The untamed ambition of Podemos, the surprise victor in Sunday’s poll

Leader Pablo Iglesias says his party will “move forward until we throw the PP and the PSOE out”

Pablo Iglesias with his Podemos party followers on Sunday night. / Emilio Naranjo (EFE)

Pablo Iglesias, the head of the electoral slate for the new Podemos party, did not celebrate his unprecedented success in the European elections on Sunday. “We will not stop here,” the 35-year-old political science lecturer told EL PAÍS on Sunday night. “This is not a symbolic result for us. We are going to begin a period of convergence with other political forces. The big parties have suffered the biggest blow, with both [the Socialists (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP)] taking less than 50 percent of the vote. But we will not have achieved our goal until we beat them.”

Iglesias – whose Podemos party picked up five seats in Sunday’s poll, despite only having registered as a group in March – revealed that he now plans to stand in Spain’s next general election.

His interpretation of Sunday’s results, however, was pessimistic. “We have lost these European elections,” he said. “They have been won by the Popular Party. We cannot be happy about this. There will be more unemployed people and more evictions, and [Angela] Merkel will continue to take measures against the interests of citizens.”

“We were born to go after them all,” he added. “Today, in spite of our results, there will still be six million people out of work and bankers who go unpunished.”

The elections  have been won by the PP. We cannot be happy about this. There’ll be more unemployed people and more evictions”

Iglesias was keen to defend the message that he campaigned on, and rejected criticism that his was a populist party. “They can accuse us of defending the people, but they cannot accuse us of having knelt before the European Central Bank,” he said. As for the lack of veteran politicians within Podemos, he responded: “The strange thing here is this aged political caste,” in reference to Spain’s long-established parties and politicians.

Iglesias, who is a regular on political debate shows on Spanish TV, said he would continue to appear on the networks that invite him. “The use of television is too important to stop appearing,” he said. “We are prepared to continue [on TV debates], and our presence will depend on what the media decides now that we have a presence within the European parliament. […] We will now work with other parties from the south of Europe to make it clear that we don’t want to be a German colony.”

He added that the objective of Podemos was to “move forward until we throw the PP and the PSOE out of power, so that we can have a decent government, where no financial power is above the rights of the people. We were born to win, and to go after them all – and we are going to go after them all.”

An indignant Socialist

M. K., Madrid

His name was no accident. The parents of Pablo Iglesias decided it would be fitting to call their son after the founder of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), who had the same name and surname. Iglesias has said that his favorite anecdote of the European election campaign was the fact that people would say to him: “You have given us back the hope we felt in 1982,” when the PSOE, led by Felipe González, was swept into power. “I believe that this is what’s going to make a difference, one that will give a lot of people a big surprise on Sunday,” he told EL PAÍS ahead of Sunday’s vote.

The leader of the Podemos party voted on Sunday in the working-class neighborhood of Vallecas, in Madrid. During the campaign, Podemos was hoping to become the surprise success story of the European elections. “Today is going to be a great day, I have no doubt about that,” the aspiring politician told the press at the polls.

Between the ages of 14 and 21, Iglesias was a member of the youth wing of Spain’s Communist Party. These days he splits his time between his role as a lecturer at Madrid’s Complutense University, where he studied political science and law, and his media career, which has bloomed thanks to his regular appearances on political debate shows on two of Spain’s biggest channels, La Sexta and Cuatro. But he has also come in for a lot of sniping as a result of his media profile. “It’s justified criticism,” he has said in the past. “I don’t like the fact that there are people who are famous just because they get on TV.”

Another target for criticism was the decision by Podemos to print the face of Iglesias on the party’s voting slips. The logic, it explained, was simply to publicize: people know Pablo from TV, and bit by bit they are linking his image to the party. But it left him open to accusations of stealing the limelight, something that he denies. “Am I comfortable with my face appearing on the voting slips? No…”


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