low level of PP support (13.53%, 164 councilors in 2011) collapsed to 9.43% (79 councilors). The picture was similar in Catalonia, with PP support falling from 12.67%, (473 councilors) to 7.54% (214 councilors).
Particularly significant, but less immediately visible, was the impact of this rout on PP control of the Spanish state’s deputations, which are elected indirectly on the basis of the party vote in the 38 provinces in which the system applies. Operateing in those autonomous communities made up of more than one province, the deputations generally form a parasitic layer of government between the local and regional levels. With around €4 billion in annual funding, their main uses are as a patronage machine and jobs trust for party hacks. A municipal “reform” introduced by the Rajoy government aims to increase the power of the deputations at the expense of local government.
After May 24, the deputations with an absolute PP majority were reduced from 23 to 10, with massive loss of slush-funding resources.
However, probably the most important feature of this leftward surge is that forces to the left of the PSOE now run four of the five biggest cities in the Spanish state, covering over six million people, while the PSOE runs one (Sevilla). Having lost Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and Zaragoza, the PP’s shrunken municipal power base now begins with Spain’s sixth-largest city, Malaga (in Andalusia). The PP managed to win only two provincial capitals from the PSOE, Cuenca (in Castilla-La Mancha) and Ourense (in Galicia).
PP trauma and desperation
On May 14, elections were also held for all regional governments (autonomous communities) except Andalucía, Galicia, the Basque Country and Catalonia, as well as for Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish state’s two Moroccan enclaves. The result for the 13 regional governments will in all likelihood be as follows (at the time of writing negotiations are still continuing in some): PP, down from 10 to 4; UPN, down from one to none; PSOE, up from one to eight (including as coalition partner in the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands, Cantabria and the Canary Islands); coalitions to the left of the PSOE, up from none to one (in Navarra); Cantabran Regionalist Party (up from none to one); Canary Coalition (one, no change).
The PP will hold onto Ceuta and Melilla, very poor compensation for losing control of six autonomous communities covering 14 milion people. This result is shown in Figure 3.
Here the single party logo indicates an absolute majority, two or more logos of the same size a ruling coalition, and small party logos support for the formation of the new government but without participation in it (see text for further explanation).
The loss of cities and regions that have been patronage operations for the PP and other conservative forces for 20 years or more goes some way to explaining the hysteria of their losing candidates’ responses, which in the case of UPN leader Yolanda Barcina drew forth a comparison of the May 24 result with the months before Hitler’s coming to power.
New Iruñea-Pamplona mayor Joseba Asirón commented: “They have an adea of Navarra as patrimony. For decades they have ruled it as they pleased, and have, for sure, come to mistake Navarra, Iruñea included, for their own private estate. [Defeated Iruñea mayor] Enrique Maya keeps talking about a hornet’s nest of parties in Pamplona, but in Navarra they have proposed a series of unnatural deals so as to frustrate the people’s will as expressed at the ballot box.”
Asirón was referring to the UPN and PP “offer” to all-Spanish parties PSN and IU to form a minority government that would be inaugurated with UPN and PP external support—anything to stop GeroaBai and EH Bildu from entering the corridors of power. The tactic was in the worst “Spain, better red than broken” (España, mejor roja que rota) tradition of the Spanish nationalist right.
Doomed PP barons in other regions made similar beserk suggestions. Rita Barberá offered the mayoralty of Valencia to the PSPV to stop the pan-Catalanist hordes from taking over; outgoing premier of the Balearic Islands, José Ramón Bauzá, called on Francina Armengol, the head of the PSOE’s Balearic affiliate (Socialist Party of the Balearic Islands, PSIB) to join him in a “stability pact” against the “extreme left”; and PP Madrid leader Esperanza Aguirre went as far as offering to support the Madrid Now! citizens platform leader Manuela Carmena for mayor, so long as she promised to keep Podemos people out of the council and soviets out of the suburbs.
In Gasteiz (Vitória in Spanish), the provincial capital of Álaba, the incumbent PP mayor Javier Maroto proposed to the PNV that the two parties make “an ethical undertaking to support an agreement on social policies”. Faced with political extinction unless the PNV abstained on June 13, Maroto, who during the election campaign acused “people from Morocco and Algeria of coming here to live on social welfare”, suddenly made a “self-criticism”, committing to “respect difference and struggle against racism and intolerance so as to guarantee social harmony and cohesion”.
On June 13 in Madrid, a 3000-strong demonstration in support of Carmena, former labour rights activist and judge, overwhelmed a 30-strong counter-demonstration in support of Aguirre. “We don’t want communism in Madrid, we don’t want communism in Spain”, yelled the right-wingers. In her concession speech, Aguirre said: “The mayoress seems to be full of unknowns, but the party that supports her [Podemos] has declared itself to be unequivocally opposed to the Constitution.”
PP inducement went beyond political pressure. In the former PP stronghold of Santa Comba (Galicia), a councilor of the conservative nationalist Tega (Galician Land) revealed that he had been offered a large bribe to persuade his two fellow Tega councilors to vote to re-install the PP, tied with the PSOE on five councilors each. To no avail—having denounced the offer on Facebook, Tega voted to inaugurate the first PSOE administration in Santa Comba in 20 years.
