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Podemos leaders clash over control of the party

Source: El Pais - Wed 9th Mar 2016
Podemos leaders clash over control of the party

The crisis that broke within Podemos’s Madrid branch on Monday illustrates the divisions among leaders of the anti-austerity party.

When regional organization secretary Emilio Delgado announced his resignation citing disappointment with Podemos’s Madrid chief, Luis Alegre, it pointed to a deeper dispute over party control and ideology, particularly on the subject of how to deal with the Socialists (PSOE).

Observers of the party’s internal debate over the best strategy to pursue in the negotiations to find a new prime minister feel that there is a growing confrontation between supporters of party leader Pablo Iglesias, and adherents to the theories of his number two man, Iñigo Errejón.

Party reaction to Delgado’s resignation has been mixed. Official Podemos sources told EL PAÍS that the party would ask Delgado to give up his seat in the Madrid Assembly. But sources close to Errejón denied this claim. Errejón himself personally defended Delgado, praising his work as a regional deputy.

At the bottom of all this is a fundamental debate over how to handle the negotiations to find a new Spanish leader following an inconclusive election that yielded a fragmented Congress.

With no one party strong enough to command an overall congressional majority, the Socialists have been trying to secure support for their candidate, Pedro Sánchez, among Spain’s leftist forces. The Socialists could theoretically be open to a coalition government with Podemos and other parties but on condition that Podemos drops its idea for a self-rule referendum in Catalonia, among other proposals.

With Socialist leader Sánchez standing a chance to become the next prime minister of Spain, Podemos must decide whether it teams up with him or not, and under what conditions.

Some Podemos members are highly aware that in the past, smaller parties that made deals with the Socialist Party ended up absorbed and “deactivated” by the latter. The United Left is a case in point. These members feel that Podemos should say no to Sánchez, especially since Podemos received only 300,000 fewer votes than the Socialists at the December election.

“Some people want to become a part of [state] management quickly, even if the circumstances are not ideal, while others will want to keep consolidating positions that represent change, and will not be in such a rush to submit to policies that are not their own,” explains Podemos co-founder Juan Carlos Monedero, who himself resigned in April of last year citing ideological differences.

But Podemos is also divided over how to build a party that does not turn a deaf ear to its grassroots members, a vice they see as affecting old-style parties. In this other debate, one school of thought favors a more “disciplined” party that will lead to greater efficiency, while another current feels that grassroots participation in party decisions should carry more weight, the way it did at the beginning. Regional leaders in the Basque Country, Galicia and Cantabria have already confronted national leaders for allegedly overstepping their powers and trying to decide over their territorial affairs.

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