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Podemos’ Pablo Iglesias calls leadership vote in response to country house scandal

The anti-austerity leader looks for revalidation after being criticized for buying a €600,000 home outside of Madrid

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Irene Montero and Pablo Iglesias, during a congressional meeting.

The leader of the left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, has called a referendum on whether he and his partner, Podemos spokesperson Irene Montero, should remain in their roles, after the couple received fierce criticism for buying a €600,000-country house in Galapagar, a town northwest of Madrid.

If they tell us we have to resign, we will resign

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias

The leaders said on Saturday that the aim of the vote was to address concerns that their move to request a €540,000 mortgage on a 2,500-square-meter property with a swimming pool showed they lacked “credibility,” “honesty” and “consistency.” “If they tell us we have to resign, we will resign,” said Iglesias. “When one’s credibility is questioned, one cannot hide. You have to face up to it. It’s up to Podemos registered voters to decide if we are still worthy to continue in the responsibilities we have or if we must resign.”

Podemos registered voters will be asked, “Do you think that Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero should continue as the general secretary and parliamentary spokesperson of Podemos?” and can answer either “yes” or “no, they should resign as general secretary and parliamentary spokesperson and give up their seats as deputies.”

The vote will open on Tuesday at 5pm and close on Sunday at 2pm. The results will be announced on Monday, May 28.

Podemos has half a million registered voters, many of whom were angered by the couple’s decision to purchase the large country house, which will require monthly mortgage repayments of €1,600.

The results of the vote will be announced on Monday, May 28

“We know that many Spanish families, including those with two salaries, can’t allow themselves a mortgage like this,” said Montero after the scandal broke. “That is why we understand it to be so important to defend dignified salaries for all men and women.”

The couple currently rent a property in the Madrid suburb of Rivas-Vaciamadrid and decided to move as Montero is pregnant with twins and set to give birth after the summer.

“Iglesias and I have spent time working on a family project and part of that consists of seeking a house,” said Montero. “We wanted to go and live in the country, with the salaries that we have we considered it and we have given all the relevant explanations.”

But many have called out Iglesias for being hypocritical, with Twitter users digging up an old tweet from his account from August 2012 where he criticized Luis de Guindos, the former economy minister, for buying a luxury penthouse for €600,000.

It’s not about voting for poverty or living in caves, it is about being consistent

Social justice organization Coordinadora 25S

Another clip of Iglesias in 2015 criticizing politicians who “go to live in houses and isolate themselves” has also resurfaced on social networks.

Iglesias however, said he has been surprised by the backlash. “I did not think this was going to cause the debate or news of this scale,” he said on Saturday.

Within Podemos, there are concerns the purchase of the spacious house will damage their reputation as a party of the people. But so far, Podemos mayor of Cádiz José María González, has been the only party leader to publicly criticize the leaders.

“I don’t want to stop living in my worker’s flat,” he said, adding that he did not want “to live like them [the elite],” but rather “to be like the people who elected us and to who we will continue to be loyal to.”

The social justice organization Coordinadora 25S also criticized Iglesias for falling out of touch with his roots. In a message on social media, it posted: “It’s not about voting for poverty or living in caves, it is about being consistent.”

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