Sergio Lardón Rusiñol answers questions about PODEMOS political party



Interview conducted by Jaime Ortega.





Sergio Lardón Rusiñol.

Expert professor of Spanish Political science and Law


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?

PODEMOS uses social networks as the main tool to reach their political goals. Thanks to social networks, they can send a message to everyone and it reaches them instantly. They use three tools: Twitter, Appgree and Reddit. Of course they have a Web where you can find any information that you need to know about their structure and funding regarding PODEMOS. Thanks to these tools all citizens independently if he or she support Podemos, can participate in open debates.

PODEMOS is the political force in Spain who uses social media more and better than other parties. Nowadays, Internet is becoming more usual to get information, especially among younger people. Here PODEMOS is present and develop an intensive use of it. In recent months, some leaders of Podemos have been accused of corruption scandals. In every social network PODEMOS gave his supporters arguments to contrast the publications published in newspapers.

PODEMOS represent the fight against inequality that the crisis and austerity measures has generated in Spain. The images of evictions of families with children, the deterioration of public services as the Health System or the citizen who lost their money savings in Bankia after the scandal of “preferentes” is the best oil to boost parties like Podemos. But we can not forget that the origin of PODEMOS is the 15-M (massive protest in Puerta del Sol in Madrid in May 2011). When the 15-M started, they didn´t have a political party who received their support, now with PODEMOS this possibility has become real.

The economic crisis has broken the social contract in the Spanish society. Spanish people feel that they have no future and no jobs, and therefore they could not develop a normal life. This situation provokes frustration and many parts of society are staying outside of the system. Precisely, this layer of society is being mobilized by PODEMOS.
2015 will be a year of rupture in Spain’s political landscape.

The traditional parties who have been ruling Spain during fourty years have lost their power and now should share the power with other formations, not only Podemos could represent the left, but other parties in the right side are growing in the polls as the case of Ciudadanos or UPyD. The last poll of CIS (Sociological Research Centre) show how the younger (-25) don´t support and don´t feel identified with the traditional parties. This tendency is growing and represented a great challenge for PSOE and PP.

Without doubt, Podemos reflect a generational change in Spain. A generation born in a democratic Spain, that didn´t live the transition and neither participated in this political process. Both PP and PSOE have been ruled by the same political and economic elite. The reality is that Spain has changed and a new generation, before or later, will arrive to public institutions. In this sense, in my opinion, the recent abdication of the former king Juan Carlos I is not casual and Felipe VI, independently if you believe in monarchy or not, connects better with this sociological change. In fact, in spite of recent scandals the monarchy is one of the most value political institutions by Spaniards, even Pablo Iglesias has showed his interest to interview the new monarch and exchange points of view.

2) How did PODEMOS gain so much political terrain in such short period of time?

One of the major successes of PODEMOS is the use of political language. For example, in his book “Disputar la Democracia” (Contested Democracy), Pablo Iglesias made some references to the democracy concept, a concept that is accepted as positive and the public opinion consider it as fundamental to defend. So, in this sense, according to Iglesias PODEMOS must show this concept and the public opinion must associate this concept with the position that you are defending. For example, the Health System support by the state is a democratic right, however, the austerity program that damages this system is antidemocratic. I wrote this example, but there are other concepts with similar situation as human rights or empowerment of citizens.

In Europe the political debate has develop about the left and right axis. PODEMOS wants to break it and introduce another axis. The “people” and the “caste”, in other words, the persons who suffer the austerity programs against the persons who have a privilege position and never suffer it. We can take the owns words of Pablo Iglesias (leader of PODEMOS) to understand their position: “The power is not afraid of the left, they’re afraid of the people”.

Normally, the 15-M is established as the turn point of political history of Spain and the roots of Podemos. It is true, but in 2012 there were political election in Galicia, a north region of Spain where for first time was set up a left alternative to PSOE with possibilities to win an election against the Popular Party or Conservatives. Curiously, Pablo Iglesias participated as adviser of this formation and in some declaration he explained that this experience gave him knowledge that yes, an alternative to PSOE is possible.

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…)?

