Podemos gives up EU seats to run at home

Podemos, the new anti-establishment party in Spain, has said it will replace its European members of parliament so that its leaders can run in elections at home.

Podemos gives up EU seats to run at home
Pablo Iglesias at a rally in Madrid on Wednesday. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

The party came out of nowhere last January to win five seats in the European elections last May but three of those will now give up their seats in Brussels to stand in regional and local elections in Spain.

Pablo Echenique on Friday announced that he will give up his seat to stand for election next month in Aragon, while Teresa Rodriquez will lead the campaign in Andalusia, where the ruling socialist party called early elections.

Pablo Iglesias, the charismatic pony-tailed leader, a former political science lecturer, will keep his seat in Brussels for the time being, although he is expected to give it up later in the year to run for a place in Spain's parliament.

Iglesias was criticized earlier in the week for holding a political rally in Madrid when he should have been present at a debate in the European Parliament.

Setting himself up as the only real rival to Mariano Rajoy at the public meeting in Madrid's Circulo Bellas Artes on Wednesday he publically challenged the prime minister to go face-to-face in a televised debate.

But instead of agreeing to take up the challenge, the PP attacked Iglesias on not taking his role in the European parliament seriously. "I think Mr Iglesias is the member of a chamber, the European Parliament, where there was a debate yesterday, and I think that’s where he should have been," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría told reporters in the halls of Congress as quoted in Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Podemos responded by pointing out that Iglesias had participated 379 times in European parliament votes representing an attendance record of 99 percent.

Íñigo Errejón from Podemos said on television channel La Sexta that he found it "ironic that they should criticize Pablo Iglesias for being absent from the European Parliament after seeing Celia Villalobos playing video games".

Villalobos was caught on camera apparently playing the highly additive Candy Crush game on her tablet while sitting in the speaker’s chair during Rajoy's state of the nation address.

Podemos was not able to take part in the state of the nation debate which took place in Spain´s lower chamber this week, because they have yet to win any seats in parliament.

But polls show that Podemos have shaken up the bipartisanism that has prevailed in Spain since the death of dictator General Francisco Franco and are likely to win seats at the next general election. Podemos have overtaken the opposition party PSOE in popularity and are snapping at the heels of the ruling PP party.


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