Hector Margalef answers questions regarding Spanish political party PODEMOS


Interview conducted by Jaime Ortega.



Héctor Sánchez Margalef

He is a political scientist and expert of Spanish politics. 


1) What does PODEMOS offer to Spain that the PSOE or PPV do not? Why is Pablo Iglesias consider the new hope for Spain’s youth?

It is true that young people in Spain who are not seeing their hopes regarding jobs fulfilled and have been hit hard by the economic crisis have turned to Podemos, but not all think Pablo Iglesias is the new hope for Spain’s youth; the driving feelings are more close to anger, desperation and a wish for a real change than hope.

What Podemos offer is more or less the same that PSOE or PP are now offering. The think is that while Podemos is politically virgin, PSOE and PP have lost their credibility. They have been taking turns in the government since the return of the democracy and can be easily blamed of the problems and of the corruption scandals of Spain. We shall see if Podemos it is indeed different if it comes to power.

2) How did PODEMOS gain so much political terrain in such short 

It is easily explained by an economic crisis that hit Spain very hard and it became a political, social and institutional crisis. The incapacity of the mainstream parties to offer short term solutions to fight back the economic crisis together with the corruption scandals made the way for them.

Podemos’ discourse, simply and plain, can be attractive to people who has suffered the economic crisis with different intensity.

Another thing that should be noted is that a recent poll shows that 45% of people who may would want to vote for Podemos claim that will do so because they have a feeling of disappointment with other parties, including the party they voted the last time. 35% will vote Podemos because they feel it close to their ideology and the 20% left because of the options combined.

So, the explanation should be that they gained political terrain because of an economic crisis that has become social, political and institutional combined with the disillusion with the mainstream parties and the corruption scandals that have hit them.

3) A lot of socialist voters are turning to PODEMOS, does PODEMOS plan to help the working class by heavily taxing the wealthy (Corporations, Monolopolies…)? 

They say so. The idea is not that this will only help the working class but the whole country. We will see…

4) How does PODEMOS plan to keep up with pension plans, employment, and get rid of the Spanish brick bubble that has damage the Spanish economy? 

Theoretically they will do so increasing the income instead of carrying on with the cuts. They pretend to undertake a progressive fiscal reform and fighting fiscal fraud and fiscal evasion.

However, Spain has a structural problem that needs to be addressed. That is that political elites must compromise with the people they represent instead of caring for themselves; many politicians benefited from the brick bubble wasting money that could have been used to other ends.

Spain has a relatively competitive economy which should allow the government to pay pensions, fight unemployment and preventing the creation of another bubble if politicians are honest, do not mismanage resources, EVERYBODY pays its taxes and there is a fair redistribution of resources.

5) According to a lot skeptics in the EU, PODEMOS is not a viable option to rule Spain. Do you agree?

No, Podemos is an option as it may be any party who runs for elections. Spanish citizens will decide who is a viable option to rule Spain regardless the EU.

– President of the ECB, Mario Draghi, IMF president Christine Lagarde, and European Commission president Jean Juncker oppose change in Spain with PODEMOS. Will it affect the relationship with the EU if PODEMOS wins?  

The same happened with Syriza. The European institutions campaigned against them but they won the elections. EU representatives should accept any government democratically elected; despite taht EU “does not like new faces”. In case they were elected, it may not affect the relationship between the EU and Spain beyond disagreements that occur in any relation and negotiation and that includes restructuring the debt or any similar Podemos’ proposal.

– A lot of EURO skeptics have turned against Germany and France for imposing their rule over other countries with less financial power like Spain. Is there a possibility that Spain leaves Euro? 

Absolutely no

6) Will PODEMOS give Catalunya, and the Basque Country leeway to declare independence from Spain following the track of PSOE? 

I do not know, one thing is what you say when you are in the opposition and a very different think is what you say and do when you are in office. What we do know is that in its discourses, Podemos shows a significant component of Spanish patriotism but in his first meeting in Catalunya last December he said he did not want Catalunya to leave Spain but he is willing to listen and allow a referendum so the Catalans decide whether they want to stay in Spain or leave. If it was only to gain support in Catalunya, we cannot tell yet

7) PP and PSOE accuse PODEMOS of lack of preparation. On their view, PODEMOS capability to improve Spanish politics is far from realistic, claiming its not organized well.  What does PODEMOS response about these allegations? 

They respond that they will be better, more democratic and more transparent that either PP or PSEO again from political virginity. In any case, the machinery of the state will continue working so the state will not collapse; and PSOE went through a similar experience when they came to power in 1982.

8) Other critics point out that PODEMOS is a hidden communist ideological party. Has PODEMOS classify itself more towards socialism, communism or neither? If its not communist why do critics compare Pablo Iglesias with Nicolas Maduro from Venezuela, or SYZIRA in Greece?

It is true that Podemos founders come from a communist tradition; however, I would classify them on the eurocommunism which at the same time is not that far from the social democracy of the second half of the XX century. If they have a hidden communist agenda we cannot tell; but it is true that since polls have given them possibilities to enter government, they have moderated themselves claiming they are neither left nor right-wing but a cross-cutting party beyond ideology which pursues to give the Spanish people what have been taken from them. That is public education, public health, pensions, care system, end the corruption, democratize the judiciary system and stop the cuts on public services.

Regarding the second question, first of all, I would not compare Syriza in Greece with Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. With that said, it is true that before founding Podemos, Pablo Iglesias and its fellows showed their sympathies for Venezuela’s regime and they also have advised Bolivarian regimes in the past (Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador). However, they have stopped making references to Venezuela and other Bolivarian regimes claiming that they know that Spain is not Venezuela, softening their messages calling themselves social democrats and taking Syriza as a reference, which, in my opinion, are not communist either despite they come from a communist tradition. If they have changed their references out of convincement or in order to collect more votes I do not know. But I think they know that replicating Venezuela’s regime in Spain is impossible; people would not allow it and their voters will turn their back on them.

9) Will Spain’s and US friendship be put in jeopardy with PODEMOS on power? What does PODEMOS expect from the US in response,  if  PODEMOS wins the elections?

When Jose Luís Rodríguez Zapatero was elected president, the relations with Bush administration were tense and then they returned to normality when Obama was elected president. At the end of the day pragmatism have always prevailed in the US-Spain relations, so Podemos would probably expect the same as any government democratically elected would expect.

10) What would Spain look like in the future with PODEMOS in power, if they indeed win the elections?

This is political fiction and I cannot know. However the situation of Spain in the future will depend very much on the context, especially if the economy starts to recover. Theoretically, elections should be held at the end of the year and much can happen. The tide can turn against Podemos the same it has favored them.

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