Podemos seeks political boost from Syriza victory

Pablo Iglesias: "Podemos would not permit a PP government." [Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina/Flickr]

Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos, seen by many as the ideologically closest political force to Greece’s Syriza, is scrutinising how Prime Minsiter Alexis Tsipras’ intransigent position with international creditors can bring political gains. EURACTIV Spain reports.

The massive “No” vote in the Greek referendum, and the political poker played by Tsipras with the creditors, is giving hope to the leftist Podemos (“We Can”), which is currently the third political force in Spain. General elections are expected to be held in Spain in November.

Many in Madrid are asking if the “Syriza style” could be a model for Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.

According to some political analysts, the results of the referendum in Greece (“No” – 61.31%, “Yes”- 38.69%) has given more credibility to Podemos, which claims that Greece has been “blackmailed by Brussels, Washington and Frankfurt.”

But who exactly is blackmailing who was a question raised in a special late-night debate on the Spanish public television (RTVE-24 Horas) on 7 July.

“So far, Tsipras has played his cards in this game very well. Actually he has managed to capitalise in political terms the EU’s fear about a ‘Grexit’, something nobody wants in Europe,” said senior political analyst Esther Esteban.

Alexis Tsipras, a good gambler?

Journalist Esther Jaén said the Grexit panic was being used by Tsipras as leverage in the talks.

But even if Greece represents just 2% of the Eurozone GDP, a possible “Grexit” would have very serious political consequences on the European project as a whole, Miguel Puente, spokesman at the European Commission’s Representation in Madrid told EURACTIV Spain.

For Iglesias, the interpretation of the facts is very different. The referendum gave Tsipras the legitimacy to take a hard line stand with Brussels, “in the name of democracy”. In Iglesias’ view, even Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, of the right-wing Popular Party (PP), has softened his previous hardline position.

Madrid has followed Berlin´s inflexible tone with Greece, demanding Athens to implement -at once- the reforms needed, as a “sine qua non” condition to receive more credit.

Iglesias also welcomed the fact that Spain’s economy minister (and candidate for the post of next president of the Eurogroup), Luis de Guindos, has –in his view- adopted a more calmed tone, saying more “reasonable things” in the Greek crisis.    

The Spanish example

But Rajoy, De Guindos and the majority of the Spanish government keep repeating the same message. Spain has undertaken a big austerity effort (with painful cuts, among other in the health and education sectors) in the past years. It avoided a bailout in July 2012, and the economy is in the path of recovery and, last but not least, others (Greece) should follow the “Spanish example”.

Spain, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel García-Margallo, recalled recently, has lent €26 billion to Greece as part of the European bailout. He also warned that Athens cannot cancel a debt coming from EU’s “taxpayers money”. In an interview with the television channel Antena 3, Margallo urged Tsipras to present a concrete proposal for final negotiations “once and for all.”

Who fears Podemos?

But not only Rajoy belongs to the group of “hawks” demanding an urgent solution to the crisis from Tsipras. Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), is asking Athens to act with a sense of responsibility and urgency because “at the end, is the Greek people who suffers the most”, he said.

Sánchez preferred to join the ranks of the right-wing “hardliners”. Possibly because he and Rajoy feel that after the regional and municipal elections held last May, Spain’s two-party system is gradually fading away, thanks to Podemos and Ciudadanos (Citizens), a new centrist party directly competing with the PP for the conservative niche.

The PP and the PSOE, analysts say, think a Syriza victory in Brussels could also mean that Podemos’ political expectations for the general elections would be high.

Spaniards dislike a possible alliance Podemos-PSOE

If general elections were held in Spain today, the ruling PP would win them again with 25.6% of the votes. The socialists would come closer to the conservatives, with a gap of just 1.3% between them, according to a recent survey conducted by the Centre for Sociological Studies (CIS), quoted by El Pais. Podemos would come third, with 16.5% of the vote.

But expectations are high for Ciudadanos. Albert Rivera’s party comes fourth, with 13.8% of the vote, the CIS said.

But according to a new poll published last week by Metroscopia, Spanish citizens wouldn’t like to see a possible government agreement between PSOE and Podemos, as they still “mistrust” Pablo Iglesias’ party.

The survey says 45% of Spanish citizens would prefer an agreement between PSOE and Ciudadanos, followed by a possible agreement PP-Ciudadanos (42%). 

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