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Tuesday, 14 July 2015 08:19

Podemos: Spain under a magnifying glass

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Photo: Bloco (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Spanish party Podemos has been on the rise in Spain gaining popularity in the country's most recent regional elections. E&M author Leire Ariz Sarasketa takes a closer look at the movement and what it means for both Spain and Europe.

When Spanish protesters took to the streets in 2011, they voiced their complaints about corruption and what they considered to be a faulty democratic system. Back then, a few politicians condescendingly suggested that rather than by occupying public spaces, the so-called indignados would be more effective at changing the system by going into politics. "Let's see how good they are in the real world," they seemed to think. Four years on, the new Spanish party Podemos, considered by many an heir of the Indignados movement, has five seats in the European Parliament and recently broke records in the local and regional elections held in May. 

This transformation from street protesters to political heavyweights tells a powerful story of the rise of popular movements everywhere. Take for instance in the fact that the new Mayor of Barcelona, known for her fight against evictions was previously arrested by a police force that will now be under her control.

Published in Sixth Sense
Thursday, 31 May 2012 07:26

No austerity without representation!

In 1760, British citizens from the Thirteen Colonies coined the slogan: "No taxation without representation." They were unhappy with the economic measures implemented by their Parliament without having a political voice in return. Are European citizens echoing this message today?

Brussels seems to have interpreted the latest election results in Greece, France and Northern Westphalia as a rejection of austerity. But even if the economy remains the main concern, I believe the main message to be heard is political.

After all, if the economy was the only electoral key and we took votes as a referendum for or against austerity, would the massive voting of conservatives in Spain have meant that citizens supported the austerity measures later implemented? Hardly believable considering that one of PP's main campaign videos (and promises) claimed: "jobs are the priority."

This being the case, is there any common message being sent by these voters in Greece, France, Germany, Spain and other countries? It is general discontent. On the one hand, for fake promises on the national level, and on the other, because EU officials have failed to make citizens understand the need for austerity. The result? A quasi revival of the years of enlightened despotism, where "everything is for the people, but without the people." 

Published in Brussels Bubble
Tuesday, 24 April 2012 18:54

Hablais European?

Madrid welcomed us with a hideous hostel and overpriced tapas. Instead of enjoying a heavy Spanish red wine at a nice restaurant and uploading our latest pictures via free Wifi access, we were hunted down by ominous figures in the streets who offered us free drinks at even more ominous bars. We were surprised. Is it really profitable to pay someone to lure tourists into cheap bars on a Sunday night? Not to mention that this was Easter Sunday. But our first impression was quickly superseded when we glanced at the streets of Chueca the next morning and walked towards the Parque del Retiro to interview young Madrilenos about Europe, the crisis and German tourists in Spain. (This article was originally published for the Euroskop project, a travel blog about today's Europe.)

The park is crowded with people who don't want to miss the extraordinary weather on this bank holiday. Perfect conditions for us. We approach a group of young Spaniards in the shade. Before they can think of an excuse not to talk to us, we have set up the camera and mic and begin to ask them our questions. How has the crisis affected the young Spanish population? Are the Indignados angry at national or European politicians? What is the justification for European support to Spain? Paula and her friends react a little shyly, but then she says: "All of my friends are looking for work abroad, none of them counts on finding a job in Spain. Europe has to help us, unless you want to leave us behind." Paula is about to finish a postgrqaduate degree in tourism, one of Spain's traditionally strong economic sectors. But tourists don't seem to like groggy economies. The number of visitors has drastically declined, no longer ranking Spain among the top tourist countries.

National pride has certainly suffered, as has the social structure within Spain. 50% youth unemployment and mass emigration of well-educated people doesn't leave a country unaffected. "But it doesn't make any sense to cut Erasmus support, as the government now intends to do," says Diego, who is studying political science. Young people are frustrated by their politicians. Some prefer European politicians, but no one wants to be governed by an anonymous institution abroad. As Christian, a young entrepreneur, puts it: "About 60 percent of the Spanish population don't speak any English, they cannot grasp what is going on in Europe. And they aren't interested either. This was reflected in the national elections last November; no eurosceptic party evolved, the conservatives received an absolute majority. If at all, people are continuing to think in old political terms." His picture of Spain's future isn't exactly bright. If there's a way out, he says, it has to be more Europeanisation and globalisation. 

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