Podemos has marked political life in Spain for the last two years. It’s a political innovation that may constitute a watershed moment, delineating the “before” and “after” of the nation’s political left. That’s also the reason why, for Spanish and European elite, Podemos is an experiment that must fail as soon as possible.
Its rise was fast. Podemos won 8 percent of the vote in the 2014 European Parliament elections, 14 percent in regional elections in 2015, 20 percent in the national elections that year and 21 percent (with Izquierda Unida) in 2016. It also stormed the governments of the main Spanish cities.
Rather than positioning itself on the left-right axis, Podemos stood in the fault line between the bottom and the top of society, and for that it’s been defined (and sometimes defines itself) as populist. Its rhetoric is focused on the contrast between “pure people” and corrupt elites — dichotomies such as the common people and the privileged, producers and parasites, the majority and the elites, virtue and corruption, democracy and oligarchy.
At the basis of its constitution and its growth are five specific elements. The first is its founding nucleus, a compact group of five (mostly young) researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid, who are now the party’s leaders.