Spanish electoral system—Citizens saving the PP
The trauma of the PP, which despite losing 2.5 million votes was still the leading party after May 24, was due to the workings of the Spanish electoral system. Under it the contending parties are awarded seats proportional to their vote. If no ticket wins the absolute majority which would win it the mayoralty, parties are allowed 20 days to negotiate to with a view to forming a majority alliance. If no majority emerges after this period, the ticket with most votes on polling day (the relative majority) provides the mayor or mayoress.
The minor parties taking part in the majority alliance that determines the mayoralty may or may not take part in the administration of the incoming council. Thus, minority administrations obliged to build support issue by issue are entirely possible (and more frequent after June 13).
A similar system, with some differences by region, applies for the election of the Spanish state’s autonomous communities.
In the May 24 election, an absolute majority failed to be negotiated only once in the 50 provincial capitals. This exception occurred in Ourense (Galicia), where the previously ruling PSOE and a local grouping called Ourensian Democracy failed to make a deal to oust the PP, winner of the relative majority.
This electoral system saw the anti-PP social majority express itself in a broad variety of alliances. These reflected the four main ways in which the leftward shift took place—through the rise of Podemos at the level of the autonomous communities, through the strengthening of the left and centre-left nationalist and regionalist vote (except in the Basque Country, where the right-nationalism of the PNV reasserted itself), through the emergence of citizens’ platforms backed by varying degrees of left political convergence, and through the persistence of the United Left in its traditional strongholds, chiefly in Andalusia and Extremadura.
Where the PP managed to resist this tide and convert its relative majorities into winning majorities, it had to rely on Citizens (Cs), Spain’s “anti-Podemos”, with a centre-of-the-road program of ridding Spanish politics of corruption while simultaneously creating an efficient and competitive capitalism. Citizens saved the PP in 17 provincial capitals and four autonomous regions, at a political price the PP was prepared to pay—the resignation of PPers facing corruption charges and the signing of a 10-point anti-corruption charters.
However, Citizens also supported the inauguration of a PSOE government in Andalusia, which had been blocked since the March 22 Andalusian elections, thus giving the appearance of even-handedness. Citizens has generally decided not to take part in any administrations as junior partner, preferring to “keep itself clean” until it can win in its own right.
Negotiations between the PP and Citizens’ sometimes hit difficulties, but in the end Citizens sealed agreements with the main conservative party in all those regions and provincial cities where the PP enjoyed a relative majority.
If there was ever any doubt as to where its political sympathies lay, the Citizens’ national leadership also overrode local decisions in favour of supporting the PSOE, most importantly in Almeria (Andalusia). They also expelled José Marcos Masó, their one councillor in Alcora (Valencian Country), when he joined the PSPV in supporting the winning Commitment candidate for mayor.
Citizens’ national organisational secretary, Fran Hervías, said: “We ask for forgiveness from the Citizens’ voters of Alcora who have entrusted us with their vote. Mr Marcos Masó has been expelled from the party after having made an agreement with those [Commitment] who want to split society and destroy social harmony among Spaniards.”
Spanish electoral system—tactical challenges
Where the combined PP and Citizens’ vote fell short of a majority, PP incumbents nearly always fell to alliances reflecting the emerging left social majority. These “anyone-but-the-PP” alliances covered the PSOE, citizens’ platforms backed by Podemos and the United Left (sometimes together but usually apart), centre and left nationalist and regionalist forces and, at times, right-nationalist forces as well.
Sometimes the incoming councils were minority one-party affairs, sometimes minority coalitions and sometimes majority coalitions of various combinations—from the PSOE plus a minor partner through to alliances of up to four parties.
All the left-of-centre parties—all-Spanish, nationalist and regionalist alike—had to work out their tactics on this new battlefield. Would they just support a non-PP party, most often the PSOE, to run council but not participate in the new council themselves? Or would they take part in the new council administrations, and on what terms? This exercise was most testing for local citizens’ platforms influenced by Podemos, inclined to see any dealings with the PSOE as bringing contamination by the “caste”.
All parties had to adopt an approach towards these questions, including stipulating “red lines” they would not cross. However, there were quite a few occasions when the “general line” decided centrally got changed in the course of negotiations, overturned at the local level, or when local decisions got overturned from the centre.
Negotiations over what exact form new coalitions should take were most fraught over the regional governments in Asturias, the Valencian Country and on the Balearic Islands, where the combined vote for left and/or left regionalist forces equaled or exceeded that of the regional PSOE affiliate.
These complexities arose from the basic character of the leftward shift—strong enough to remove PP councils even in its own heartlands, but not so strong as to produce a general alternative to the left of the PSOE—notwithstanding the importance of the victories of the popular unity platforms.
Badalona as example
At its simplest, this new political situation produced three- and four-way contests as a “new normal”. At its most complex—in the regions where the national question combines with the social—up to eight tickets fought for popular support. This was the case in Galicia, the Basque Country, Navarra, Catalonia, the Valencian Country and the Balearic Islands.
A good example of this complexity was Badalona, third largest city in Catalonia. Industrial Badalona has been built up over the years by successive waves of immigration, firstly from within the rest of the Spanish state and then from the Magreb, sub-Saharan Africa, the Asian sub-continent and Eastern Europe. Badalona is also home to an important indigenous Catalan gypsy community.
