Iglesias, an (epic) step aside

2 min
Pablo Iglesias during a control session to the Government in the Senate

With the announcement of his departure from the Spanish government, Pablo Iglesias is killing a few birds with one stone. His leadership within Podemos had long had detractors, he felt personally uncomfortable with his role in the coalition government with Pedro Sanchez's PSOE, who did not seem overly bothered yesterday by his second vice president leaving. On the other hand, Podemos needed a catalyst to avoid losing its distinctiveness due to the not always pleasant task of government in PSOE's shadow. Leaving the government to face Diaz Ayuso in the Community of Madrid gives a patina of effectiveness to a withdrawal that otherwise would looked like a crisis both in the government and the party. Iglesias has managed to turn his step to the side into a heroic, epic goal: to become the red hope to stop the PP's candidate who most unapologetically competes with the far-right Vox, which she will not hesitate to embrace if need be. Thus, Iglesias hopes to obtain a strong position in Madrid as PSOE tries to find its footing after its supposedly discreet manoeuvre of allying with Ciudadanos in Murcia has ended with the latter dislodged and in free fall at the polls (Sánchez, therefore, is left without his longed-for liberal centre partner), Ayuso strengthened as the new star of the right and with Podemos once again in direct competition with the socialists at the polls.

Polarisation is once again staining all Spanish politics, if it had ever been away. In any case, now even more so. Ayuso, who even allows herself to joke about ascribing to fascism, is a guarantee of neoliberal populist radicalism, and it is precisely in the confrontation against this hard nationalist politics that Iglesias feels comfortable to set himself up as an ideological wall against a right that is certainly frightening and worrying. Paradoxically, or not so much, Ayuso feels her new rival is good news: she also feels comfortable in the clash. They are the same two opposing Spains as ever in a 21st century version. And it is well known that when civil war breaks out in Madrid, Catalonia should start to worry.

Thus, the battle for Madrid on 4 May will be decisive and will mark the future, not only of Iglesias and Ayuso, not only of the direction taken by their respective parties, but also of the stability of the left-wing coalition in the Spanish government and also, of course, of the evolution of the situation in Catalonia, which will see how any kind of dialogue recedes as it awaits the outcome in the capital of the State. The Catalan issue will undoubtedly be one of the weapons that Ayuso will use to win against Iglesias, whom she does not hesitate to describe, in other words, as a red separatist. The plural and progressive Spain that the still leader of Podemos and now candidate to the presidency of Madrid defends will measure its citizen support in the capital of the State with Ayuso's undisguised project to return to the involutionist Spain, allergic to diversity. And we will have to see how the the ever tactical Sánchez's PSOE positions itself in this dynamic of confrontation that, from the outset, leaves him out of the game in Madrid.