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Podemos… maybe.

                     Everything is fine. Don’t you see me smiling?

 

Life is hard for a communist. Not only do you have to endure accusations and ghastly comparisons between your ideology and the murderous regimes of the 20th century, but you also have to put up with different brands of leftists. Some of them even revisionists and unorthodox (shock!).

The apparent slow disintegration of Podemos at the polls from its heyday of December-January, when it was polling at 27%, to its steep decline a mere three months later to 16,5% has to do more with classical leftist malaise than with physics (all that rises must eventually descend). The chronic problems of factional infighting, perceived radicalism, and proof of unexceptional moral standards (just like the rest of the casta) have brought this political party down from the clouds and maybe even down underground.

Of all these factors the crucial one has been the perceived realization by the Spanish electorate that, contrary to what the leading figures of Podemos state, they do not have the monopoly on morality and ethics and hence they do too commit actions of dubious moral nature. Which is somewhat unjust since Podemos is being frantically scrutinized by the media and expected to have moral standards akin to that of saints. Although the party does have some blame for this, having portrayed itself as a cleansing and morally righteous new force, the other political parties are not subjected to this level of examination and indeed many of them (especially the PP and the PSOE) have done not just morally wrong actions, but downright ilegal ones, with little outcry in some sectors.

The PP, the PSOE, and the media had started to lambast Podemos after they became prominent in the European Parliamentary elections of the 25th of May 2014 where they won 7% of the votes (previously they had just laughed at them calling them “freaks”) and attacked their most weak, and easy, spots: connections with Venezuela (Juan Carlos Monedero, ex-number 3, had direct ties with the Chávez government through several advisory positions that he had held), connections with Iran (the program that Pablo Igelsias hosts, Fort Apache, has a contract with an Iranian broadcaster, through HispanTV), and lastly of being pro-terrorist and pro-ETA (based on conferences given close to the Basque terrorist group). But unwittingly these political attacks through dubious means only demonstrated the acute fear that the establishment and all its vested interests had, to the point of appearing united against Podemos; thus underlying the partiality of the system regarding its interests and did nothing but increase the popularity of the insurgent political party that reached, as previously said, 27% of the national vote share in polls and gathered 150.000 people at La Puerta del Sol on January 31st.

But then the Monedero affair happened, and it marked a watershed moment for the party.

In a country where there is over 20% of unemployment, and salaries and standards of living have decreased, Podemos flourished through its rhetoric that it was something different: a real left-wing, offering real solutions in a country where the socialists were the same as the conservatives. But the revelation that Monedero had evaded paying the amount of taxes he should have paid as individual by processing his income (advising South American governments on the creation of a Bolivarian currency) through a shadow company showed a different reality.

Also the discovery that this amount was of 425.000 euros smacked of gauche caviar, akin to the PSOE, rather than the new revolutionary leftist group of its origins.

But if this wasn’t enough damage for the party, it also has to deal with the eternal return that all leftists have to deal with: infighting.

Podemos was born of the 15M movement, which in itself was a colorful and varied amalgam of ideologies and political visions. But one of the biggest forces, and where Teresa Rodriguez (the current Secretary General of the regional Andalusian Podemos) was a member of, is Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anti-Capitalist Left), which as the name indicates holds a hard-left ideological position. This group was integrated into Podemos formally at the beginning of this year, changing its name to Anti-Capitalists, and its sway in the party has become considerable especially since the decrease of the party in the polls. This is because Podemos has attempted to encompass the left of the political spectrum as well as the center and was doing it quite admirably until Ciudadanos appeared and ate into the share of Podemos’ votes at a radical pace (no pun intended).

Now that the more moderate factions within Podemos have been discredited, the hard left is vying for more power within the party and to perform a strong steer towards radicalism, leaving behind all moderation and attempts at centrality. And given the surge of Ciudadanos, it might as well do so since all the dissatisfied voters who were going to vote for Podemos because it was the only true alternative to the old political parties are going to naturally veer towards Ciudadanos, as they are perceived as less radical.

This conundrum at the center of Podemos is one of the reasons why Monedero decided to leave his position within the party on the 30th of April, accusing the party of having become what it was fighting against and of forgetting the spirit of the 15M. This will undoubtedly hurt the party, as it underlines the factional infighting that it is suffering and will force its leading figures to choose a clear path: either centrality and risk being overrun by Ciudadanos, or radicalism and risk being perceived as risky.

                         Juan Carlos Monedero. A man of the road.

22-M: Parliamentary election in Andalusia.

