While there will be ample time for analysis and self-criticism among progressives in Spain over yesterday’s election results, “Brexit” and Unidos Podemos’ lack of a clear and convincing plan for Europe were key to their catastrophic performance at the ballot.
Podemos and its coalition allies made a strategic error to keep quiet on Europe mainly through relying on soundbites instead of having a proper European agenda. Without a meaningful narrative on what a Unidos Podemos-led government would do and say in the EU Council and in the Eurogroup, the “Brexit” shockwaves simply pushed former-PSOE voters who had voted for Podemos last December into two camps: a sizeable few fled back into the troika-trio (PP-Ciudadanos-PSOE) bosom, and the another group sadly abstained from voting. The end result was that the Izquierda Unida votes were neutralised and hope faded.
There are two fundamental problems with not having a plan for Europe. Firstly, it sends the worse type of message to the electorate, one of uncertainty. In fact, without firm programmatic measures on the table, the Spanish electorate had little choice but to retreat into what keeps their country precariously afloat as the Union’s “diligent student.” For Spaniards with a strong European perspective, but nervously awaiting the final dictate from Brussels on their country’s fiscal report card –and the menace of more austerity measures– a vote for Unidos Podemos was equivalent to voting for no alternative strategy, or even chaos.
Secondly, Unidos Podemos’ inability to present a clear European vision reinforced the establishment’s perverse self-image as the only true guardians of the European project; while Podemos et al are depicted as an actual threat to the Union or, at best, unfit to lead. Thus, Unidos Podemos sadly missed the opportunity to expose the actual, and opposing, truth: the establishment is driving Europe to its dangerous demise.
Spain’s likely troika-friendly future government will strengthen Schäuble’s hand to turn the Eurozone into an Iron Cage of Permanent Austerity in response to the “Brexit” (see this) –the Schäuble Plan, as Yanis Varoufakis calls it (see this).
Many questions now remain: Will Podemos realise the error of going into the election without a European Agenda? Will they now collaborate with DiEM25 to create one (as we have much to offer them on this)? Or will they do a “Tsipras” from the opposition benches: talk the good talk about the importance of a ‘different’ Europe, but have nothing to propose against the Schäuble-Dijsselbloem (There Is No Alternative Strategy).
The only imaginable silver lining about yesterday’s terrible result is that Podemos will use its time in opposition productively, and work with with DiEM25 and its pan European partners on a proper European Agenda, rather than being lured into a Syriza II Faustian Bargain.
Article first published in DiEM25.