The Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, declared in 2015, when he was a candidate of IU to the presidency of the Government: “Podemos says that they are neither on the left nor on the right. We are on the left ”. Garzón is today one of the ministers of Pablo Iglesias’ quota in the Coalition Executive and the man who led, with his refusal to stand in the Madrid elections, the departure of the second vice president of La Moncloa. That same year, Albert Rivera, then the leader of Ciudadanos, insisted: “We are neither red nor blue.”
Podemos and Ciudadanos were born to break the bipartisanship, and both were associated with it. Their respective leaders were one day the most valued. One came to surpass the PSOE in voting intention and another, the PP. Today, both groups – Citizens from a much worse position – are immersed in passing the litmus test of the new parties: surviving their founder. Leaders and ex-leaders of both formations analyze their trajectory and perspectives; the similarities and differences between them and in what or how little they resemble those two parties that broke the Spanish political board a little over five years ago.
The end of an era. “Ciudadanos is mortally wounded”, affirms Toni Cantó, who has just left their ranks, like 14 other positions of Cs. “After the Catalans we were wounded, like the PP, but in a week we are politically dead and the PP has caught air due to a decision by Pepe Gotera and Otilio,” he adds, alluding to the failed motion of censure in Murcia that gave to Isabel Díaz Ayuso the excuse to advance the elections in Madrid. The economist Toni Roldán, who left the party in 2019, believes that “the risk of disappearance exists”, as well as “the space for voters who do not identify with an ultrapolarized scenario.” “The Murcia operation was due to an attempt to turn to the center, but the execution could not have been more disastrous,” he says. For Francisco Igea, vice president of Castilla y León, “it is the worst moment of Cs”. “No party has a future if it is not perceived as useful, and that begins by not creating problems. The Cs voter is very puzzled, “he adds.
Juan Carlos Monedero, co-founder of Podemos, warns: “Neither Pablo [Iglesias] Not even Yolanda is leaving [Díaz] She is less stubborn than Pablo ”. And he adds: “Pablo returns to a politics that is much more like what we were when we were born than what we have done lately.” Monedero reasons what has happened to Podemos: “A lot of energy has been spent in the Government and the party has been neglected and that has taken its toll on us. [las elecciones de] Galicia or Euskadi. Podemos is now more mature, but has lost the ability to surprise. At first it was falling in love, and that happens. It must be transformed into respect and trust. We want to bring down this predatory model from the cracks of the system and for that we have to have one foot in the institutions and the other in the street ”.
For Ramón Espinar, who left Podemos in January 2019, “Pablo is like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, he has the ability to make everyone dance in the direction he wants”. “Now”, he says, “he has created the epic of the battle against Ayuso, getting rid of that image of the Galapagar villa and the politician who is involved in this for the charges.” And he adds: “Citizens have been killed in Murcia, it is impossible to refloat that ship, and in Podemos I believe that a complex scenario opens up, to grow or to occupy the role of IU”.
The origins: more anger than ideology. Political scientist Pablo Simón recalls that both parties emerged “in the heat of a huge crisis of representation derived from the economic crisis and corruption.” “In origin”, abounds Igea, from Cs, “we had in common with Podemos citizen disaffection and even a very similar spectrum of voters: younger people, with university education”. “A tailwind was pushing us, people’s fed up with corruption and nationalism,” he adds; “And when we were sailing at such speed we thought we were very good rowers, when we were not rowing, they would push us.”
From 15-M to Vox. For Xulio Ferreiro, former mayor of A Coruña, Podemos and las Mareas drank from 15-M, “attracting to politics many people who felt excluded and capitalizing on discontent.” The demoscopy confirms it: 23.5% of those who had not voted in 2011 indicated their intention to vote for Podemos in January 2015, according to Metroscopia. “Later”, continues Ferreiro, “that spirit was abandoned to enter more classic party models and now it is Vox who makes it profitable. I don’t think more than a million people miss Franco. I believe that the growth of Vox is due to this discontent and it is not fought by saying I am more anti-fascist than anyone, but by providing solutions to people’s real problems ”.
The evolution. Circles and pacts. The best moment for Podemos was in the 2015 elections: 5,189,333 votes. For Cs, April 2019, when he achieved 4,136,600, recalls José Pablo Ferrándiz, Metroscopia researcher and author of The decade of great change (New library). Both coincide in their worst mark, the general ones of December 2019, in which the former lost two million supports compared to their best result, and the latter, two and a half million. At first, explains Ferrándiz, “Podemos monopolized the discontent. Their transversality was such that they were the first option among those who were positioned at 5 on the scale from 0 to 10: extreme left-extreme right. Today its voters place themselves at 3. Afterwards, Cs made the national leap and the angry electorate was divided between the two emergent ones. As of February 2015, the four-party system begins: four formations above 10% of the estimated votes without any reaching 30% ”.
