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Spain's indignados could rule Barcelona and Madrid after local election success
Spain's indignados made the move from city squares to the halls of power on Sunday in municipal and regional elections that saw an anti-poverty activist elected as mayor of Barcelona and the ruling People's party battered at the ballot box.
Ada Colau, the 41-year-old anti-eviction activist who leads Barcelona En Comú, was elected mayor of the Catalan city. "It's a victory for David over Goliath," said Colau as news broke of the historical win.
A grassroots movement of several leftist political parties, including Podemos, and thousands of citizens, Barcelona En Comú vowed to return decision-making in the city to the people, promising to do away with home evictions, increase public housing and redistribute the city's wealth. Colau's party won 11 of the 41 seatson the city council, meaning that she will need to form alliances in order to govern.
In Madrid, the People's party is not certain of hanging on to power in a city where it has dominated for two decades.
The PP candidate, Esperanza Aguirre, 63, who is a countess by marriage, squeaked ahead in Sunday's vote, winning 21 council seats in the city.
Aguirre is seen as a hard case but she got a run for her money from "indignada" candidate Manuela Carmena, whose Podemos-backed coalition Ahora Madrid came a close second.
The 71-year-old former judge and communist was enjoying her retirement last year when friends asked her to run for mayor of Madrid. She could now wrestle power from the PP if her party were to form an alliance with the Socialists. "The vote for change has won a majority," she said.
The strong showing of the leftist coalitions in Madrid and Barcelona suggest that the agendas of Spain's two largest cities will be driven by the priorities of anti-establishment parties with roots in Spain's indignado movement.
With general elections due by the end of the year, Sunday's elections in 13 regions and more than 8,100 municipalities were widely seen as a chance to test the mood of Spanish voters. The message that emerged was clear, with Spaniards voting to end the two-party dominance that has characterised Spanish politics since the death of Franco. With 90% of the vote counted in Sunday's elections, the PP and the Socialists had taken 52% of the nationwide vote, a significant drop from the 65% the two mainstream parties earned in elections four years ago.
While the PP was the most voted party in nine regions, it failed to obtain any absolute regional majorities. Many voters, unconvinced of the party's message of an economic rebound and fed up of austerity, sky high unemployment and a constant barrage of corruption scandals, turned instead to anti-austerity party Podemos and centre-right Ciudadanos.
The national newcomers came in third or fourth place across most regions, suggesting they will hold the balance of power in many regional governments. "We would have liked the decline of the old parties to have been quicker," said Podemos' Pablo Iglesias. "But circumstances compel us to keep working on it."
As Spanish politics widens into a four-way race, the shifting landscape means coalitions and compromises between parties will be necessary to govern. The process will get underway in the coming weeks, and negotiations could be months in the making. In Andalusia, where a minority government was elected into power two months ago, political paralysis has ensued, with Socialist leader Susana Díaz failing three times so far to obtain the majority vote needed to form a government.
[Source: By Ashifa Kassam, Madrid, The Guardian, London, 25May15]
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