In the midst of a cold snap, the 27% increase in the price of (private) electricity in Spain made the radical left party, Podemos, jump. Its spokesperson in the Congress of Deputies even criticized the government. A reaction that would not be abnormal if this political formation were in opposition.
But Podemos has been in the government coalition with the Socialist Party for a year now. This episode illustrates how difficult it is to exist within this executive in which tensions between ministers of the two parties have often come to light in recent months.
A strategy complicated by the Covid
“Podemos occupies ministries which are not sovereign, its members cannot therefore shine by their management”, explains Fernando Vallespin, professor of political science at the Autonomous University of Madrid. The economy, finance, interior, defense and justice are held by the socialists while Podemos inherited the ministries of universities, consumption, equality and labor.
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The pandemic since March 2020 has also complicated its strategy, the ministries managing the Covid-19 crisis all or almost all in the hands of the socialists. “Without the coronavirus and the economic crisis, things would be different. Suddenly to exist, Podemos must play on communication, show its differences with the Socialists and ensure that their party would go further in the decisions “, explains Pablo Simon, professor of political science of Carlos III.
The party of the radical left is therefore focusing on debates on feminism and their anti-monarchical position, taking advantage of the revelations in the scandal which splashes the former king Juan Carlos. « On the question of the monarchy, Podemos does not have the same position as the socialists, but this debate does not go beyond the symbolic threshold because changing the system does not depend on them alone ”, Pablo Simon recalls.
A mixed record
On the economic front, Podemos multiplies the differences with the socialists in government. He failed to secure another increase in the inter-professional minimum wage or reverse the increase in the price of electricity. « The Podemos program is difficult to apply. To finance the Spanish economy, as this party wishes, we would need to have a very competitive economy with a lot of tax revenue and this is not the case ”, explains Fernando Vallespin. The only minister to do well is that of labor. Member of the Communist Party, she manages for the moment successfully the agreements on short-time working since the beginning of the health crisis.
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Political scientist Pablo Simon considers a “Capital error” of Podemos for placing all its heavyweights in the ministries, starting with Pablo Iglesias, vice-president: « They put all their eggs in one basket ”. But nice political moves are also possible, recalls Fernando Vallespin: « Pablo Iglesias has been able to forge an alliance with separatist parties to ensure a parliamentary majority for the 2021 budget, he can strengthen his presence by ensuring that it is, in part, thanks to him ».
For Stéphane Grueso, activist of the Mouvement des Indignés du 15-M (May 15), the results are mixed and the pill is sometimes difficult to swallow: “It has been a year since Podemos has been in power and they still have not broken the law on right-wing labor reform and the law on security. Which is difficult to understand, but I wonder how much influence they can have. I am both frustrated but I tell myself that in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis, this government of the left is better than the right ”.