“When I entered the party,” recalls Roldán, “the focus was on the programs. Now it seems the least interesting ”. And he explains: “It was not a sectarian formation, which was directed only to the middle, but Rivera saw the possibility of being president and changed his strategy: it was no longer a hinge party, he wanted to be the leader of the right. In the pacts, already always with the blue ones, tons of influence are sacrificed. In Andalusia regeneration was chosen, but not in Madrid and Murcia ”. For Igea, “the most serious political error since the Transition was not to agree with the PSOE when they added 180 deputies.”
Espinar points out that “in its first phase, until 2017, Podemos wanted to be a popular force.” “It is not, like Ciudadanos, an artificial product created by elites who then tire of their toy. Later, Pablo decides that it is a left-wing party, we lose transversality, the 15-M cycle ends and, upon entering the Government, Podemos ceases to be a subject of social change, ”he points out. And then the circles fade, those citizen assemblies that Podemos still defines on its website as “the pillar on which its deployment rests.”
Hyperliderazgos. In November 2014, Iglesias was the only political figure who did not fail in valuation, according to Metroscopia data. In 2015, the only leader to obtain a positive balance (the difference between those who approve and disapprove, in this case, 5 points) was Albert Rivera. Iglesias is now the second worst-rated leader (2.9), just three tenths above Santiago Abascal, according to the CIS. When Rivera resigned, in November 2019, his grade was 3.1.
“We can”, says Simón, “is so church-centric as Cs has been riverside”. “What differentiates them is that today Inés Arrimadas does not control her party because, while Podemos is in the Government, in Cs it is its barons who have the most power, because they are regional vice presidents and she is the leader of a group of nine deputies who neither it is even essential for alliances in Congress ”.
Igea points out hyper-leadership as one of the coincidences with Podemos. “Caesarism is the very serious error of Spanish politics. It makes the parties smaller and the more you favor flattery, the more the one in charge makes mistakes, ”he says. Cantó assures that he found out from the press about the motion in Murcia. “Instead of fighting the problems of Spain, Cs became a paranoid party obsessed with fighting the power of what they call barons.” The former deputy, who claims to have had offers “from various parties”, blames Arrimadas. Roldán, to Rivera: “He did not look for the most competent, but those who caused the least problems, but those people leave you when you stop doing well.”
Fights, escapes and splits. All those consulted point to “internal fights” as one of the problems that has penalized them the most. “They were very supported by the media, but they are still their own problem,” says Monedero, who left the executive in 2015 “due to tensions with colleagues” such as Iñigo Errejón, who left the party four years later. Ferreiro agrees: “We said we wanted to talk about people’s problems, but we spent the day arguing among ourselves.” Monedero admits that the pending issue is territorial implementation. Disputes spread everywhere. For Espinar, “there was a moment in which the leadership of Iglesias was a lever for transformation of the country, and another in which it became a plug, expelling all the critics in one way or another.”
While Podemos was linked to territorial organizations to grow, when Cs makes the national leap, it recruits leaders of other parties, recalls Simón. “That little loyalty of origin, those cadres so little amalgamated, is what ends up evicting them,” he says. Roldán agrees: “In parties where the level of support is low, the risk of transgression is higher, and even more so if ideological involvement is minimal.”
“Right away you are a traitor or a coward,” laments Igea. “I have been told so many times that ‘if you don’t like it, go away’… In every game there are people with a knife in their hand, but you have to know how to wait, resist. If not, in each crisis we lose 27 ”, argues the Castilian-Leon vice president.
Epilogue. “The bipartisanship is not going to return,” Iglesias said in the video in which he appointed Yolanda Díaz as electoral leader, something on which she has not yet spoken. For Monedero, there is no going back either: “Spain is no longer the same and needs different forces. Pablo’s decision shows that Podemos has a bench and that he is feminine and feminist ”.
Inés Arrimadas tries to refloat her boat: “Spain needs this project”. For Igea, who faced her over the leadership of Cs, her decision to open the executive “will allow better decisions to be made.” And he bets: “I think we are going to survive, but it will be complicated, like the electoral process in Madrid. It is much easier to wave a flag than an idea, but you have to try to rise up, not die of anxiety and explain well what you want to do ”. Roldán, who attributes the current crisis “to tacticism and urgency,” insists on the concept of a “pragmatic party, which does not want to win the elections, but rather to be useful.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.