Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Are Podemos Getting Desperate?

David Abril, effectively the new leader of Més, speaks of an "humiliating agreement" if his party is eased into fourth place on the Congress list of deputies for the June general election as part of a pact with Podemos. The first three places would be for Podemos. In alliance with Més and the United Left, the total number of votes - based on the December election - would guarantee a third deputy to add to the two which Podemos secured before Christmas. But Més would find themselves without the deputy they covet so much and which would confirm their Madrid arrival as flag wavers for Mallorcan nationalism.

Alberto Jarabo, the Podemos leader in the Balearics, says that Més wouldn't have a presence in Madrid (in Congress) without an alliance with Podemos. He is absolutely right. Even if Més didn't have an actual deputy, they would have some presence thanks to an alliance. Or would they? Likewise, Podemos would be very hard pushed to gain sufficient support on its own (or with the United Left as even more junior partners) to obtain a third deputy. They need Més as much as Més need Podemos. But Més, unless things change, will not get their deputy. They might swallow the second prize of a senator but that would still represent a blow to their ambitions.

For Podemos, the end game (or the start of the beginning game) has always been about national government and so seats in Congress and the Senate if not in the Moncloa Palace of the presidency. They were less concerned about the regional elections, albeit they offered a good barometer of how things might go at the general election. Podemos would have been confident, and their confidence was not misplaced. They now have a second bite of the cherry. One might conclude that the fruitless negotiations with PSOE were all geared to having this second stab. But has there been a miscalculation?

The negotiations with Més can be viewed in different ways. One is that they have been about creating a firm pact of the hard left with the objective of ousting the Partido Popular (still far from being a foregone conclusion). The other is that they were designed to give Podemos what they crave - power. Més, without an actual deputy, would have been used as a means to an end: one belonging to Podemos.

For Abril to have referred to a humiliation has distinct echoes of how PSOE have suffered in this new era of Balearic and Spanish politics. They have been humiliated, forced into agreements and policies that one very much doubts they would have adopted had they been left to their own devices. Yes, there is supposedly a spirit of "dialogue and consensus", but there seems precious little sign of it being truly two-way (or three-way in the Balearics). Podemos. Power. And power that has seen PSOE trampled over. Més must surely have considered that their fate was being decided in a similar fashion.

Alberto Jarabo and Laura Camargo of Podemos have both referred to the "negative image" that the apparent failure of Podemos and Més to come to an accord conveys. Negative to whom? To the electorate? Possibly so, but while this will be styled as a failure to provide the "citizens" with what they supposedly have voted for - the government of change, to use the constant mantra - it can also be viewed as a negative reflection of Podemos. Their leaders in the Balearics continuously hector others. In the process they come across as unlikable. Més may have their wilder elements but they also have individuals that many, regardless of political persuasion, have a liking for: Biel Barceló, Miquel Ensenyat, Fina Santiago. Not everyone will feel this. Of course they won't. But Més (and PSOE) have a likability that Podemos do not.

At national level Podemos have a similar likability issue. Pablo Iglesias is the exception. He is likable, highly admirable in many ways. But he made a mistake with his attack on the media and the suggestion that the media should be state-controlled. He apologised, but did that set the alarm bells off? What truly lies behind his likability? Podemos, the polls suggest, have slipped. An alliance for the election has thus been formed with the United Left. Together they would, on the basis of the December election, get more votes than PSOE. The United Left might end up with eight deputies as opposed to the current two. That would represent a result for them, but for Podemos there is a feeling that it is an alliance of necessity. The United Left's Alberto Garzón gets good approval ratings; better than Iglesias. There's a likability factor.

But is it a sign of desperation by Podemos? If the polls are right and their support is leaking, they need to plug the hole.

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