In 2011, a city that has traditionally had left-wing councils, like the others that make up the industrial and working-class “belts” around Barcelona, was won by PP mayor Xavier García Albiol. His xenophobic program targetted specific communities as responsible for the city’s huge social problems: at bottom these were the result of the economic crisis destroying the lives and futures of Badalona’s most defenceless and marginalised people. Albiol won the mayoralty because CiU would not come to an agreement with the traditional left parties (PSC and ICV-EUiA) on forming an alternative to the PP (see Table 1).
On May 24, the leftward shift transformed the political battleground in Badalona. The PP (campaign slogan: “Cleaning Up Badalona”) actually won 4000 votes more than in 2011, being the most-voted ticket with 34.2% and 10 seats on the 27-seat council. Yet, even with the support of Citizens and that (unlikely) of CiU—which would be on the basis of a common conservative social outlook despite the headlong PP-CiU clash over Catalan independence—Albiol would still not have a majority. The CiU vote—3000 less than in 2011—was no longer decisive.
To win, Albiol needed the four councilors of the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC, the Catalan affiliate of the PSOE) to at least abstain in the inauguration vote, thereby handing the council to the PP as relative majority. Albiol said: “I have asked on repeated occasions to meet with them but am still waiting for a response from the socialists”.
The PP pressure on the PSC was relentless. Was it really going to allow supporters of a Catalan right to decide—in the shape of the citizens’ platform Let’s Win Badalona Together (supported by some of Podemos and the left-nationalist Popular Unity Candidacies, CUP), the centre-left nationalist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and its allies, and the coalition between Initiative for Catalonia-Greens and the United and Alternative Left (ICV-EUiA)—take over one of Catalonia’s most pro-Spanish cities?
But there was no reply from the PSC. At this election the party that had run Badalona for decades lost 9000 votes and five seats, as people deserted it on both social and Catalan national grounds, chiefly to Let’s Win Badalona Together and the ERC alliance, but also to the PP. Allowing the PP to continue its rule in Badalona would have brought the Badalona PSC one big step closer to extinction.
The PSC therefore had made it clear that would in no way allow Albiol to stay on as mayor. The price of its support for the alternative majority alliance was that Badalona council maintain a neutral position on the question of Catalan sovereignty and not join the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), to which 710 of Catalonia’s 948 councils are affiliated.
At one point the PSC, upset with what it found to be the excessively Catalanist tone of the text of the inauguration agreement and vulnerable to PP pressure on this point, announced that it was prepared to allow a PP administration so long as Albiol were not mayor. Albiol refused the PSC offer.
On June 13, the PSC finally joined Let’s Win Badalona Together, the ERC and its allies and ICV-EUiA to create a majority supporting the lead candidate of Let’s Win Badalona Together, pro-independence Dolors Sabater, as mayoress (see Table 2).
Sabater was also supported by Ferran Falcó, councilor for the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC, one half of CiU, the ruling party in Catalonia), while the councilor of the Christian-Democrat Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC, the other half) abstained. Falcó tweeted that “it is good to have a pro-sovereignty mayoress”.
In principle, there was also an agreement that the four left parties supporting the inauguration of Dolors Sabater would form a joint administration. However, the three more left-wing components of the bloc negotiated their own proposal for government, leaving the PSC the choice of accepting their plan or going into opposition.
On July 23, the Badalona branch of the PSC, angry with this fait accompli, announced that “the socialists will go into opposition in order to conduct a constructive opposition, to guarantee that what is adopted in council is in harmony with our election program. We are nor bound by by any agreement of governability or of government, and will therefore carry out our political responsibility in total autonomy and independence from the council administration.”
Thus, like many other councils in the Spanish state after June 13, Badalona will have a minority administration (10 seats out of 27). Likewise, in Ferrol (Galicia) the popular unity ticket Ferrol Together will administer the city in alliance with the PSOE, with the councilors of the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), who supported them at inauguration, remaining in opposition.
Gasteiz provided a more extreme example. After outgoing PP mayors Maroto’s belated conversion to anti-racism failed to convince the PNV, their lead candidate, Gorka Urtaran, became mayor with the support of EH Bildu, the Socialist Party of Euskadi (PSE, the PSOE’s Basque affiliate), the platform Sumando-Hemen Gaude (supported by Podemos) and Irabazi (a platform supported by IU and the all-Spanish green party Equo).
With only five seats out of 27, PNV mayor Urtaran is presently negotiating with the other groups to create a broader basis for administering Gasteiz.
PP outrage after May 24 was most of all directed at the PSOE for its support to citizen platforms, IU and regionalist and nationalist forces.
On the afternoon of June 13, PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted: “My support to those who, while winning, have not been able to become mayors because of eccentric and sectarian deals.” Deputy prime minister and chief government spokesperson Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the PSOE was “effectively tilting towards towards the positions of the radical left”.
Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, PP leader in Catalonia, shrieked: “In Badalona, Catalonia’s third city, Catalan socialism has sold itself to separatism and made a deal with the Catalan Bildu of the CUP to give the mayoralty to Let’s Win Badalona, which has no respect for the Constitution or for the unity of Spain.”
