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March 15, 2021

Europe

SPAIN: Implications of Iglesias’s departure

BY Antonio Barroso

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Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias announced on 15 March that he would resign as Vice Prime Minister to run in the regional election that will take place in Madrid on 4 May. His departure is unlikely to threaten the survival of the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE)-Podemos coalition in the short term. However, the upcoming electoral campaign in Madrid might increase the ongoing tensions between the two ruling parties, although the next crucial signpost for the coalition is likely to be the approval of the 2022 budget in the fall.

Iglesias’s move is aimed at stemming his party’s electoral collapse. The unexpected regional election in the Madrid region has put Podemos in a precarious situation, given that it does not have a candidate with sufficient name recognition. The lack of a suitable name is partly due to Iglesias’s efforts to get rid of most high-profile figures who could challenge his leadership. Moreover, Iglesias faces a challenging electoral landscape in Madrid, with the Mas Madrid (MM) party of former Podemos deputy leader Inigo Errejon having become the main far-left force in the 2019 regional election.

Iglesias has proposed Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz as his replacement, which is a sign of continuity – even if Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez still has to confirm whether he accepts the change. Diaz is one of the ministers with the highest profiles by virtue of her involvement in key crisis-fighting measures such as furlough schemes. However, choosing Diaz also signals Iglesias wants the party to get ready for the next national electoral battle. Diaz is one of Podemos’s figures with the highest ratings – particularly amongst PSOE voters – which is why Iglesias has suggested she could be named his successor at the party’s helm.

In sum, Iglesias has no interest in breaking up the coalition for now since, as previously explained, an early national election would probably decimate Podemos. Still, the upcoming electoral campaign in Madrid could increase the ongoing tensions between the two parties of the ruling coalition. More importantly, the second half of the year could give Iglesias an opportunity to separate Podemos from the coalition ahead of a potential national electoral contest. For instance, the expected difficult process to approve a budget for 2022 in the fall could be used by Podemos to showcase its differences with PSOE.

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