Change is coming to Spain in a swooping blitzkrieg that will produce its first tangible effects in the Andalusian regional election to take place on the 22th of March.

The political entropy that has enthralled the country over the last 8 months makes this event of the utmost importance; since (1) it’s the first regional election since the meteoric rise of Podemos and Ciudadanos, (2) it will give political responsibilities to these newcomers (especially to Podemos, since Ciudadanos has had representation in Catalonia since 2006), (3) it will show the reaction of one of the traditional parties (PSOE) to its need of forming a coalition and with whom, and (4) serve to discern the winds of change in the political fabric of the country to extrapolate to the national elections in December.

  • Podemos
Photo by ABC

Photo by ABC

Teresa Rodríguez (pictured right), candidate of Podemos for the presidency of the region of Andalusia, can be happy to know that she belongs to the spearhead of the change in the country´s politics. With a background in Izquierda Unida, like most individuals within Podemos, she has a long history of struggle for leftists causes. She campaigned against the European Constitution (although she became an MP in 2014 with Podemos), left Izquierda Unida to join the more left-wing Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anti-capitalist Left), and voted against the sanctions of the European Union against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine; stating that Russia was a victim of “defiant” Europe.

The politics pursued by Podemos in this region are similar than those that they pursue for the entire country, indeed stating in their Andalusian political program that “the locks of the 1978 regime will begin to open in Andalusia on the 22th of March”, and that “Spain is a country of countries”.

They advocate, amongst other things, for more transparency in the public institutions of the Junta de Andalucía, more direct contact between the citizens and the governing bodies, the possibility of calling a referendum by the population if the regional government breaks campaign promises, audits by the citizens of the region regarding public spending, a law of lobbies in the region, and the creation of an independent anti-fraud entity (see the political program).

Their economic proposals also include investing in public services and expanding them, performing a shift towards more environmentally friendly renewable energies, and appealing to young Andalusians who have left the region and the country to return by creating more employment and investing in R&D.

  • Ciudadanos

A recent shock has been the sudden increase of Ciudadanos in the regional polls, with the latest polls giving them 11% of the vote. Their candidate is Juan Marín (pictured

Photo by Electomania.es

Photo by Electomania.es

right), who joined Ciudadanos in February of this year when his local party “Ciudadanos Independientes de Sanlúcar” was integrated with Ciudadanos, governed the city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in Cádiz, since 2007 in coalition with the PSOE.

Like their political program for the entire nation, Ciudadanos underlines for Andalusia that their objectives are: to fight against corruption, to defend the welfare state and individual freedoms, to defend the rule of law, to re-activate employment and the economy, and to shift towards renewable energies.

They have called for the resignation of all politicians who have been indicted of corruption, indeed stating that they would only form coalition with the PSOE if they purged themselves of the myriad of cases of corruption that they´ve had.

And given the high number of cases of revolving doors and political appointees, Ciudadanos advocates for the decrease of these appointees and the elimination of privileges for public officials.

  • Partido Popular

The Partido Popular is poised to obtain dreadful results on the 22nd of March, decreasing their vote from 40.7% in 2011 to a meager 25.1% in recent voting polls.

Photo by El Mundo

Photo by El Mundo

Nonetheless the PP candidate for the regional government fo Andalusia, Moreno Bonilla (pictured right), is hopeful regarding the outcome of the vote. This is because there are up 40% of undecided voters which could prove decisive for the election.

The PP advocates for, amongst other things: the break up of the traditionally socialist rule in the region in order to achieve modernization and growth, the promotion of legislation focused on lowering unemployment amongst young people, the reduction of taxes for corporations in order to attract foreign investment, the independence of the office in charge of collecting taxes (Oficina de Control Presupuestario) in order to avoid corruption, and the creation of a law (ley andaluza de subvenciones) to better control subsidies given by the region and to avoid corruption. (See full program).

  • Partido Socialista Obrero Español

Given that it is of Andalusia of which we are speaking, the victory of the PSOE is all but guaranteed; but alas, not with an absolute majority. The cases of corruption (caso ERE), the discontent with the traditional parties, and the rise of Podemos and Ciudadanos have hurt the PSOE, showing in the latest polls a decrease from 39.5% in 2011 to 36.7% in voting intention. This will force the PSOE and the Secretary General of the Andalusian PSOE,

Photo by Andalucesdiario.es

Photo by Andalucesdiario.es

Susana Díaz (pictured right), to form a coalition if she wishes to govern in the region.

