Tensions persist despite deal uniting Spain’s hard left – Times of India

MADRID: Spain’s hard left may have agreed to join forces to contest July’s snap election but tensions remain high between Podemos and the leftist alliance Sumar, which could prove costly at the ballot box.
“Spain wanted us to join hands and we have done that,” Sumar’s head Yolanda Diaz, who is also labour minister, said at the weekend after brokering a deal bringing together some 15 political groupings to the left of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez‘s governing Socialists.
The last-minute deal, which seeks to head off a fractured vote, was hailed as “a demonstration of responsibility” by Sanchez, whose re-election hopes depend on the support of the hard left.
He announced the election on May 29 a day after his Socialists and Podemos, their hard-left coalition partner, suffered a drubbing in local and regional contests, bringing forward a vote widely expected at the year’s end.
Getting Podemos on board, until now the main hard-left party, was key — but the discussions lasted weeks and were not easy.
“For the left, that agreement is a relief,” said Paloma Roman, a political scientist at Madrid’s Complutense University, who recalled the “disastrous results” chalked up by the hard left during the May 28 elections.
“They can aspire to something better” on July 23, she told AFP.
Polls have long tipped the right-wing Popular Party (PP) to win next month’s vote.
But without a majority, the PP would be forced to rely on the far-right Vox to govern, offering a glimmer of hope for the left.
With the hard left now united, Sanchez’s Socialists could reassemble a minority government that could rule with the backing of several regional parties.
Far from laying their differences to rest, Friday’s agreement has highlighted some major tensions.
The main sticking point was Sumar’s insistence on not including Irene Montero, Podemos’ best-known face and Spain’s outspoken equality minister, on the grounds that she was too divisive a political figure.
A hardliner who has often courted controversy, Montero is paying the price for the backlash over her flagship rape law, which included a loophole that let more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders secure a reduction in their sentences.
Her exclusion from the Sumar list “is a huge mistake” that sends “a terrible message”, said Podemos co-founder Pablo Iglesias, a former deputy prime minister who is Montero’s partner and remains very influential within the party.
“It could cause a lot of electoral harm to a political space which is essential for stopping the PP from governing with Vox,” Iglesias said Monday, urging Sumar to reconsider ahead of a June 19 deadline for naming candidates.
Montero has been “sold down the river for a promise of salvation which won’t happen”, said Gabriel Rufian of the left-wing Catalan separatist ERC party, which has regularly offered parliamentary support to Sanchez’s minority government.
Asked about the possibility of lifting the veto on Montero, Diaz said little on Monday, saying what Spaniards want “is for us to provide solutions to their problems, and I don’t think the rest is of much interest to them”.
For Roman, the fragile unity deal inked on Friday could have “a very high” cost because it ultimately hammered home the image of “division” that had so damaged Sanchez’s left-wing coalition.
By washing its dirty linen in public, the hard left had given the impression it was more interested in “fighting for positions” and egos rather than for its political ideas, she said.
“And in politics, you are held accountable,” she said, indicating that Podemos stood to lose the most.
Podemos emerged out of the anti-austerity “Indignados” protest movement and by 2015, it was Spain’s third-largest political force, entering government with the Socialists five years later.
Since then, its appeal has been diminished by a string of disputes and controversies, with its support collapsing in the May 28 elections.
And now its future appears to be in question given its limited standing within Sumar.
“Gradually the links between Podemos and civil society organisations have become fewer and the result is that Podemos has become closed around itself,” wrote Lasse Thomassen, a political scientist at London’s Queen Mary University.
And the Spanish left must take this into account if it wants to stay in power, he wrote in a blog for the London School of Economics (LSE).
“The future of his government depends on whether the parties to the left of the Socialists have learned from the mistakes of Podemos.”

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