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Politics, Spain

Spain’s local elections confirm Podemos as third force while in Barcelona radical left triumphs

The upstart left party Podemos has claimed it is a “lever for change”, as it broke through in eight regions of Spain to become the third force in eight of the 13 regional parliaments contested.

“We would have liked to see a more rapid erosion of the large parties, according to Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who described this day as” magical “and” historic “.

In municipal and regional elections this Sunday the ruling Popular Party (PP) secured the most votes, including in Madrid, but it has lost historical strongholds and must seek alliances in cities and regions if it is to maintain power. The PP lost nearly 2.55 million votes compared to 2011. The Socialists, for their part, remain the second most-voted party, but have lost 775,000 votes compared to the last municipal and regional elections. Podemos has entered all the regional parliaments, and outperformed Citizens, the other debutante in this election, except in Valencia.

Podemos are the third force in eight regions, all but Cantabria, the Canary Islands and Navarre (where they are fourth) and Valencia (where they stand fifth).

The Podemos leader said: “This is a magic night. It is a historical night in Spain which points directly to change. It is a matter of pride for us to be the engine for that change. We think this spring of change is irreversible and it is going to take us to the month of November when we will take on the challenge to win the general election. “The story of the end of bipartisan politics in Spain begins to be written today. Parties in power have had one of the worst results in their history. We are amazed by confirming today that every time polls open in this country, the number of our supporters only grows.”

Although Podemos has become the third force in Madrid and Aragon (two of the key places for the electoral battle) Iglesias was the not the all-smiling man that he was after the announcement of the results of the European elections last year in which Podemos gains five MEPs. ‘Podemos have today in their hands the keys to a significant number of parliaments and local councils, and in the next few weeks you will begin to see the formation of a new political scene in which the Popular Party  and the Socialists lose their leading role in many municipalities, the time lost steam in the autonomies,’ commented El Publico newspaper, which is strongly supportive of the party.

The lists backed by an array of new and older political groupings to the left of the Socialists made the most advances this Sunday, securing first places in cities like Barcelona, ​​where Ada Colau ousted Catalan nationalist Xavier Trias. Manuela Carmena (Ahora Madrid) came second, by just councillor less than the Popular Party’s Esperanza Aguirre. The radical coalition could yet gain the support of Antonio Carmona’s Socialists, who came third, and so take power in the capital, although the PP could seal a deal with the right-wing upstart Citizens.

The success of left coalitions that included candidates from Izquierda Unida, the traditional party to the left of the Socialists, could hold a lesson for Podemos and the radical left in general.

The party of Iglesias ran alone in the regional elections and refused to stand as a party in elections for the 8,000 towns and cities contested, instead sponsoring candidates in these left coalitions without using its party label.

Izquierda Unida, for its part, obtained 1,046,431 votes, or 4.73%, across Spain, a loss of around 400,000 votes, and secured 2,215 councillors, about the same as the previous poll, although it points out that candidates running as left unity tickets secured them a further one thousand councillors. However, it exited four (Madrid, Valencia , Murcia and Extremadura) of the eight regional parliaments where it had seats, and barely scraped through in another four.

Colau, a now famed campaigner for the 99% but political novice, said on her win in Barcelona: “The common people, the ordinary citizens, who usually have not had political power, economic, judicial, media power… we had a historic opportunity and we have taken (it)”, declaring the election result in the country’s second largest city as a “victory of David against Goliath”.

The results indicated that PM Mariano Rajoy’s PP was assured of holding on to power only in Castilla Leon, Murcia and La Rioja.  It lost to the Socialists again in Asturias and to regional parties in Navarre and the Canary Islands. Of the 10 regions it won in 2011, it was trailing the Socialists in Extremadura and leading only narrowly in six others—Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia, Cantabria, Aragon, the Balearic Islands and the wider Madrid region that encompasses the capital.

It won none of those six regions outright; its winning tally in each fell short of the combined votes for the Socialists and Podemos, making the Popular Party vulnerable to defeat if its two rivals agree to form an governing alliance. The Socialists and Podemos have been reluctant to commit to a governing alliance in any region, but their leaders haven’t ruled one out.

About revoltingeurope

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

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