The most likely candidate will be Ciudadanos, given that it’s a transverse party and could therefore not undermine the PSOE as much as a coalition with Podemos would; nevermind that Podemos as well as the PSOE have denied there will be any rapprochement with each other.

It may be harder for the PSOE than it thinks to form a coalition with Ciudadanos, given that, as we already pointed out, the party of Albert Rivera has indicated that in order for them to enter government all indicted individuals from the PSOE would have to be expelled from the party.

Nonetheless, Díaz has learned from the mistakes of the past and promises more transparency in the regional government, open books of the party´s accounts, the creation of an anti-fraud and anti-corruption entity, to reduce taxes for middle and lower classes, and to guarantee universal public healthcare.

The current political stage makes the victor of Sunday´s elections a mere puppet conditioned by political opponents. Every candidate will measure very carefully how their involvement in a coalition could alter the party´s position in rapport to the national elections later this year. Indeed, there is a big chance that a conundrum may arise; with politicians shunning to take part in the regional government for which they campaigned in order not to alienate their national political base.

Interesting times for Spain, indeed.

The Spanish Maverick: Esperanza Aguirre and the liberal plight within the Partido Popular.

She has it under control.

           She has it under control.

 

The Partido Popular is an odd political beast, as it unites views from the right that in many other countries are atomized; mainly the liberals and the conservatives. This permitted the party for many years to attract all the center/center-right/right vote and to win several elections in a country that leans towards the center-left.

This unification of the right in one sole political party came by the hand of Manuel Fraga, a fascist turned democrat, who saw that the Alianza Popular needed a change if it wanted to survive, and was remodeled into the Partido Popular in 1989 by integrating the Christian Democrats (Democracia Cristiana), the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal), Centrists of Galicia (Centristas de Galicia), and the Union of the People of Navarra (Unión del Pueblo Navarro). This change was solidified with the choice of Jose Maria Aznar as president of the Partido Popular in 1990.

For a party that agglutinates so many views, it has preserved its monolithic solidity (unlike previous right wing parties like the Unión de Centro Democrático) in a very remarkable fashion. But one of the prices to pay for this unification of the right has been the increasing shift of the official position of the party from center-right to purely right wing, as it tried to minimise the threat of appearing too progressive for the most conservative factions within the party.

As this shift has taken place, there have been dissenting voices with differing views on particular subjects. One of the most salient alternative voice has been Esperanza Aguirre y Gil de Biedma, president of the Community of Madrid from 2003 to 2012 and president of the PP in that same community. She has always called herself a liberal, having been part of the “Club Liberal de Madrid” in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid under the tutorship of Pedro Schwarz, founder of the Liberal Union Party in 1983. It was this professor who introduced Aguirre into politics under the Liberal Union and later the Liberal Party.

Although a critic of certain conservative proposals, Aguirre has always been comfortable with conservatives and usually attempts to balance liberal and non-liberal rhetoric to appeal to a larger base of the party (an example of this mix can be seen in her defense of gay rights and her view of abortion as murder). This relationship with the conservative, non-liberal positions within the PP, for whom the free market is not in itself a pivotal force compared with the Catholic Church, anti-communism, and nationalism, has been there almost since she started in politics. Her move from the Liberal Party to the conservative Alianza Popular in 1987 shows this, as it also shows her ability to sense which way the wind is blowing (as Alianza Popular would be the key force within the Partido Popular).

She has been a powerful force in the PP; being Minister of Education from 1996 to 1999 under the presidency of José María Aznar, the first woman in charge of presiding the Senate from 1999 to 2002, and president of the Community of Madrid from 2003 to 2012. Only with her sudden retirement from politics in 2012 did it appear that her standing within the party had taken a critical, maybe even fatal blow.

But Aguirre has been used to blows. Criticisms abounded regarding her style and the policies she undertook during her tenure as president of the Community of Madrid; health workers have criticised her continued attempts to privatize public healthcare and workers from the public TV channel Telemadrid have condemned the quasi dictatorial hold that she had on the station. She was also accused of having utilized state funds to spy on members of her own party with whom she had grievances.

Lately, she has found herself in even more serious problems as cases of corruption seem to surround her. People appointed by her have been involved in the “Caso Gürtel” and her second in command during many years, Pedro Granados, was arrested during the “Operación Púnica” for corruption.

But Aguirre has not let this slow her down, alleging that she revealed the “Caso Gürtel” and that from the hundreds of appointees that she has made throughout her career, only two have engaged in corruption.

