Pablo Iglesias Named Head of Spain Anti-Austerity Party Podemos

Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos, which has overtaken the country’s two main parties in the polls, named European Parliament member Pablo Iglesias as its first secretary general.

The 36-year-old political science professor won 95,000 votes to become the party’s official leader, it said on Twitter. A total of 107,000 votes were cast during the five-day election on the Internet, according to newspaper El Pais.

Podemos, “we can” in Spanish, formed in the past year and already has wider support than the ruling People’s Party and the main opposition group, the Socialists, according to a state-run poll released this month. Spain is due to have national elections next year.

The party was born out of the “indignados” movement that saw thousands of people occupy Madrid’s main square in 2011. Like Syriza in Greece, Podemos gained momentum by opposing social-spending cuts enacted by the government to fight gaping budget deficits and economic recession.

Iglesias, a professor at Madrid’s Complutense University, came to prominence on political chat shows on Spanish television. He became the party’s main spokesman and was elected to the European Parliament in May.

Fellow Podemos member Juan Carlos Monedero was an adviser to deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Podemos is calling for a 35-hour work week, a program of public spending to create jobs, and for a lower retirement age.

The group also proposes prohibiting profitable companies from firing workers, imposing a maximum wage, and demands an audit of Spain’s public debt to assess which part is “illegitimate.”

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