Podemos internal democracy crisis over statute changes

Olga Jiménez, president of Democratic Guarantees Commission, Podemos. Photo: Ernesto Torrico / El Confidencial
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• Crisis over statute changes aiming to limit debate, increase central control
• Dispute pits Iglesias and allies vs Democratic Guarantees ombudswoman

An internal crisis crisis has erupted in Spain’s three-year-old leftwing anti-austerity party, Podemos (We Can), over a move by the leadership team allied to Podemos secretary general Pablo Iglesias to bypass normal debate procedures and enact a series of amendments to the party’s statutes that limit the decision-making power of the Podemos membership. Critics say the changes to the statutes were registered by the party leadership with Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, without having gone through the proper channels of debate and approval within the party.

The crisis has pitted the Iglesias-led leadership team against labor lawyer Olga Jiménez, president of the party’s Comisión de Garantías Democráticas (Democratic Guarantees Commission), who was elected to her post by the full party membership during Podemos’ Vistalegre II party congress in February. The guarantees commission is an independent body established by Podemos organizational documents and statutes to ensure that the party functions in compliance with principles of democracy, transparency, justice and equal participation of all members.

In late-August, Jiménez stoop up to an attempt by the party leadership to unilaterally impose changes to the Podemos statutes, which were also approved by the full party membership at the Vistalegre II congress. The subsequent registration of the changes prompted open rebellion within Podemos, with 11 of the 17 regional democratic guarantees committees and hundreds of signatories to a widely circulated manifesto against the changes taking sides with Jiménez.

The statutory changes registered by the Podemos leadership reportedly include nine amendments to the statutes that would limit the autonomy of Podemos members, tighten the hierarchical structure of the party, concentrate more power in the party executive led by Iglesias and subject members who deviate from the party line to internal disciplinary actions.

After Jiménez registered disapproval of the measures, the Podemos leadership opened a disciplinary file against her and then announced in a 7th September press release that she had been deposed by a vote of the full Democratic Guarantees Commission the previous day. Jiménez and others refuse to accept the vote, saying the meeting was not called in accordance with Podemos statutes and only three Iglesias loyalists sitting on the commission had voted to remove her from office.

In an interview on Sunday with the daily El País newspaper, Jiménez said she’s not leaving the post and will continue to defend the democratic principles of the Podemos statutes against any attempt to limit participation of the membership by the party leadership. Also on Sunday, the guarantees commission in the region of Andalucia, an important base of power for Podemos nationally, came out in support of Jiménez, calling for the disciplinary action against her to be dropped and for nullification of the amendments to the party statutes imposed by the Iglesias leadership team.

► Read More in Spanish at El País, El Confidencial and El Diario …

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