Many of the efforts by Aguirre to remain part of the political conversation have been through attacks to Pablo Iglesias and his party Podemos, accusing him of supporting the terrorist group ETA and of wanting to institute a communist, totalitarian state in Spain. This constant presence in the political conversation made apparent her wish to actively return to politics, even if many people within the party (including Mariano Rajoy) were quite happy having her at arms length. But this return was confirmed in December of last year when she made herself available to Rajoy for the nomination of the Madrid mayorship, a nomination which was confirmed on the 6th of March.

Since this occurred there has been infighting within the PP regarding the conditions for Aguirre´s nomination, with Maria Dolores de Cospedal stating that Aguirre would give up the presidency for the city of Madrid in exchange for the mayorship, something which Aguirre opposed and threatened to drop her nomination if indeed the party were to force her out of the possibility of choosing the candidates she wished in the city (which she would not have been able to do if she had had to give up the presidency of the PP in Madrid), knowing that she is the only candidate that can win votes en masse for the PP in Madrid. The party rapidly changed position and allowed that Aguirre were to renounce the leadership of the PP in Madrid if elected mayor.

All this ordeal comes from the nature of Aguirre as a wild card and the PP´s wish to have a better control of her. Now that the PP has a strong rival in the center-right with Ciudadanos, the bleeding of votes towards the new political party can lead to the fracture of the PP and hence to its demise. Rajoy´s selection of Aguirre in an attempt to prevent this is produced by necessity more than choosing.

It would be positive to see a liberal turn within the PP, especially after so many years having shifted to the right. Sadly, even if Aguirre were to win in the city of Madrid, liberals would not notice a big change in the state of affairs. This is because as much as she claims to be a liberal, even as much as she probably believes to be one, Aguirre is far from being one. Her political and economic position is rather a conservative one with intermittent bursts of populism.

This does not mean that her nomination is necessarily a bad choice. She appears much more conscious than many of her peers of the political dissatisfaction that the majority of the population has towards the PP and will probably work to change that if elected. Her nomination for the city of Madrid shows that she has a lot of power within the party right now, and the leadership´s about-face regarding the conditions for this nomination proves it. If she plays her cards well, she could become the nominee for the presidency of the party if Mariano Rajoy performs badly in the national elections later this year. This would allow her to execute deep changes within the party. Sadly, and regardless of what she says, it wont be a liberal change.

Why everyone is investing in Spain in 2015, and why they may regret it.

                         Spain is different…again.

 

The year 2015 appears bright for Spain: unemployment is decreasing (though still stuck at over 23%), GDP is rising, the country finances itself at a healthy 1.29% for 10 year bonds, and foreign investment is pouring in once again.

Long gone are the days of 10 year bonds at 7.57%, fears of bail-outs, and rising unemployment. Hence, the talk of a new Spanish miracle, akin to that which started two decades ago and that proved to be almost deadly, is once again in vogue.

But this time is different, or so many investors believe. Call it post-euro crisis epiphany, structural reforms gusto, or QE magic. Certainly, people like Bill Gates, George Soros, John Paulson, or Robert J. Schiller, who have all recently invested in Spain, know what they are doing. But the problem is not that foreign investors pouring in droves to Spain do not know the risks associated with investing in Spain, they wouldn´t last long as investors if they didn´t. The problem is that they are overwhelmingly underrating the risks by being blinded by the alluring benefits.

And the risk is, of course, the political instability. The rise of Podemos caught both major parties, PP and PSOE, unawares, and has been benefiting from the corruption scandals that have plagued them recently (see previous blog entry). The radical stance of its early days is now being curtailed but the group remains a far left one, which by itself should not necessarily entail the catastrophic consequences that many conservative (and not so conservative) media outlets have been raucously reiterating. Rather, the instability stems from the lack of professionalism that the leadership has portrayed with regards to the economic proposals that a Podemos government would promote. When it comes to explaining the economic nitty-gritty, their economists are disingenuously superficial. And when pressed, they retort that what really doesn´t work is the current system (for a great example of this, see this debate on youtube between Daniel Lacalle and Nacho Álvarez, an economist from Podemos.) 1425636433_224570_1425648902_noticia_normal

Another example of the unprofessional nature of this party can be seen in their political ordeal in Madrid. They have just formed an alliance with Ganemos and Equo to form “Ahora Madrid” but still do not have official candidates two months before the local elections. The only other party that does not have all of its official candidates announced is Izquierda Unida, which, as parties go, is far from being a role model. And Tania Sanchez keeps playing a game that Podemos seems to be interested in partaking.