Yet the PSOE had no choice but to build alliances to its left. With mass political sentiment moving leftward, the PSOE—already abandoned by millions of working people and suspected by millions more—was in no position to give any more free kicks to Podemos and other progressive forces. An anonymous PP political adviser cited by web journal Vozpopuli was right: “[PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez] has been abducted by Podemos, and is obsessed with maintaining all the distance in the world from the PP, and appearing very close to [Podemos general secretary] Pablo Iglesias.”
On May 24, the PSOE lost only one provincial capital to the PP (Cuenca, in Castilla-La Mancha), but faced an onslaught from its left. Not only did the popular unity platforms cut it out of running the two biggest cities in the Spanish state, it also lost industrial Sabadell (Catalonia) and would have been beaten in other major cities if it had faced more single popular unity tickets.
Detailed analysis of how the PSOE vote, 700,000 less than in 2011, behaved at this election., has revealed that its strongest decline was in the regions where the struggle over the rights of the nationalisties has been strongest, most notably in Catalonia, then in the Basque Country, but also including Navarra, the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Country and two of Galicia’s four provinces.
The other major areas of PSOE loss were in Madrid and Zaragoza, where the strong popular unity tickets to the PSOE’s left sucked support away from the social democracy.
The PSOE vote increased in the areas where it has built up a reputation for competence in local administration, as in Vigo (Galicia), Soria (Castilla y León), and two industrial cities near Barcelona (Santa Colomer de Gramanet and L’Hospitalet).
The decline in the PSOE vote also corresponded quite directly with the decline in voter abstention, driven by the presence of popular unity tickets. This happened most in Catalonia (led by Barcelona), the Basque Country and Navarra, Valencia and Madrid.
Clearly, the PSOE’s only chance of recovering lost ground depends on its presenting itself as part of the left as a whole, but that part of the left that is best placed, with its experience in government, to implement the left’s shared program, and also to attract the centre.
In the local negotiations leading up to June 13, local PSOE chieftains bent over backwards to present themselves as leftists committed to bringing progressive change to their towns and regions. This was even the case in those regions where the PSOE forms the political establishment, such as Extremadura and Asturias.
For example, PSIB-PSOE leader Francina Armengol’s reply to the PP offer of a “stability pact” on the Balearic Islands was: “I suggest they make a serious reading of what citizens want. My orientation is to find a left-leaning agreement for government on these islands. That’s what we’re doing out of loyalty to the citizens’ vote, which for us is absolutely sacred.”
The PSOE’s federal council resolution on tactics after May 24 stated:
So long as there is agreement on content, we socialists will facilitate the inauguration of progressive administrations, because the citizens have decided to leave behind the policies of the right, which have only brought suffering and inequality. However, wherever the PSOE is is not the first force on the left, our desire is not to form part of those administrations.
Yet such rules can never be applied 100%. In Zamora, the PSOE supported IU for the mayoralty and also voted to join the incoming council. This was also the case in Ferrol, where ithe party was the second left force behind Ferrol Together. In Valencia, the PSOE joined with Valencia Together (backed by Podemos) and the winning ticket Commitment to form a tripartite administration. In Maó (Mahon in Spanish), capital of Menorca, the PSOE will participate in the council with the citizens’ platform Maó Now! (supported by Podemos).
In such cases the local PSOE was afraid of isolating itself from progressive adminitrations that might well gain in popularity as their impact—and their difference from the PP—becomes increasingly felt. In other cases, such as Barcelona, the social democracy has not ruled out entering the council administration in future.
The uncomfortable and quite strange issue of how the PSOE should act when it is a minority within a left coalition has been provoking debate in its upper echelons. For example, in the important case of Madrid, the local leadership expressed its desire to take part in the administration led by Madrid Now!, yet was overruled by the national PSOE.
That decision has been politely questioned by members of the PSOE “old guard”, usually close to former prime minister Felipe González, such as incoming Extremadura president Guillermo Fernández Vara. For the felipistas the first rule of political existence is to seize whatever parcels of power and influence are within reach.
In the PSOE federal executive meeting dedicated to spelling out the party’s tactics post-May 24, old guard supporters also warned against getting too close to Podemos. Susana Diaz, premier of Andalusia, while supporting the federal council resolution, had earlier disagreed with Sánchez’s summary of the PSOE’s new line as “no deals with the PP or with Bildu.” (Before being finally reconfirmed as Andalusian premier after the March 22 elections with the support of Citizens, Diaz had also been in negotiations with the PP).
Diaz called for the PSOE leadership to manage the new political situation with “great prudence” and “not dress ourselves up as something we aren’t”. She added: “If we stand by our values and what we are, sooner or later the only alternative in Spain will be the PSOE, but the present phase has to be managed with a great deal of responsibility”.
It certainly does. The latest Metroscopia poll of voting intentions has the PSOE and Podemos neck-and-neck, a situation where any slip-ups have the potential to destroy political credibility. Moreover, as the September 27 Catalan election approaches it will become increasingly tricky for the PSOE to defend its anti-democratic stance on the Catalan national question, especially in the aftermath of Scottish and Greek referenda which gave citizens a say on the future they want for their countries.
PSOE internal differences
An indication of the potential for rising intra-PSOE discord over tactics towards Podemos came in a comment on Diaz’s position from the incoming PSOE mayor of Valladolid, Óscar Puente, who rapidly concluded an alliance for his inauguration with citizens’ platforms supported by Podemos and IU. He said: “In Valladolid the Podemos people are very reasonable. They have been very decent right from the beginning. I am not afraid, quite the opposite. We have to adapt to new scenarios, and whoever doesn’t will see in the end how reality passes them by.”
