Leftist party in Spain mirrors Greece’s Syriza

Spain’s new leftist party continues to gain momentum, reminding us of a similar situation when Syriza, the far-left party in Greece, swept to power in…

Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias speaks during a meeting with international press in Madrid on January 13, 2015. (PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Spain’s new leftist party continues to gain momentum, reminding us of a similar situation when Syriza, the far-left party in Greece, swept to power in January.

Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias, is known to most Spaniards as “el de la coleta” or “the one with the ponytail.” His promises range from restricting debt and changing laws “that allow the rich to keep stealing from us” to vowing that Brussels “cannot threaten us” and that “we don’t want any more heads of government who obey and don’t negotiate.”

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Iglesias, a 36-year-old political science professor who started the political party with little to no money, did not expect Podemos to accumulate this level of popularity and support in such a short amount of time.

Spain’s turbulent economic state continues without improvement and Spanish citizens have had enough.

People arrive at the main square of Madrid during a Podemos (We Can) party march in Madrid. Tens of thousands marched through Madrid’s streets in a powerful show of strength by Spain’s fledgling radical leftist party. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki, File)

Yet they are already making waves within Spain’s political establishment, using similar tactics as were used in Greece in January such as basing the campaign on a powerful anti-austerity message.

“I really never thought I could become president of the government, but I think we’re now in a situation where this could happen,” Iglesias said in a recent interview at his new party headquarters.

Despite his optimism, Podemos still has a long way to go before that actually happens.

Questions left for the Podemos movement in Spain

So we’re left with two questions. First, is it possible for a radically left political party to break into the old political establishment and get elected nationally? And second, can his party follow through with their promises of a better Spain?

Iglesias has been studying politics since a very young age. At age 14, he was already a youth member of the Communist Party so he knows that he must bring Podemos’ plan down to Earth if it hopes to win a majority of votes.

Spain’s new leftist party continues to gain momentum, reminding us of a similar situation when Syriza, the far-left party in Greece, swept to power in January.

Pablo Iglesias (R) and Secretary of Politics Inigo Errejon attend a press conference of Podemos’ Secretary of Constituent Process and Programme, Juan Carlos Monedero, in Madrid, on February 20, 2015. (JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

He is already making changes to Podemos’ program in an attempt to broaden the party’s appeal, just in time for its first run at national elections later this year.

Iglesias has received some criticism for this move.

“Podemos runs the risk of selling its soul and alienating its core support among Spain’s discontented and disenfranchised, who have thrust the fledgling party to prominence with meteoric speed,” according to the New York Times.

While Iglesias admits that there are similarities between Podemos and Syriza, he wants to make it clear that Podemos is not like anti-establishment parties on the right such like the United Kingdom Independence Party in Britain or the National Front in France.

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“We’re perhaps all part of a general situation of dissatisfaction with the politics of Europe, but the big difference is that we are democratic, pro-European and clearly not racist.”

Spain’s new leftist party continues to gain momentum, reminding us of a similar situation when Syriza, the far-left party in Greece, swept to power in January.

Iglesias hopes that his party will be able to follow through with all its promises. (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Last May, Podemos won almost 8% of the Spanish vote in elections for the European Parliament. This was the first time the conservative Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the opposition Socialists did not receive a majority since the country established a democratic system in the late 1970s.

“Political forces like Podemos and Syriza provide among the last opportunities to convince citizens that something positive can still be achieved within a European Union project.”