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Podemos primaries prepare Spain’s new radical party for May elections

Spain’s new radical party Podemos has chosen its candidates for May’s regional elections, the majority aligned with the current leadership of Pablo Iglesias, reports Jacopo Rosatelli* 

Spain’s new radical party Podemos has selected thirteen candidates for president and thirteen lists of aspiring councillors for each of the regions in which it will go to the vote on 24 May. This is a key date because it could be the beginning of a decisive shift in policy for Spain and Europe. The primaries process was conducted online and managed with a strict and transparent system of rules, and the announcement of the winners went smoothly. The majority of candidates is aligned with leader Pablo Iglesias, but there is a significant representation of the “left minority”, associated with Izquierda anti­ca­pi­ta­li­sta (Anti-Capitalist Left). The best known of the “non-aligned” candidates is Pablo Echenique, currently MEP, vying for the presidency of the Aragón region. Of the thirteen leaders of the electoral lists, three are women.

The most important challenges at the regional level are Madrid and Valencia, two strongholds of the Partido Popular of premier Mariano Rajoy that could be heavily defeated next month. Leading Podemos in the capital will be José Manuel López, a 49 year old agronomist with a long record of social commitment: a little-known figure who will face two weighty opponents, the former Socialist minister Ángel Gabilondo and the current delegada gobierno (prefect), the conservative Cristina Cifuentes. In the region of Valencia the presidential candidate is Antonio Montiel, 57, a public administration official and local leader of Iglesias’ party.

A curious fact: in the key two electoral races Podemos will be represented by the most senior among the thirteen candidates for regional presidents announced Wednesday night but the majority of them are under 40 years of age, like most of the national leadership. Beyond the vital statistics, the primaries show that while the party of Iglesias is making protagonists of the “generation without a future”, the indignados, it does not suffer from the vacuous nuovismo of the youth. The primaries also confirm the profile of the candidate for mayor of Madrid, winner of last week’s municipal primary: the 70 year old activist and former magistrate Manuela Carmena.

On the road leading to the polls in May Podemos now faces its first, demanding test of “political maturity”, one that is creating some apprehension within the national leadership: what to do in Andalusia during the vote of investiture of President-elect, the Socialist Susana Díaz. Who cannot wait to witness a false step by her new competitors on the left. The Andalusian PSOE does not have the numbers, alone, to elect Díaz: if all other groups were to vote “no” the region, the country’s most populous, would return again to the polls. A very unlikely outcome that nobody cares to contemplate.

The Socialists – who will rule as a minority government – need Podemos and the liberals of another new party, Ciudadanos, to abstain in the election of the governor. Discussions and negotiations are under way: both Podemos and Ciudadanos have no intention to grant Díaz the green light without gaining something concrete in exchange, but they do not want to show themselves closed to dialogue either. And for the political formation of Iglesias finding the balancing point is not proving easy, as shown by certain tensions that have surfaced between the local leader Teresa Rodríguez and the leadership in Madrid.

Translation/edit by Revolting Europe

* Il Manifesto 

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Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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