New elections on 26 June raise hopes for an unprecedented political scenario: As Podemos and Izquierda Unida (IU) have reached an agreement, this is the only coalition that could overturn the situation created by the 20 December election. All the polls currently attribute this coalition about 24% of votes – far more than PSOE.
Spain is currently in an unusual situation due to the acute crisis in the political regime that has governed the country since we regained our democracy in 1978. The economic crisis and the neoliberal management approach taken are at the root of this political crisis. It provoked a huge wave of demonstrations which saw the indignados movement take concrete form. This movement expressed the demands for democratic regeneration and the demands of the sectors most affected by the economic crisis. As a reaction to the two-party system that had governed the country (PSOE, social democrats, and PP, conservatives) the people demanded more democracy. The old system unfailingly used the same economic policies, was rife with unbearable levels of corruption and blindly followed all measures imposed by the Troika.
One of the consequences of this crisis of the “78 Political Regime” (the name given to the two-party parliamentary monarchy system and its political architecture created by the 1978 Constitution) is the appearance of two new political parties with different characteristics: Podemos (We Can) and Ciudadanos (Citizens) as representatives of the new policy versus the old regime parties. Podemos represents a progressive regeneration (even if the party doesn’t identify itself as “left”, the people do) and Ciudadanos represents a liberal one.
Since Podemos was created, Izquierda Unida (IU – United Left) has tried to forge an agreement with it with a view to creating political and social convergences to take power off the dominant block. This approach was successful in important cities such as Madrid and Barcelona and regions such as Catalonia and Galicia with remarkable results. IU’s intention was to repeat these coalitions at national level but it was not possible for the 20 December general elections in which IU won very poor numbers due to the electoral law. The party did however achieve great social acceptance, making its leader, Alberto Garzón, the most valued politician in the country.
The elections of 20 December brought about the end of the two-party system and the results were a physical manifestation of the political crisis, making forming a government impossible. During the three months of negotiation, PSOE made an agreement with Ciudadanos in spite of repeated attempts by Podemos and IU to form a progressive government with PSOE. This decision of PSOE, which saw them favor an agreement with the liberals over the left, compounded its turn to the right and made them responsible in the eyes of the people for Spain’s lack of government.
The electoral result made one thing clear: the electoral law rewards joining forces. The sum of Podemos and IU votes in the 20 December elections put them as the second most powerful political force, which, had they stood together, would have given them far more weight to negotiate a progressive government. This is the approach that will now be taken in the lead up to the new elections on 26 June. Podemos and IU bases have both stressed the importance of standing together.
The agreement between Podemos and IU (called Unidos Podemos – Together We Can) has thrown the right and PSOE into chaos as Podemos and IU together is the only coalition that could overturn the situation created by the 20 December election. All the polls currently attribute this coalition about 24% of votes – far more than PSOE.
But even if it is true that a progressive government is possible, there are also a number of risks. The first one being that the segment of the ruling class closest to the social democrats is taking steps to form a grand coalition (PP-PSOE) to block a left government. That is why the Podemos-IU coalition aims to win the elections, to stave off the right. In order to do that, Podemos and IU have agreed a 50-point minimum program (which has been translated by transform!) to end austerity and bring democracy to the country. We are aware how important this coalition is for the rest of the European left. We are conscious that hope can come from the south and that the next battle to end austerity is in Spain, 26 June.
Please find the minimum programme “50 Steps to Govern Together” on the right (pdf).