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Podemos leader concerned party has lost touch with the “popular classes”

Pablo Iglesias wants to revive party's dwindling spirit after poor results in Catalan regional election

Pablo Echenique and Pablo Iglesias. Ampliar foto
Pablo Echenique and Pablo Iglesias.

Pablo Iglesias is warning other Podemos officials about the risk of losing touch with social groups likely to share ideological affinities with the anti-austerity party.

“Broad segments of the popular classes in Catalonia have failed to relate to us this time around. This is something that we have to really keep in mind,” said the secretary general at a party event on Saturday – his first since a day before the Catalan election of December 21, when the Catalunya en Comú-Podem coalition performed poorly and secured no more than three deputies in the 135-seat assembly.

We are the children of 15-M

Pablo Iglesias

The warning also comes on the back of a new Metroscopia voter intention survey that shows Podemos trailing behind Ciudadanos, the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE). Spain will be holding local and regional elections in 2019, and Iglesias wants Podemos to draw lessons from the events of 2017, which he described as a seminal year for Spain and for Podemos.

The year began with Iglesias’ re-election at the citizen assembly of Vistalegre 2 in February, and ended with his approval ratings below those of any other mainstream political leader in Spain.

Correcting this course will entail taking leadership of the social agenda in Spain’s institutions, and partnering with social movements to restore Podemos’ physical and rhetorical presence down at street level.

New voter intention survey shows Podemos trailing behind Ciudadanos, PP and PSOE

“It’s good to defend a negotiated referendum, dialogue and fraternity, but we need to admit that many citizens of Spain felt we were addressing other political forces, that we were engaging in a professional political debate,” said Iglesias at the national citizen council held on Saturday, referring to Podemos’ support for a legal independence referendum in Catalonia.

“[Citizens] did not feel that we were also working on the everyday problems of millions of fellow citizens in Spain and Catalonia,” added Iglesias with visible concern.

Learning from 2015

To reverse the party’s downward trend in the polls, Iglesias has appealed to revive the spirit of the 15-M or “Indignados” protest movement, which galvanized millions against austerity and the political elite. “We are the children of 15-M,” said Iglesias. Podemos leaders like Ramón Espinar and Rita Maestre emerged from collectives like Juventud sin Futuro (Youth without a Future), which were very active throughout the 15-M protests.

Broad segments of the popular classes in Catalonia have failed to relate to us this time around

Pablo Iglesias

“We can continue to talk about an enormous social crisis,” said Podemos on the weekend. “We have not been able to stop social issues from disappearing from the agenda of a country with absolutely scandalous levels of inequality, work precariousness and poverty.”

The party’s failure to take a cohesive stance on the question of independence saw it lose significant support as Podemos regional leaders in Catalonia contradicted the national party line. Iglesias hopes to recover from the disappointment by letting its “sister force” Catalunya en Comú (its partner in the region) take center stage in political discussions over Catalan independence.

English version by Susana Urra and Melissa Kitson.

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