He has done it again. When it seemed that Podemos was at its lowest moment, with the real risk of disappearing in Madrid, the place where he was born seven years ago, Pablo Iglesias has once again managed to disconcert everyone and become the main protagonist of an electoral campaign to all or nothing, like all his. The commotion is of such caliber that nobody just believed that Iglesias is leaving. Neither in the PSOE nor in Podemos But is it going?
All the nearby sources consulted are clear that the definitive way out has begun. But there is time. Before, it will build a kind of PNV model, a party that has been highly studied and respected by political scientists such as Iglesias, with a maximum reference in the institutions, which will be Yolanda Díaz, and an organic leader: the still vice president. Like Iñigo Urkullu and Andoni Ortuzar. And before that is his great final battle: his attempt to stop the PP and Vox in Madrid. Everything else depends on the outcome of those elections. A fiasco would speed up his departure. A success would make him more essential.
Nothing is written in the electrical world of post-bipartisanship, where plans get old in hours. What does seem very clear is that Iglesias had long thought that he would not be the candidate and wanted Díaz as a replacement. It was a medium-term plan that Díaz Ayuso has precipitated.
“The elections in Madrid”, says a leader of Podemos, “seemed like a military walk. Ayuso and Vox want to build in Madrid a laboratory for the future right of Western Europe. It is the gateway to Trumpism in Spain. Vox can manage to direct the Madrid education. Faced with this scenario, Pablo [Iglesias] He tries to convince Alberto Garzón to be a candidate and when he can’t, he decides to go. I had to go. It makes all the sense. It is their natural place. Now he’s excited, ”he adds.
Garzón’s possible candidacy
It all starts on Thursday the 11th, a day after the day in which Ayuso called elections in Madrid. Iglesias has already made the proposal to Garzón. But in IU, the training led by the Minister of Consumption, they do not see it clearly. They think about it until Friday, but Iglesias already sees that this route is closed. There are more options on the table, but none guarantees 100% to exceed 5% of the votes needed to enter the Madrid Assembly. The PSOE begins to transfer the idea that its candidate will be Ángel Gabilondo. The first polls give the right sweeping. Iglesias begins to consult with his hard core – Irene Montero, Juanma del Olmo, Pablo Echenique and Isa Serra, whose candidacy is discarded because he can be disqualified in the middle of the campaign – the possibility of running as a candidate. Manu Levín, who gives ideas for his speeches, begins to build one.
The bet is curdling until on Sunday everything is ready. And on Monday he communicated it to Pedro Sánchez with a message, not even a call, shortly before making it public. Del Olmo calls Iván Redondo to reassure him: this is for Madrid, we have to fight that battle, but Unidos Podemos will continue in the Government, the coalition holds. The socialists are outraged by the way and the day in which it has been done, with Sánchez in full summit with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. The highlight of their visit to the grave of Manuel Azaña in Montauban is in the background.
Tuesday’s Council of Ministers comes to an end without anyone saying anything about the central issue on the Spanish political agenda. Neither Sánchez nor Iglesias. As if it did not exist. Only at the last moment, Margarita Robles, protagonist of the toughest clashes with Podemos, leaves a jibe for Iglesias, and criticizes without citing him that the summit and the historic visit to the tomb of Azaña de Macron and Sánchez will remain in the background for ” In other news”. It is the only veiled reference.
Later, Sánchez and Iglesias meet in private to negotiate the new government structure. There begins the new stage of the coalition. Sánchez tells Iglesias that Yolanda Díaz, contrary to what was said at the beginning, will not be able to be second vice president and Minister of Labor because she would be ahead in the hierarchical priority of Nadia Calviño, who heads the delegated commission for economic affairs. Calviño presses. Díaz gives in quickly: she will be the third vice president. “It is tougher than Iglesias,” says another leader. “If the socialists believe that it will be easier they are wrong. But it will focus on the important battles, those of the Government program ”.
The leader of Podemos has broken all the schemes of those who thought — and there were socialist ministers who believed it — that he would never voluntarily leave office. Some remain convinced that it will never go away. They believe that outside the Government it may be more complicated to manage for the PSOE than within. The bewilderment leaves everyone with many questions. What happened? Didn’t you like being in the government? Do you prefer the candidacy of the sixth party of Madrid to the vice-presidency? When did you start thinking about leaving?
There are two key moments in the maturation of the decision. One is the staff: Iglesias and his family have been suffering daily for months from an extreme right-wing group that harasses them at home. The older children, who are already aware of everything and hear the insults on a daily basis, will be turning three this summer. They are about to start school. And last summer they couldn’t even rest for a few days in Asturias. They had to turn around because of the harassment they suffered. It was his first attempt to get out and it didn’t work out. The personal pressure is enormous, because it affects minors.
Some place in that ordeal in the summer the moment when the decision begins to mature. Others do not. “They are making Pablo’s life bitter,” says another leader, “and, contrary to what many people think, he is a professional with many possibilities of earning a very good living outside of politics. That is always there. But this decision has been made for strictly political reasons. Madrid is the great battle ”, he concludes.
Politically, there is another key moment. Iglesias achieved in October what he pursued during the summer: leaving Cs out of the Budgets and consolidating the investiture bloc. It was a real obsession: truncating the “save Citizens” operation. To ensure that Sánchez has no choice but to govern with the left and the nationalists. That is more than consolidated, and more so now that Inés Arrimadas’ party is falling apart.
Having resolved that, which is what interested him, he was increasingly uncomfortable in the government, without a clear role. In recent months, with the tension in the coalition, there were not even meetings. Monday matins were canceled and the Sánchez-Iglesias appointment was postponed.
Even those closest to him admit that the management of his department, with hardly any real skills, did not interest him too much. Now let Díaz, who already directed the only ministry with real weight of United We Can, take the management of the Executive and build his leadership. She is much better in the polls than he is, something that has also influenced the decision to gradually pass the baton to her. Meanwhile, Iglesias is concentrating on fighting in Madrid, reconfiguring the space of Unidas Podemos, which is in decline and with many problems in almost all territories, and preparing his final exit.
The prominence of Iglesias since 2014, when he began his career putting his face on the Podemos ballot in his first elections, the European elections, makes it difficult to imagine how his political space will survive his final exit. No one knows how long that process will take and how it will end. But it is clear when it started: this Monday, when he announced that he was leaving the vice presidency, the jewel in the crown, to gamble in Madrid.