How economic despair pushed Spain to embrace a new party

June 16th, 2014 in News

perezSofia Perez, Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston University and a member of the Center for the Study of Europe’s Executive Board, contributed an article last week to the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog. This blog is generally considered the leading source of bringing political science analysis to a wider audience. Perez discusses the sudden rise of Spain’s anti-austerity “Podemos” party and their increasing influence in Spanish politics.

Events over the last few weeks in Spain have surprised many observers. A new party – Podemos  (“We can”) – got an unexpectedly high vote in elections to the European Parliament. This has shaken up the party system, long dominated by two large national parties (the Socialist PSOE and the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP)) along with a number of established local nationalist parties important in Catalonia and elsewhere.

The elections were a debacle for the PSOE and PP, which experienced large losses in their vote shares from past elections (both European and national).  Podemos, a party founded just four months before the election, garnered an astonishing 8 percent of the national vote, while several other smaller parties (in particular the United Left (Izquierda Unida) to the left of the PSOE) also increased their vote. The election was also a landmark within Catalonia, where Esquerra Republicana (the Catalan Republican Left) for the first time beat its coalition partner in the regional government, the center-right Catalan nationalist coalition CiU.

There is now an intense debate going on about the “Podemos” phenomenon. Should Podemos be seen as a “populist” party  (as critics have labeled it);  is it a party of economically disenfranchised youth pitted against a privileged older generation; a formation of opportunist political entrepreneurs capitalizing on the discontent caused by the economic crisis that offers no real alternative; or a legitimate “citizens defense platform” trying to put a stop to the economic hardship imposed in Spain through austerity measures demanded by Brussels and Berlin?

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