PODEMOS has modified their policies in several occasions including their political and economic programs. When they present their program to European Parliament election, they propose don´t pay part of the public debt or reduce retirement age to 60. However, when the poll were shown it gave them the possibility to gain the election of their message to be moderate and today their political and economic program is like the program of social democratic party, in fact the Nordics countries are in many aspects their reference. PODEMOS argues that the reason of this change is that the program to European Parliament is different regarding the program of national elections.

PODEMOS has proposed their economic program in the documente “Proyecto Económico para la Gente” (An economic project to the people), that was elaborated by two prestigious university teacher, Vicenç Navarro and Juan Torres López. One of the first priorities is to facilitate the funding of the families and small/medium size enterprises, with different tools as ICO (Instituto de Crédito Oficial) with a Public Bank.

One of the most important economic proposals of PODEMOS is the reduction of the workday to 35 hours by week. From his point of view, this measure would suppose a growth of demand in the labor market and could down the rate of unemployment. The critics of this demand defend that this measure is flawed; in fact, this measure was tried in France during the 90´ and didn´t give the resulted expect.

One of the elements, in my opinion that characterize PODEMOS is their revivifications of national-popular interest. In 31 of January, PODEMOS called a great manifestation in Madrid and they labeled as “La marcha por el cambio”. In this meeting, the leaders of PODEMOS alluded concepts as patria (fatherland) or nation. In fact, they made reference to May of 1808 when the people of Madrid initiated an important riot against the Napoleon Army and this historic moment is considered as one of most important in the foundation of modern Spanish nation. In my opinion, it could be counterproductive that PODEMOS, who want to regenerate the political life in Spain, claim a riot that precisely brings to Spain more obscurity and banish any aspiration of freedom and liberty during the XIX century, the riots of May in Madrid, gave them power and supported the absolute monarchy of Fernando VII and definitely led away the liberal ideas and the illustration it represents.

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?

For PODEMOS, the capitalism and Business Company are not necessary caste. They establish clear distinctions. On the one side, the great economic power, represented for example with Santander Bank or entrepreneurs like Florentino Pérez, are caste. Entrepreneurs who obtain substantial economic benefits because they get public contracts, were defined by PODEMOS in this situation as “Capitalismo de amigos” (friendship capitalism). On the other hand, we find the small and medium size enterprises who sustain the system because they pay high tax, meanwhile the other simply don´t pay, according with the PODEMOS vision.

Some economists in Spain estimate that the cost of corruption is approximately €40bn. Both the PSOE (socialist party) and PP (conservative party) have important cases involving corruption. The business association and unions also have corruption scandals. Even the Monarchy or Army, both of the most important and value for Spaniards institution suffer the problem of the corruption. A part of the fact that this landscape fueled the support of PODEMOS, also provides the argument to build one of the most important aspect of their political narrative, the crisis of the regime of 1978 born with the transition from Franco to democratic Spain. They defend that this degradation of public life in Spain is consequence of political and economic failure of this system and the economic crisis have accelerated it. As consequence the consensus that was accepted in 1978 like Monarchy, territorial organization or political style now is not valid, as consequence we need to change everything and give the voice to the Spanish people.

On the other hand, PODEMOS also propose the creation of an especial government agency to haunt the tax fraud. In Spain, the estimation is that approximately a 20-25% is black economy and in addition the company establishes some of their benefits in tax heavens. In PODEMOS opinion, the tax income will improve if the government cope the two situations mentioned before.

The nationalization of some strategic sectors is another measure that PODEMOS contemplate. This option is allowed in the Spanish Constitution and gives to Spanish government the possibility to fix prices, minimum services or expropriate the private property. For example, PODEMOS has announced that if they govern the country the energetic sector will be restructured and will obligate to companies supply energy to the families that nowadays have not the possibility to pay for it.

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

Many specialist critique the economic program of PODEMOS because it supposes an increase of public spending and to funding it, there is only one way, escalation of public debt and more tax to citizens and business. On contrary, it would be necessary to low tax and reduce the public debt and focus our effort in reduce our bureaucracy and improve the facilities to do business in Spain.