But all this is overshadowed by the real and potential benefits that the rising Spanish economy has to offer. The structural reforms that the government of Mariano Rajoy have made it easier for businesses to fire workers, decreased public expenditure, and secured trust from the international markets. Of course it has also increased employment through low paid and short-term jobs, weakened social welfare, and lowered the standard of living for large sectors of the population. But the market doesn´t really take in that type of data.

The Quantitative Easing program initiated by Mario Draghi in the European Central Bank has also increased the benefits of investing in the Eurozone (though not so much in Greece). The purchase of bonds is aimed at eliminating deflation, of which Spain has suffered since the last quarter of 2014 (which did not interfere in its growth), and reaching inflation of “below but close to” 2%. This has been welcomed by the markets because it proves that Draghi really meant it when he said that he would to “whatever it takes” to save the euro, and because QE has the side effect of boosting the value of stocks, thus guaranteeing the worthiness of investment in Europe. 

Added to this it should be noted that since the Fed initiated QE much earlier in the United States, stocks in Wall Street have been rising in value (prompting warnings of an asset bubble) and have now become too expensive to yield real benefits, especially since the Fed is closed to raising interest rates soon. This incentivized even more the shifting in investment from the US over to Europe, and in particular to the good pupil of the Eurozone, Spain. The Spanish stock market, the Ibex 35, increased 7.5% in February and is poised to rise 20% this year, and the value of housing, which went down 15% during the crisis, is now starting to rally again.

All these benefits entail a good bargain regarding investing in Spain at this time, but they carry the risk of overshadowing the real dangers that an ineffectual government could bring to Spain. As I said, many of the attacks against Podemos are undeserved and overblown, result of conservative fear for the rise of something diametrically opposed to what they believe in. But Podemos needs to overcome its amateurishness and understand that it is now a pivotal force of the country and should therefore act accordingly. Previous governments have instituted legislation that led to the crisis being as fierce as it was, and the political elite has been in charge for so long that it ossified and started serving itself rather than the Spanish population. But whereas the PP and the PSOE were ineffective in many things, their national and international legitimization stemmed from their image; they were seen as serious players. Podemos has many defects, but unlike the PP and the PSOE, it is seen internationally as defective and portrays itself as such.

But just as much blame should be directed towards international investors. By blindly pouring money into the country they are giving Spain enough rope to hang itself, as they are legitimizing and promoting the status quo. And if the political crisis hits, it´ll hit harder.

After the regional elections in Andalusia later this month and the rest of the regional elections occur in a little over two months, the real presence of Podemos in many regions and town halls will serve as a wake up call for many international investors. The probability that Podemos promotes policies that are anti-business in order to institute social programs and satisfy social anger against the higher classes is very high. If this happens, market insecurity regarding Spain will increase, the risk premium that the government will need to pay to fund itself will increase, as will the bond yields. The question regarding the Spanish miracle may then be put into question, yet again. And all the money that is now pouring into the country will in panic try to make its way to other, safer countries. A win by Podemos in the regional elections does not necessarily entail this, as mayors and leaders of the communities may find reasonable and balanced policies that help the wounded social welfare state while being friendly with businesses. But so far, the party leadership has not been conveying this.

The rise of Podemos and Ciudadanos

Show me your gravitas, Albert, and I´ll show you my chutzpah.

Show me your gravitas, Albert, and I´ll show you my chutzpah.

 

Spain has lived a tumultuous existence for the couple decades: First, it experienced an incredible boom thanks to easy money provided by low rates, skyrocketing housing prices, and buoyant tourism. It was then hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, decreasing its GDP by 1.7% that year and 2.5% in 2009. If this wasnt bad enough, its unemployment jumped to a mindblowing 25%, peaking at 26.94% in January 2013. And lastly, as it couldn´t but have done, its housing bubble busted and destroyed one of the pivotal cornerstones of its economy, decreasing the investment in construction by more than 40% and the value of housing by more than 15%.

But all that is now in the past as Spain is poised to become the best performing economy in the Eurozone in 2015, thanks to the structural reforms instituted by the government of Mariano Rajoy. The European Commission has projected that Spain will grow by 2.3% in 2015 and a further 2.5% in 2016. All well and good, then?

Well, not so. Spain has commenced its tepid rise from the economic crisis just to (some would say by) immersing itself in a political conundrum just as harsh as the economic one. Voilà, the emergence of Podemos and Ciudadanos and the death of the two party system in Spain.

