Spain: Huge march for change as Podemos rise in polls

Issue 
Podemos rally, Madrid, January 31.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Madrid on January 31 in a huge “March for Change” to support Spain's new anti-austerity party Podemos.

The party has grown in support after the left-wing, anti-austerity SYRIZA party in Greece won last week's elections. This has brought hope that change could be in the air for other European countries whose debt is being used to justify austerity.

On the demonstration, people chanted “yes we can” and “tic tac tic tac” ― suggesting the clock was ticking and time was running out for the political elite.

The march ended in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol where protesters filled the square, in one of the party's first outdoor mass demonstrations and its biggest show of support.

Podemos, Spanish for “We can”, says it will seek to write off part of Spain's debt, which has caused unemployment to soar in the country, if it wins regional and national elections this year. The party uses the slogan that politicians should “serve the people, not private interests”.

Podemos was formed just over a year ago, but has rapidly risen in popularity, winning five seats in the European Parliament in May last year. A February 4 poll showed it was now more popular than Spain's main opposition party, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE).

“People are fed up with the political class,” said Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid who attended the march.

When Podemos announced the march in early December, party leader Pablo Iglesias said: “This is not about asking for anything from the government or protesting. It’s to say that in 2015 there will be a government of the people.

“We want a historic mobilisation. We want people to be able to tell their children and grandchildren: ‘I was at the march on January 31 that launched a new era of political change in Spain.’”

The February 4 poll found that if there was an election today, the ruling conservative People's Party would take 27.3% of the vote, followed by Podemos with 23.9%, with the PSOE in third place with 22.2%. On current polling, no party would gain a majority.

Podemos is already Spain’s second-largest Spanish party by number of members.

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]