Other of the measures of PODEMOS is the debt auditing removing the part that will be illegitimate. However, this plan crashes with a practical problems. When Spain issue debt, the persons or companies that buy this debt don´t know if their money will spend in building a hospital or fuel political corruption. So, how will PODEMOS establish the difference? It is technically difficult what creditors have the illegitimate debt and who don‘t. In any case, nowadays a majority of economist believe that is necessary to establish a new vision regarding the debt in south of European countries. Authors with a great prestige as Kenneth Rogoff or media as Financial Time defend the better option assuming that this debt is unaffordable, and as consequence a part of this debt must be forgotten.

– 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?

For PODEMOS the austerity policy must end. They propose that the European Investment Bank become the tool to develop a great public inversion in infrastructures to boost the European economy.

PODEMOS defend the modification of the European Central Bank as prerequisite to overcome the economic crises. The ECB must include in its statutes the goal of full employment and achieve the social welfare. In this sense, the ECB must buy, without any kind of restriction, public debt of European countries like the United Kingdom and United States did.
One of the central issues of the political discourse of PODEMOS is the article 135 of the Spanish Constitution, a reform imposed from Berlin and Brussels. In the article, it stays fixed that the pay of Spanish debt has priority regarding the social welfare. PODEMOS aim to derogate this article and give priority to social welfare. However, the critics believe that the public debt does not belong to an abstract entity as one state, but belong to Spanish citizens and who must be paying it. As a consequence, we must impose a debt limit to not damage the Spanish economy.

Recently has been discovered the name Luxleaks, where we discover like a country of the European Union as Luxembourg and his administration negotiated with multinational companies a tax heaven for them. PODEMOS criticized this reality and defends the necessity of establish a European common system to avoid the heaven tax countries, because it undermine the cohesion of European Union.

PODEMOS have their political fate linked with Syriza, for better or worse. If the Government of Tsipras cope the pressure of Berlin and Brussels and achieve the success in their political confrontation, PODEMOS will be perceived like a valid and trusted political option. In fact, from mass media who give support to PP and the own Spanish Government have defended that there is no option for Greece, like there is in Spain. If finally the Spaniards discover that yes, there is a more important an different way to deal with the economic policy, Rajoy has an important problem in his hands.
Some newspapers have published that the Troika want to have a strong position regarding the demands of the new government of Athens because they understand that to stop Syriza also could potentially stop PODEMOS in Spain, and they need to act to that, because Spain is too important to the Eurozone that one fail in Spain could provoke a collapse of the entire European system.

– 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?

Definitely not, too expensive and risky to the Eurozone and European Union, if you take in consideration the importance and seize of Spanish economy and the domino effect that could generate if Spain leaves Euro, especially regarding France or Italy.

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

The Basque Country has a special fiscal treatment. In 2012 the goal of Artur Mas (the head of Catalonian Government, the Generalitat), was to get the same special treatment for Catalonia, however the central government in Madrid reject this idea and as consequence the parties in Catalonia decided to take the way of independence. In any case, what happen in Catalonia could happen in the Basque Country but for now, the independence of Baste Country or its vindication is not part of a political agenda in Spain, at least in short term.

PODEMOS in Catalonia has a political speech which confronts the regeneration speech of PODEMOS. The independency generates in Catalonia a feeling of illusion. In the rest of the country PP and PSOE don´t provoke a positive response to help Spain‘s future. In Catalonia, the independence is viewed as a possibility to build up a new country, a better country. Taking in consideration the polls, PODEMOS in Catalonia would be the three or four political parties in an electoral process, but a party with a paper hinge.

In any case, PODEMOS defend the right of Catalonian people to decide their future, in other words, they accept the principle of auto-determination. However, this position is not clear because obviously if they defend openly the right of Catalonian people to decide their political future they will suffer a decline in polls. PODEMOS try to solve this problem with the idea that Spain need a new “Proceso Constituyente” meaning a complete revision of Constitutional Law, but in my opinion this solution won’t fix the problem, if Catalonia decide finally leave Spain, what will PODEMOS do? The response or perception could determinate the vote of many Spaniards.

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?

One of the most important handicaps of PODEMOS is appear to public opinion as a political force who could govern the country in an efficient way. PODEMOS need that the citizens in Spain imagine Pablo Iglesias in a meeting in Brussels as Prime Minister and defending the Spanish interest. In this sense the image of Pablo Iglesias is credible negotiating with Angela Merkel, if Podemos can transmit that they are a valid option, a serious option, then PODEMOS could win the next elections.