Truth be told, not all of the blame should be put on the economic crisis for the birth and rise of these two political parties nor should the government of Mariano Rajoy and the Partido Popular be completely demonized. Note the qualifiers “all the blame” and “completely”.

The economic crisis was produced by the abject incompetence of all the Spanish governments since democracy was established and the fascist state had a democratic epiphany in the second half of the 70s. The money that the European Union provided for Spain after it joined in 1986 was urgently needed and aided in the modernization of its grossly deficient infrastructure, but it also promoted a culture of lavishness and unaccountability that established itself in the political and economic elite.

The conservative Partido Popular (PP) and the socialist Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) were equally guilty in their excesses during the boom years of the 90s and 00s, preferring easy investment in infrastructure (including airports where no planes landed and trains to places where nobody went), tourism, and brick and mortar rather than diversifying the painfully rigid spanish labor system, promoting national enterprises that provided products that could be exported, and incrementing the insultingly low quality of higher education. And to this weaknesses must be added a very pervasive theme in Spanish politics: corruption.

Here is where the 2008 economic crisis enters and catches the socialist government completely aloof, the PP wins a landslide election in 2011, and the government institutes structural reforms to ameliorate the colossal defects that the Spanish economy suffers from and for which this same political party is, more than partially, guilty of having promoted.

The pain that these structural reforms has inflicted to the average Spaniard would have traditionally manifested itself in a clear electoral response favoring the opposition, the PSOE. But not so this time around. The last PSOE government, that of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, performed so poorly when the crisis hit that the Spanish electorate, usually a very forgetful bunch, has still to forgive the socialists. And this time around it is not just about political ideologies, it is about the pervasive element, mentioned earlier, of generalized corruption.

Both the PP and the PSOE are plagued by judiciary investigations of alleged corruption by members of the party, ex-ministers, mayors… Just in one of these investigations, the Operación Púnica, 51 people were arrested including Francisco Granados, the PP Secretary General of the region of Madrid from 2004 to 2011. And even though this is not the first time that the political elite are found to have engaged in corruption, it has coincided with the pain that the economic crisis and the reforms have caused in the Spanish public.

This is the reason why two new upstarts, Podemos and Ciudadanos, have risen through the polls in 2014 and 2015 and why the established, traditional political parties are in a state of acute panic.

Even though they are usually grouped together as the “newcomers” or the “upstarts”, Podemos and Ciudadanos are only similar in their appeal for a radical change in spanish politics, though the methods and characteristics of this change differ wildly; Podemos advocates a more ground-up, leftist approach, and Ciudadanos promotes a more liberal, professional oriented society.

The striking development is the way in which both of these parties are bleeding dry the main parties interchangeably. Podemos has, since its birth in January 2014, gained most of its followers from the extreme left (communists from the Partido Comunista Español and general anticapitalist-leftists from Izquierda Unida) as well as socialists from the PSOE, but they have also gained ground with the center and center-right vote from the PP; while Ciudadanos, which when founded in 2006 was conceived only as a regional party for Cataluña advocating an anti-independist stance, has gained most of its following from the centrist Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD) and the center right vote of the PP, but also as the center left of the PSOE.

The instability that Podemos could bring to Spain if it gained the national elections is much alluded to in the media and by the conventional political parties, especially since a poll by the newspaper El País in October of last year found that this party had positioned itself at the helm with almost 28% of the national vote. Given that it is a political party founded barely a year ago, many of its proposals, especially its economic ones, are very dubious and vague. Its extreme-left origins are well known, especially of its leadership including the charismatic Pablo Iglesias and the restless Juan Carlos Monedero, but its rhetoric has increasingly been toned down as it seeks the centrist vote.

Ciudadanos is much more posed for stable governance, since its policies are aimed at deep improvements of the political and economic system rather than its complete overhaul, but its sudden rise (it had only gained 0,15% of the vote in the European Parliamentary elections of 2014 and now finds itself with 6.5% of the national vote, and rising) has also been so meteoric that the party is going into overdrive establishing a presence in all corners of the nation, as well as increasing the media presence of the leader of the formation, Albert Rivera.

It remains to be seen whether these two parties will continue their rise, and if so, if they can maintain their appeal. With regional elections in Andalusia in 2 weeks, their first political decisions will have to be taken. The realities of government will replace the idealization and rhetoric of the campaign trail, and by these decisions will they be judged come the national elections due at the end of the year. These parties seem ready for government, but we are about to find out if they are also ready for the governing realities.

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