Podemos leaders agree to disagree, again and again

Podemos leaders Íñigo Errejón (left) and Pablo Iglesias seated in Congress. Photo: JM Prats / El Periódico
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• Iglesias, Errejón engaged in running verbal battle over direction of party
• At stake is move farther left or towards disaffected Socialist centre-left voters

The top two leaders of anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can) are at it again, with Pablo Iglesias and Íñigo Errejón engaged in a running verbal battle as part of an apparently ongoing agreement to openly disagree over the direction of the party in advance of the Podemos party Congress that will decide the issue and the party leadership early next year.

The latest round began when Errejón vehemently rejected the notion that Podemos should move farther to the left through a merger with its electoral alliance partner Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left), a coalition dominated by most of its history by the Spanish Communist Party (PCE). That statement prompted Iglesias to fire back that Podemos needed to firmly establish itself as the champion of the working classes and that Errejón needed to drop his insistence that the party should remain open to incorporating a broader swath of the electorate, including professionals and middle-class voters disaffected with the Socialist party (PSOE).

When Errejón defended his position with an opinion piece in the daily newspaper 20minutos titled Podemos ganar (‘We Can Win’), then disseminated a link to the article via social media, Iglesias chided him via Twitter that he should spend less time “propagandising” with his reflections about the future of the party on social media. Undaunted, Errejón responded via Twitter that his role in Podemos “is to place on the table the ideas that I think can enable Podemos to govern Spain … I’ll continue to do so.”

The near-constant back-and-forth between the party’s top two leaders, airing the opposing theses that the party either needs to be more left-wing and militant or less ideological and steer toward the centre-left, has some observers wondering in the Spanish press if this may not be a “good cop, bad cop” exercise designed to enthuse and revive the party bases, following the loss of a million votes by the Unidos Podemos (United We Can) coalition in the 26th June general election.

If so, that approach would seem to be working, since the ongoing debate over the Iglesias vs Errejón theses for Podemos’ future seems to have been at the root of a dramatic record turnout in the recent leadership contest in the Madrid autonomous community, the anti-austerity party’s stronghold and the region seen as a benchmark for the general mood among party activists nationwide.

► Read More in Spanish at 20minutos, El Periódico and El Mundo …

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