PODEMOS is a transversal party. Here reside one of their strongest points, they need to obtain support of all segments of society. Without doubt, it is a strength and a prerequisite to gain a general election in Spain, but also it could become a weakness because cit ould generate internal contradictions and a lack of cohesion in their political project.

An important problem of PODEMOS is that their support rest in urban areas, but lack structure in rural areas. For now, this problem is due because the party does not sufficient structure in all parts of the territory, we can not forget that this is a party with just one year of experience. Probably, we will see this problem reflect in the next election in March 22 in Andalucia, a vast region of Spain with an important vote from rural areas, and PODEMOS had not time to gain, step by step these potential voters.

The big coalition between PP and PSOE is not probable, but not completely rejected. Some business association and important political and social figures in Spain have shown their support to this idea, especially if PODEMOS become the winner in the next election. I think that this scenario is possible only if PODEMOS could become a real option, but a grand coalition follows the German model and will be probably the electoral and political destruction of PSOE, as their voters never forget it and will be the next PASOK.

It is true that PODEMOS has a lot of merits and they count with excellent strategist. But also is true that without the electoral and political dissolution of the PSOE the ascension of PODEMOS would be impossible. The economic crisis simply has destroyed the socialist party in Spain and it is difficult to know if this party will be recovering to its former position. In my opinion, the consequences of economic crisis only have accelerated this process because the socialist party has already shown an internal crisis. The true is that the present socialist party is unable to present a credible project to Spanish society and a credible project of Spain as country. Nowadays, the PSOE seem to become the regional party of the south and poorest part of Spain, specifically Andalucia, and the support will be limited to this region.

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?

There are several elements that allow us to link PODEMOS will adopt some strategies used in Latin-American countries, mainly in Venezuela. In first place comes the CEPS Foundation, where the more important leaders of PODEMOS are member of this foundation. CEPS received between 2002 and 2012 3.7 millions of euros in political and economic advisory.

Especially relevant is the role of Juan Carlos Monedero, number three of PODEMOS and was personal adviser of former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. In fact, Monedero participated in the redaction of current Constitution of Venezuela. Even other members of Podemos and regional leaders such as Luis Alegre (Madrid) or Gemma Ubassar also have collaborated with countries as Venezuela, Ecuador or Bolivia.

We must detail that these people mentioned are social scientist and it is normal that they give support and advise to other countries, especially countries from Latin-America, a region with strong ties with Spain. There are also more examples of collaboration between other social scientist from Spain who give advice to other countries, these might not precisely be leftist governments otherwise the opposition parties will try to gain the power.

More than the international ties between PODEMOS and Latin-American governments, from my point of view, there is other question that could damage the public opinion of PODEMOS. It is their connection with ETA or Batasuna, the basque terrorist group. I think that this link simply is not true and the accusation have no kind of foundation. However, the Spanish public opinion has suffered from ETA. This strategy is not new, when the 15-M surge, some political and media sector accused this movement that received support from Batasuna and ETA or recently, in the city of Burgos, had developed a strong movement against some decision of the authorities that some members of the Spanish government defined the protest. In some cases violent protest as terrorism act linked with ETA.

In this sense, other interesting questions is the relation of PODEMOS with Iran. Pablo Iglesias develop a program of political debate named “Fort Apache” which is broadcast in Hispan TV, the Spanish language TV of Teheran. As consequence, Pablo Iglesias, for representing PODEMOS, was accused of receiving funding from Iran. In response, Iglesias argued that this program, Fort Apache, sold by a Spanish tv producer independent of Iglesias, to Hispan TV.

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

Only NATO has been mentioned by PODEMOS in their political program. In the manifesto “Mover Ficha” (Move Piece), in the foundational manifesto of PODEMOS, we found that this party proposes the exit of Spain from NATO alliance with a referendum. Traditionally, the left parties in Spain have a critical view regarding the NATO.