By contrast, in Cádiz, where the lead left force was the citizens’ platform For Cadiz Yes We Can, the local PSOE brandished the spectre of voting for itself at the June 13 inauguration, thereby letting the PP back into power as party with the relative majority. The idea behind this tactic was apparently to pressure Pablo Iglesias to induce Podemos in Andalusia to “see reason” in the stalled negotiations with the PSOE over the formation of the Andalusian government.
In the end, the Andalusian PSOE, probably frightened by how much damage such a stance would do to its “left cred” (which goes as far as claiming “more advanced” anti-eviction legislation than Madrid Now! and Barcelona Together) supported For Cadiz Yes We Can for the Cadiz mayoralty.
In the regions and cities where the PSOE had won the relative majority on the left but was challenged to yield the mayoralty or premiership to a stronger coalition of competing left forces, the PSOE position was point-blank refusal. An exception was for the mayoralty of Palma, which the PSOE-PSIB agreed to share with More for Mallorca (MÉS), with the leaders of each council group acting as mayor for two years.
In Euskadi (the Basque Country), where the PSE is a declining third force (falling further behind the PNV and EH Bildu on May 24), the social democracy’s tactic was to conclude a pact with the PNV. This committed both sides to supporting each other at inauguration and as partners in council administration.
The target of this pact was EH Bildu, which emerged weakened from these elections after losing the deputation of Gipuskoa and the mayoralty of Donostia (San Sebastian in Spanish) to the PNV. For the ruling Basque right-nationalists, the pact with the PSE offered the possibility of stability in government, while hopefully confining EH Bildu to a role of isolated opposition. To the PSE, it offered mayoralties and other positions that would otherwise have been out of its reach.
The PSE-PNV pact in general held at these elections, despite the tension it produced in the PNV ranks. The best example of this occurred in the town of Andoáin (Gipuskoa), where two PNV councilors voted blank in an inauguration that should have given the mayoralty to the PSE. As a result, EH Bildu won the position.
In Catalonia, where right-nationalism is leading the campaign for independence, not even this life raft is available. The PSC looks set towards a disastrous result at the September 27 Catalan elections, especially if the idea of repeating the popular unity of Barcelona Together on a Catalonia-wide scale comes to fruition.
The difference in approaches within the PSOE is in part explained by the fact that since 1987 “the caste” in Castilla y León has been PP-dominated, pushing the PSOE into semi-permanent anti-PP collaboration with other left forces. By contrast, since the beginning of constitutional rule in 1978 Andalusia has never known any other governing party than the PSOE (at times supported by IU).
The PSOE’s dynastic domination of Extremaduran politics even produced strange events post-May 24 in the town of Burguillos del Cerro. Here, in order to remove the PSOE mayor, incumbent for 28 years, the local PP offered the mayoralty to the Podemos-supported citizens’ platform Burguillos Awake. Burguillos Awake agreed to the deal, but was let down on inauguration day when one of the two councilors for localist formation Extremadurans, by design or error, mucked up the ballot paper.
Lumping the traditional governing parties in the Spanish state together as “the caste” provided no guide to Podemos as to how to make its tactical choices post-May 24. How to throw out PP administrations without being seen to be a minor partner of the PSOE? How to delineate Podemos politics from those of a PSOE talking left, but without opening the door to the PP? And how to meet those challenges when Podemos did not stand in its own name in the municipal elections but participated in, and initiated, citizens’ platforms that would have their own way of deciding on these issues? (Podemos only stood in its own name in the 13 regional elections that were held at the same time.)
As developed by the May 30 meeting of its State Citizens’ Council (leadership body between congresses), Podemos’s tactics were parallel to those of the PSOE. In general, its approach was to urge the citizen platforms to give support to the PSOE (or to any progressive coalitions that could form a majority) against the PP, while extracting the maximum in concessions as price of this support and declining to take part in the administrations resulting from any inauguration agreements.
This pressure helped the citizen platforms supported by Podemos extract sizeable concessions from the PSOE on issues such as preventing evictions, implementing emergency social support programs, keeping school canteens open during the summer holidays and introducing transparency into council operations.
Podemos’s statutes do not require agreements for inauguration to be put to a membership vote, although they do require such a vote in the case of proposals to enter government. Despite this, many local citizens’ platforms supported by Podemos put their proposals for the June 13 inauguration decision to the vote of their members, as did some regional Podemos branches negotiating over conditions for supporting PSOE governments in autonomous communities.
Podemos Extremadura went to the point of ensuring its negotiations with the PSOE were televised live (and available on YouTube), and that its decision-making be put to a teleconference open to all members.
In one case, that of the big industrial city of Gijón (Asturias), the members’ vote of the citizens’ platform Gijón Can, supported by Podemos, produced a majority in favour of presenting its own candidate for mayor (and not that of the PSOE, the winning force on the left). The result of this failure to form a single left coalition at inauguration was that the party winning the relative majority on May 24, the conservative regionalist Asturias Forum, retained the mayoralty of one of Spain’s most left and working-class cities.
