Podemos regions seek more autonomy from Madrid

Teresa Rodríguez, newly re-elected general secretary of Podemos in Andalucía. Photo: Europa Press
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• Andalucian leader Rodríguez calls for separate status for regional party
• IU leader Garzón begins push for Unidos Podemos merger into single party

As Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can) heads toward a national party Congress in early-2017, another tug-of-war over the party’s identity has surfaced, this one involving whether the party that erupted in 2014 on Spain’s political scene will be a more centralized, traditional leftwing party controlled from the top down or a more decentralized organisation of semi-autonomous regional affiliate parties, each in control of their own operations and local political strategies.

The Madrid-centric national leadership of Podemos headed by Pablo Iglesias has faced frequent dissent over the past two years from several regions, where party leaders have resigned over dictates handed down by the national party and criticized it for its allegedly authoritarian style of leadership. The most recent case came in the Canary Islands, where half the Podemos leadership in Tenerife resigned due to what they said was the national party’s heavy-handedness in imposing the national Podemos line on the regional section of the party.

Pulling the party further in the centralist direction is the announcement Monday by Alberto Garzón of the farther-left Izquierda Unida coalition (IU, United Left), dominated during its 20-year existence by cadres of the the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), that he would like to see the IU merge with Podemos, creating a united left-wing party out of the Unidos Podemos (United We Can) coalition that ran together in the last general election.

The regions seem to be pulling in another direction, however, with recently re-elected Podemos Andalucía general secretary Teresa Rodríguez calling for greater autonomy for her party, with separate statutes, legal status and operating budget from that of Podemos nationally. More akin to the federal model that groups various regional affiliate parties into Spain’s national Socialist party (PSOE), the call for greater autonomy is now being widely taken up by leaders of Podemos in other regions.

According to Podemos national Organisation Secretary Pablo Echenique, the debate over centralisation versus autonomy will now be a principal point of order on the agenda at the upcoming Podemos national party Congress this winter.

Also on the party Congress agenda will be whether or not Podemos and IU should merge into a single party, as well as the ongoing debate over a less-ideologized “transversal” party philosophy as proposed by the party’s number-two leader Íñigo Errejón versus the more militant, combative left-wing party model proposed by Iglesias — a position more in line with that of Garzón and the IU coalition and one that currently seems to have the upper hand within party discussions at the national level.

► Read More in Spanish at Europa Press and El País …

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