Podemos unleash generational thirst for change in Spain
by Dimitris Rapidis and Alberto Paez (December 21, 2015)
The conservative People's Party (PP) won the elections, but former PM Rajoy essentially conceded a huge defeat after losing the biggest part of its electoral power, reflected in the seats and percentage the party finally got. Rajoy, as Coelho in Portugal and Samaras in Greece, was advocating for his so-called "success story". This narrative was nothing more than an euphemism as economic facts since 2011 have shown the exact opposite. Spain during Rajoy's rule saw its unemployment and poverty rates increased into unprecedented levels. Corruption scandals were brought into public discourse, continuous pressure from the society against continuous spending cuts was overlooked by the ruling party, thousands of Spaniards were forced to emigrate, in a country where widespread social injustice took immense dimensions, reflected in the number of evictions and foreclosures, among other factors. This was briefly Rajoy's legacy that mainly Podemos, and to a lower extent Cuidadanos, achieved to address and convince the people that there are alternative political choices beyond the duo of conservatives and socialists.
Spain enters into a new era that it is strongly entrenched with generational and geographical characteristics, mainly and vitally fueled by a deep and persistent confrontation against austerity politics. Podemos soared through the final weeks with a powerful social media and door-to-door campaign while being fiercely criticized or blocked by major media outlets domestically and internationally. Local alliances with other radical-left movements played their role, where in some cases, as in Barcelona, social radicalization was much more mature, organized, and convincing. Civic mobilization and a big number of volunteers helped Podemos overcome financial burdens and widespread propaganda.
Next day in Spain is complicated. Opposition parties have so far ruled out any coalition prospect with Rajoy's PP, hardening their rhetoric. To a certain degree, the situation resembles with Portugal and gives an idea of what we should expect in the coming weeks. Should a coalition government fail to take shape, the scenario of new elections might come into surface. But this is not before March 2016 as the process includes the involvement of the King as mediator and negotiator if political forces fail to reach an agreement.
These new balances in Spain will definitely affect Eurozone's and EU's economic and political future. Triggered by the exhaustion against austerity and the old, corrupted political establishment, domestic politics witness the formation of different electoral cleavages. These socio-economic cleavages started from Greece last January, passed into Portugal, now in Spain, and next year they might be spread in Ireland. Eurozone's prevailing mindset is put into question by a young generation that is eagerly demanding equality, jobs, transparency and social justice, being at the same time deeply affected by the complete distortion of EU's once-praised fundamental values.
Dimitris Rapidis is Founder of Bridging Europe. Alberto Paez is Policy Analyst at Bridging Europe
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