A government with PODEMOS could crash with United States of America in several areas. The first, already mentioned, is NATO. The foreign policy of Washington in Latin America, specially the cases of Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela or Cuba would be another area of possible confrontation. However, there is not an inherent confrontation, with the recent rapprochement of Cuba-USA relation not understood by conservative forces in Spain. Until now, one of the criticisms about PODEMOS was precisely the idea of this new party to build another kind of relation between EU and Cuba.

The Middle East is another issue where a possible government of PODEMOS could crash with USA. In this sense, we could highlight the support of PODEMOS regarding Palestinian cause against Israel. However, this position is not new in Spain’s political landscape because traditionally, the left in Spain advocates to the creation of Palestinian State, which is lighter than on 1986 Spain not establish a normal diplomatic relation with Israel. Nowadays we are living tension in Ukraine, between Russia and United Stated and European Union on the other side. PODEMOS, does not specify very closely their foreign policy, but in this case probably adopt a posture of dialogue and understand Russia. PODEMOS wants to build a trustful relation between European Union and Russia because both international actors share common geopolitical and economic interest.

At the present, EU and United States are developing negotiation for the creation of a common free trade area; this possible agreement is label as TTIP. PODEMOS is contrary to this agreement because the sign of this treaty would be a disaster to industry and economy of European Union and for Spain. The confrontation with TTIP is not only with United States also reaching the European Institutions. The GUE/NGL group in European Parliament, the five MEP´s of Podemos belong this group, and disagree with the idea of TTIP.

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

Without doubt, PODEMOS scare the political elite who is ruling Spain since the death of Franco. If Podemos win and conquer the power the reasons are obvious, but if the finally fail, PODEMOS will be an important wake-up call. In fact, just days after the election of 25 May to European Parliament, the government of Mariano Rajoy launched an economic package to fight the rate of unemployment among the younger.

The Spaniards are aware that voting PODEMOS won’t solve the problems of the country in a few months. The unemployment rates will not descent from 25% to 5% with the magic prescription of PODEMOS. But they aspire to get the country back on its foot. A country without evictions, without corruption, a country with decent political leaders. For them, PODEMOS could represent the opportunity to regenerate the political system.

The majority of experts coincide that the Spanish economy is recovering, and during 2015 the growth could achieve progress up too 3%. This will be more employment and the economic situation would improve. It is obvious that one of the main reasons to break forth is the economic crisis. The important question is to know is this recuperation will be sufficient to government. It seems, that the Popular Party bases for his political fight to send two essential messages to public opinion. One, the economic crisis is past, and second, PODEMOS is a menace to economic recuperation, so you should vote for us, lest you desire chaos to come to Spain.

PODEMOS defend the necessity of expansive policies with the goal to reactivate the economy and from this posit start to decrease the unemployed helping business improve, so the economy will enter in a virtuous cycle and Europe will be competitive and afford the debt problem in a better situation.

PODEMOS believe that Spain needs to change its economic model. The last economic development was based in two main pillars. On one side, the easy credit to families and companies. On the other side, a housing bubble that finally burst in 2008. PODEMOS defend the necessity to change the model to another base and add value and high quality, but in this sense nobody could counter it, and this position is shared with every political party in Spain.

In my opinion, in case to obtain the power PODEMOS will cope with three main problems or spaces where they will find opposition. The first is the international institution like European Union or International Monetary Fund who believe that austerity and freedom market, without any kind of state control, are the key to a healthy economy. The second, PODEMOS will suffer a strong internal media campaign, confrontation with the most important companies in Spain (who already show their preoccupation with PODEMOS) and an important part of Spanish citizens, in this sense we should remember that the recent polls show that a growth among the people who say they will never vote for PODEMOS. In the last, but not least important, the own structure of state. Spain has an important number of public civil servants who rule the state, PODMOS could find that these people don´t support or not agree with them, and PODEMOS can´t change them. PODEMOS will need the support of the high rank official of public administration because without them, to implement the political program is impossible.

PODEMOS has launched a goal maybe too high. PODEMOS must obtain the victory in 2015 because if they don´t get the disillusionment and frustration could provoke the disappearance of this newer political party and other parties as PSOE and IU with a solid national and regional structures could recover their lost votes again.


What Next?

Recent Articles