Valencian Country and Balearic Islands
The overriding tactical concern of Podemos, also reflected in the citizens’ platforms it supported, was to overtake the PSOE as lead anti-PP force wherever it possibly could. To achieve this, it appealed to the fact that the total vote for forces to the left of the PSOE was sometimes greater than for the PSOE itself and that the PSOE vote had often fallen sharply from 2011.
This stance led to fraught negotiations in the Valencian Community, Asturias and the Balearic Islands, with the PSOE unbudging on the principle that mayoralties and premierships belonged to it wherever it was the leading vote-winner on the left.
In the autonomous community of Aragon, where its vote fell just short of the PSOE’s, Podemos unsuccessfully tried to win support for its lead candidate, Pablo Echinique, becoming premier. In the Valencian Country it supported the lead candidate of Commitment, Mónica Oltra, against the PSPV, which had won more votes and seats.
At one point in the tug-of-war in the Valencian Country the PSPV opened negotiations with Citizens, with a view to getting them to persuade the PP to abstain during the inauguration vote, thereby giving the regional government to the PSPV alone.
The PP said it would only abstain in the vote for the premiership of the Valencian Community if the PSPV returned the favour for the capital, Valencia. This was clearly impossible for the PSPV, which had to declare its support for the winning ticket of Commitment or undermine its own argument for claiming the Valencian Country. Citizens then broke off negotiations with the PSPV, because it had committed the mortal sin of supporting a Valencian regionalist for mayor of Valencia.
After much argy-bargy, a new left Valencian government was inaugurated, supported by and incorporating the PSPV and Commitment, and with the external support of (part of) Podemos. Podemos decided to have just enough of its parliamentary caucus vote in favour, so as to make crystal clear that the new government’s survival depended on continuing Podemos agreement with its performance.
In a parallel dynamic on the Balearic Islands, the Podemos membership voted in favour of the principle of a tripartite regional government (of the PSIB, MÉS and Podemos), so long as the PSIB did not have the premiership, which it proposed to MÉS leader Biel Barceló.
Barceló commented to Channel Three: “We [MÉS] haven’t put down the premiership as a red line, but we do say that there has to be plurality in the institutions. In no way would it occur to us, after the fall in the PSIB-PSOE vote and the fact that real change has been led by formations that are looking for another way of doing politics, that all the leading positions in the end should get taken by the PSOE: it wouldn’t make that real change visible.”
He added: “They, especially Podemos, have got their eyes set on [the Spanish legislative elections in] November. And the open war between both parties is making agreement difficult. State-wide strategies are not important now, when the future of Menorca and Mallorca is at stake…We have an absolute responsibility, we have a broad left majority and the obligation to come to an agreement. People are asking for a change of policies after four disastrous years [of reactionary PP premier José Ramón Bauzá].”
After protracted negotiations over the Balearic Islands’ five institutions (the regional government, and the Island Councils for Menorca, Mallorca, Eivissa (Ibiza) and Formentera), a government involving all three left forces only proved possible for the Island Council of Mallorca (where MÉS took the presidency).
Different alliances will apply in each institution. The regional government will be a coalition between PSIB-PSOE and MÉS, with Podemos in opposition; the Island Council of Menorca will be a two-party coalition between MÉS and Podemos, with the PSIB-PSOE in opposition, while the Island Council of Eivissa will be either a coalition between PSIB-PSOE and Podemos or a PSIB-PSOE administration alone.
The Island Council of Formentera will be run by a coalition of the PSIB-PSOE and local formation People of Formentara.
In the Valencian Counry and on the Balearic Islands Podemos’s tactical challenge was how to relate to the PSOE in the presence of the progressive regionalist forces Commitment and MÉS. In Asturias, the complicating factor was the success of the United Left (IU) in maintaining its five seats in the regional parliament (in contrast to its disastrous losses in other autonomous communities).
The May 24 elections left a fragmented Asturian parliament. In addition to the PSOE’s 14 seats, Podemos’s nine and IU’s five, the PP won 11 and Forum Asturias and Citizens three each. The broad left-right divide was therefore 28 to 17. However, under the Asturian parliament’s peculiar voting system for deciding the premiership there is still a very remote chance that left disunity might allow the right, probably in the shape of PP leader Mercedes Fernández, to walk away with the top job—as happened for the mayoralty of Gijón on June 13.
How might this happen? The voting procedure for the election of the Asturian premier only allows a vote for a candidate or an abstention, supposedly to prevent prolonged delays in inaugurating new governments. In the case of a candidate not receiving an absolute majority on the first round of voting, the two candidates receiving the highest vote then contest a second round, with the candidate winning the highest vote becoming premier.
(In the event of a tie, voting continues until one party wins. If this does not happen within two months, new elections are called.)
In the present Asturian parliament, if the run-off were between the PSOE and the PP, the PP could conceiveably win—if it won the support of the other right forces (17 total votes) and if Podemos and IU abstained, leaving the PSOE only with its own votes (14).
More probable, however, is that Citizens, Forum Asturias, IU and Podemos will all abstain on this second round vote, leaving the PSOE defeating the PP, 14 to 11. To date Citizens and Forum Asturias have said they will abstain. If they don’t, Podemos has said it will not allow the PP to take Asturias, presumably voting to support the PSOE.
In accordance with its approach of challenging the PSOE for leading position on the left wherever possible, Podemos Asturias decided on June 23 not to support the social democracy for the premiership of Asturias, but to stand its lead candidate Emilio Léon for the position, and call on IU for support.
