Monday, February 13, 2017

Head of Spain’s Far-Left Party Survives Leadership Challenge

Photo
Pablo Iglesias, the head of Spain’s far-left Podemos Party, on Sunday after winning a vote challenging his leadership of the party. CreditPierre-Philippe Marcou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
MADRID — Pablo Iglesias, the head of Spain’s far-left Podemos Party, defeated a challenge in a leadership vote on Sunday, giving him a strong mandate to stick with the radical line that has made Podemos one of Europe’s main anti-establishment parties.
Mr. Iglesias, 38, won an unexpectedly clear victory, receiving 89 percent of the votes as party leader, while his main supporters won 60 percent of the seats on the party’s governing council.
The victory of Mr. Iglesias during a two-day party congress is likely to raise the pressure on the Socialists, Spain’s main opposition party, to resolve a bitter leadership dispute of their own. The Socialists have been functioning under a caretaker management since ousting their leader, Pedro Sánchez, last October, which then helped clear the way for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative, to win re-election.
Founded in 2014 during a period of extreme discontent and record unemployment generated by the world financial crisis, Podemos made a meteoric rise that also uprooted Spain’s two-party system. But after coming in third in its first general elections in late 2015, Podemos found it harder to switch from anti-austerity street protests to parliamentary politics and lost votes in repeat elections six months later.
The party was then plunged into an internal dispute, not only over the leadership of Mr. Iglesias, but also over whether Podemos should adhere to his anti-institutional hard-line policies or instead steer more toward conciliatory and mainstream politics — as advocated by the party’s deputy leader, Iñigo Errejón. The struggle came at a time when Spain’s return to economic growth was also helping reduce unemployment.
Mr. Rajoy was re-elected unopposed as leader of his Popular Party during the weekend. While Mr. Rajoy remains in a fragile situation at the helm of a minority government, his most pressing challenge has come from Catalonia, where separatist politicians have pledged to hold a referendum in September over whether to split from Spain. Mr. Rajoy told party supporters on Sunday that he would firmly oppose such a referendum and not compromise with Catalonia over its independence ambitions. “All this secessionist process is a folly,” Mr. Rajoy said.
NYT

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