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Podemos second-in-command readying move to win control of party

Source: El Pais - Sat 19th Mar 2016
Podemos second-in-command readying move to win control of party

Silence can be more meaningful than words. Íñigo Errejón, the number two official in Podemos, has been absent from the public arena this week as he mulls his response to party leader Pablo Iglesias’s sudden dismissal of a top aide who was known for being ideologically closer to the former than the latter.

The Tuesday sacking came shortly after 10 regional officials in Madrid stepped down in protest over the leadership style of their superior, who is close to Iglesias.

The recent developments have underscored a rift within the anti-austerity party, where there are already two factions known informally as pablistas and errejonistas, after the two top leaders.

Errejón followers reportedly suggested some kind of quick response to organization secretary Sergio Pascual’s dismissal on Tuesday. Ultimately, prudence prevailed and it was decided that the situation should not turn into a personal confrontation.

But internal critics of Iglesias’s leadership say Pascual’s dismissal was reminiscent of the old-school left, with its vertical and hierarchical structure. Both of Iglesias’s two top aides, Rafael Mayoral and Irene Montero, cut their teeth in the Spanish Communist Party (PCE).

Spanish Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez addressed a meeting of European socialists and social-democrats on Thursday, and delivered the message that Spain, too, could get a progressive government – if only Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias would allow it.

Sánchez specifically turned to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is ideologically close to Iglesias, and told him that the latter’s attitude is preventing “a government of change” in Spain.

Sánchez is seeking international allies to convince Pablo Iglesias to stop blocking his own appointment as the next prime minister of Spain. At a recent investiture vote, Sánchez failed to secure the post as he lacked sufficient congressional votes. An abstention by Podemos deputies would unblock his path to La Moncloa prime minister’s residence.

The errejonistas want to ensure that Podemos does not turn into “some sort of PCE 2.0,” in the words of one deputy.

Iglesias’s chief of staff, Irene Montero, said the leader was “downcast” and worried about the state of affairs.

Meanwhile, another battle is going on within Podemos. Errejonistas are in favor of reaching a deal with the Socialist Party and forming a government in the wake of the inconclusive December 20 election.

But it is unclear whether Iglesias wants to do the same or to just keep raising his demands so that Spain will be forced to hold a fresh election in late June.

Errejón feels that the time has come for Podemos to decide what it wants to be: a hegemonic party or a left-wing minority.

“We believe that in order to avoid the risk of becoming a classic organization relegated to the left fringes of the political playing board, we need to understand that we cannot build a people project exclusively with those who have been hardest hit by the crisis,” reads a paper published by the Podemos foundation, Instituto 25-M.

The debate over Podemos’s future has begun, but the real battle will start on the first weekend in April, when Iglesias is due to convene a citizen council that will suggest a replacement for Sergio Pascual.

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