When questioned as to why Podemos Asturias was following a different approach to those other autonomous communities where it was supporting PSOE candidates at inauguration, Léon said: “In Asturias the PSOE has not given the slightest indication of wanting to change; it has not replied to our proposals, especially as far as the struggle against corruption is concerned.” Podemos also insisted that it should have the premiership in any three-party left government, because a PSOE premier would not embody the desire for change expressed at the ballot box.
With Podemos plus IU having as many councilors as the PSOE (14), why should it not challenge the hegemony of the PSOE on behalf of the real left, especially as the two left-of-PSOE forces had won 24,000 more votes than the social democracy? What valid reasons could IU produce for not agreeing?
IU’s answer was that a Podemos-IU administration was unviable and what Asturias needed was a stable three-party government expressing the left’s social majority, as had been achieved in the Asturian capital Oviedo, in an alliance between We Are Oviedo (a citizens’ platform supported by Podemos), the PSOE and IU. If this could not be negotiated, IU should abstain in the inauguration vote. A later IU membership consultation produced 85% support for this position.
IU parliamentary leader Gaspar Llamazares tweeted: “IU is neither a life jacket for the PSOE nor a franchise of Podemos”, adding that “some people are engaged in a permanent election campaign up until the [November] general elections, and Asturias will suffer the consequences.”
The Podemos response was that, since a broad government of the left was ruled out by PSOE intransigence, the real choice was between a Podemos-IU minority government of 14 and a PSOE government of 14, with the added advantage that the PP would already be out of the running. A second-round ballot between Podemos and PSOE would force all parliamentary groups, left and right alike, to choose which concrete program would be best for Asturias.
However, with Léon near-certain to come in third in the first premiership ballot given IU abstention, the likely outcome in Asturias is for a continuation of a minority PSOE government, but with less support than ever and facing pressure and criticism from its left. New elections are also a possibility.
At the same time, the Podemos leadership in Asturias is presently on a charm offensive towards the IU ranks, with the implicit message that while they and the Podemos leadership are united in resistance to austerity and corruption the IU leadership is soft on the PSOE “caste” in Asturias. On June 23, the Podemos parliamentary fraction was alone in supporting a cut in Asturian MPs’ salaries to three times the minimum wage.
Euskadi and Navarra
One feature of Podemos’s tactics post-May 24 has been its partial rapprochement with Basque left-nationalism. Before the poll, there were tensions between Podemos Navarra and the national Podemos leadership over the latter’s requirement that EH Bildu make a public apology to the victims of ETA terrorism.
After May 24, Podemos Navarra reiterated its position that it would not be requiring such an apology, which is a demand of the Spanish.nationalist right, especially as it would be in negotiations with EH Bildu over the regional government of Navarra. The Podemos national leadership then brought its position into line with that of its Navarra affiliate.
Subsequently, in the May-June New Left Review, Iglesias said:
The national question is probably the most important unfinished business of the 1978 Regime… [I]t left the national question, which—especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country, to a lesser extent in Galicia—has been bleeding openly ever since, with no permanent solution. This has been an incessant contradiction within the 1978 settlement. In the last few years, the conflict in the Basque Country has lost some of its centrality, which was essential to the regime, because of the ceasefire and then the abandonment of the struggle by ETA—though there are still between 400 and 500 prisoners being held in gaols hundreds of miles from their families. It’s still a tragic political problem.
Podemos’s adjustments on Basque politics match the rightward shift of the PNV, which judges that it can more readily hold the line against the challenge of EH Bildu after the latter’s loss of Donostia and the deputation of Guipuskoa, and thus pay a lower political price for making a closer alliance with the PSE, hopefully to be part of a future PSOE government committed to a “federal” Spanish state.
The document presented for approval to the June 27 Podemos Euskadi conference noted “the contradiction that will be produced between the regressive measure that [the PSE] will apply as ally of the PNV and the undertakings made in other autonomous communities where, with the backing of Podemos, it has been agreed to push ahead with agreements for progress.”
At the same time, Podemos Euskadi maintains its practical reservations on the issue of Basque self-determination, even as it supportsit in principle. In a June 20 interview with the EFE newsagency spokesperson Roberto Uriarte critcised with equal force those for whom the solution is “legality, legality, Constitution” and those for whom it is “referendum, referendum”.
What can we expect from incoming popular unity councils and progressive regional administrations?
The most urgent commitments are already being tackled. These include cuts in councilors’ and mayors’ wages to the level of a skilled worker (around €40,000 a year); emergency social support plans, including a ban on evictions and guarantees that electricity, water and gas will not be cut off; moratoria or cuts to pointlessly expensive mega-projects (like the Winter Olympics for Barcelona); steps towards a guaranteed minimum income; and a citizens’ audit of council debt, cutbacks in official car pools and a reworking of municipal tax scales to provide relief to the poorest while extracting more from the richest.
The incoming Barcelona Together administration is already working to implement its comprehensive emergency plan for its first months in office (available in English here).
A typical agreement arising from the negotiations between the social democracy, a left-regionalist force and a citizen’s platform backed by Podemos is this, the agreement between the PSIB-PSOE, MÉS and We Are Palma for Palma council:
1. Zero Poverty Objective, with special attention to the infant population. No family without electricity, water, gas, food and material for school. Reinforce home help.
