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Catalan branch of Podemos votes to run in coalition in regional elections

Podem will be teaming up with Catalonia in Common, a leftist coalition that includes Barcelona in Common, the party of Mayor Ada Colau

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau in a file photo.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau in a file photo.

Members of the Catalan branch of left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos have voted in favor of running in the December 21 regional elections in coalition with Catalunya en Comú (Catalonia in Common), a leftist coalition that includes green groups and Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona in Common), the party of the mayor of the Catalan capital, Ada Colau.

The vote on the future of Podem Catalunya, as the party is called, was proposed by Podemos, which is led by politician Pablo Iglesias, and was widely expected to win the support of its members.

With participation of 17,379 party members – more than 70% of the total, around 12,432 voted in favor of the coalition, while 4,876 – around 28% - rejected the plan.

We are not pro-independence and all of Catalonia knows it

Podem spokesperson

The issue of Catalan independence has been driving a wedge between Podem Catalunya and the parent party run by Iglesias, and the perceived imposition of the vote from Madrid has already prompted Podem’s general secretary, Albano-Dante Fachin, and another eight members of the party, to resign. These officials are angry at the “contempt” they consider that is being displayed by Madrid for their own decisions.

At the heart of the dispute is the Catalan independence drive. Podemos officials in Madrid oppose any unilateral declaration of independence and instead support holding a valid referendum with legal guarantees.

Central leaders have complained about the “damage” to the party’s “political prestige” caused by Podem officials’ alleged sympathies for the independence movement in Catalonia, even though Fachin describes himself as non-separatist and a supporter of a plurinational state.

We are not pro-independence and all of Catalonia knows it,” said a Podem spokesman.

But Podem deputies participated in the vote to illegally declare independence from Spain inside the Catalan assembly on October 27, a move that caught Podemos leaders in Madrid by surprise. And one of the Podem officials who resigned on Tuesday is Angels Martínez Castells, who tweeted a welcome message to “the republic” shortly after the vote.

The disagreements had begun earlier than that. A decision by Podem grassroots members to participate in the unconstitutional independence referendum of October 1 proved very divisive. Pablo Iglesias had stated that “if I were Catalan, I would not go to vote.”

Iglesias and other Podemos officials are seeking to fill the space between Catalonia’s separatist and unionist parties

Fachin’s resignation evidences Podemos’s difficulties establishing itself as a nationwide party in the peripheral regions, despite its continuing defense of a plurinational Spain and good election results in Catalonia, Basque Country and Galicia. In three years, Podemos has watched two leaders resign in Catalonia, one in the Basque Country and another in Galicia.

Catalunya en Comú will focus on reversing the welfare cuts made during the economic crisis by the Catalan government, and on all the corruption cases affecting ousted regional premier Carles Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party, which was formerly known as Convergència.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has ruled out running in tandem with separatist parties, although she also wants to see a legal referendum for Catalonia, as well as the repeal of Madrid’s emergency powers in the region, and the release of former Catalan officials being held in pre-trial custody on rebellion and sedition charges.

Iglesias and other Podemos officials are seeking to fill the space between Catalonia’s separatist and unionist parties, and exploring the possibility of a non-separatist, leftist government after December 21.

English version by Simon Hunter and Susana Urra.

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