2. Anti-eviction office providing legal advice and mediation with financial instiutons. To be really effective and involve and be monitored by those affected. The Council will give priority to working with those banks that comply with the code of good banking practices.
3. Decent jobs plan, targeted at the young, the long-term unemployed and people over 45.
4. Clean up Palma: an emergency clean-up plan equipped with the human and technical resources to improve the cleanliness of all Palma suburbs.
5. Prepare the city so as to host tourism throughout the year, in particular featuring gastronomic and cultural tours, and sporting activities. Conserve neighbourhoods with a special value and tourist potential, such as El Molinar and El Jonquet.
6. Support to the city’s commercial fabric: support cooperation between businesses and promote a “resource kit” for the use of small business, commerce and the self-employed. Demand from the [Balearic Islands] government a moratorium on large-scale commercial development.
7. Repeal of the civil ordenance and specific regulations covering open-air drinking and illegal activities, so that specific problems are addressed with specific solutions.
8. Open up the Council to participation and transparency: make public Council expenditure and the work schedule of councilors. Promote citizen participation in the taking of municipal decisions (as affecting budgets, sectoral meetings, citizen associations, social movements).
9. Restoration of the official name Palma [instead of the Francoist name Palma de Mallorca, reimposed by the PP in 2012]. Restoration of the Language Nomalisation Regulation [covering the use of Balearic Catalan as language of Council business, also repealed in 2012 by the PP].
10. Declaration of Palma as city free of cruelty to animals, including therein the declaration of Palma Against Bullfighting.
Concern with ecological conversion, especially in energy and agriculture, is a feature common to many platforms. In Cadiz, one plan is to investigate conversion of the city to renewable energy, also seen as a source of job creation in the city with Spain’s highest unemployment (46% and over 70% among under 25-years-olds).
The new progressive councils begin life in widely differing economic circumstances. While Barcelona council is in a healthy economic situation, and is even owed millions by the Catalan government, other councils are effectively broke. Moreover, all face “fiscal discipline” from a PP government in Madrid that is determined to rob them of all possible chances of implementing beneficial changes in the run-up to the November general elections.
On his first day as mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó criticised national PP finance minister Cristobal Montoro for “introducing a series of measures that act as a corset on councils”, including the stipulation that retiring workers are not to be replaced.
According to Ribó, various council services have been left “below their threshholds of proper functioning as a result of various rules dictated by Montoro, who doesn’t give a fig about the operation of councils nor about their autonomy.”
The April 12, 1931 municipal elections in the Spanish state saw the end of the Borbon monarchy and the beginning of the Second Republic. Were the May 24, 2015 municipal elections as important?
It is too soon to say. Of course, they did not produce the fall of the national PP government, nor the replacement of the PSOE by a bloc of forces to its left, nor the opening of the democratic revolution that will have to replace the exhausted 1978 Spanish constitution with one that entrenches social, national, ecological and democratic rights. But they have set in motion processes that could bring all three goals quickly closer.
The debate as to how to speed up this dynamic is presently consuming all parts of the left in the Spanish state, both between and within organisations. As matter stand, Podemos is committed to standing in its own name in the forthcoming general elections, but with exceptions as far as regions with strong left-nationalist and left-regionalist support are concerned.
The United Left has called for the creation of popular unity lists for all regions. Its lead candidate Alberto Garzón has indicated his willingness to submit to open primaries for such a list, but not be a candidate on a Podemos ticket.
Podemos continues to maintain that it is not a party like the rest, but an instrument for driving change, and is allergic to any suggestions of its participating as one more component in an alliance that would be “a soup of party logos”.
Podemos also questions whether the popular unity candidacies got a significantly greater vote on May 24 than it did in its own name, except in the cases where the citizen platfoms were headed by charismatic and authoritative lead candidates (as in Barcelona and Madrid).
Other commentators ascribe the succeses in Barcelona, Madrid and other cities not so much to the presence of an Ada Colau or a Marcela Carmena, as to the dense network of organized citizen support and participation on which they were based and which gave them political life. The most important job is to extend that example.
The need to create left electoral projects that can win will surely continue to test Podemos’s present line. The latest example was a June 25 GESOP poll that showed that a “Catalonia Together” ticket, along the lines of Barcelona Together, would challenge the ruling right-nationalist CiU for the leading position in the Catalan parliament at the September 27 Catalan elections.
Two days later, Pablo Iglesias discussed with Initiative for Catalonia-Greens joint national spokepeople Dolors Camats and Joan Herrera, how such a ticket might be developed.
At his address to Podemos’s June 27 Citizens Council, Iglesias made more explicit that Podemos should “take on board the plurinational characater of our country”, and entertain the possibility of broader lists in those regions where the national question continues to burn.
At the same time, many on the left, including within Podemos, continue to pressure for the rapid launch of popular unity tickets, seen as the best way to advance towards Podemos’s own strategic goal of displacing the PSOE as working people’s preferred alternative to the neo-liberal PP.
In Greek terms, the all-Spanish left now has no choice but to work out what it will really take to create “the Spanish SYRIZA” that is so sorely needed.
[Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly’s and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona. An earlier, shorter version of this article has appeard on the Green Left Weekly web site.]