Podemos's Polling Guru Says Spanish Graft Boosts Its Support

  • Anti-austerity party saw poll numbers slide since election
  • Surveys show corruption is voters' second biggest concern

The wave of corruption allegations buffeting Spain’s political class will boost support for Podemos, the anti-establishment group’s polling chief said.

Carolina Bescansa, head of political analysis at Podemos, said that the dozens of corruption cases that have hit the headlines since December’s inconclusive election will help sustain support for her two-year-old party even though the economic crisis that spurred its creation is subsiding.

Acting Industry Ministry Jose Manuel Soria quit Friday after being linked to an offshore company in the Panama leaks and Spanish courts are investigating more than 120 corruption cases involved officials from the governing People’s Party and its traditional rivals. With opposition parties struggling to forge an alliance to oust the PP before the May 2 deadline, the country may be heading for the polls again in June in bid to break the electoral gridlock.

“The economic crisis and corruption are two sides of the same coin,” Bescansa, 45, said in an interview at the Parliament in Madrid last week. “If you say that the economic situation isn’t the most favorable for Podemos, which I actually doubt, there is another fundamental element of the Podemos case which is the regeneration of the Spanish democracy.”

Challenging the Socialists

Building on the “Indignados” movement of disenfranchised young people that emerged at the height of the economic crisis, Podemos came third in December’s election, within touching distance of the Socialist Party which has traditionally dominated the progressive vote in Spain. Since then, the two parties, who control 159 votes in the 350-seat parliament, have tussled over what sort of alliance they might form to take control of the government.

Eighty-eight percent of Podemos supporters voted against the three-way alliance including liberal group Ciudadanos which the Socialists have sought, Podemos said Monday. Instead, party members endorsed a progressive alliance with the Socialists that excludes Ciudadanos.

“What the Socialists didn’t understand, and I think still don’t, is that Podemos and the Socialists got a very similar number of votes,” said Bescansa, a political scientist from Madrid’s Complutense University. “They tried to hold a negotiation wrongly assuming that it was clearly and irreversibly decided who would have the dominant role.” 

While political leaders fight over who should head the next government, Spain’s economy is continuing with the healing process. The jobless rate has declined by about 6 percentage points since touching a record in 2013 and the economy grew last year at the fastest pace since 2007.

Still, Spaniards have been listed corruption as their second-biggest concern after unemployment since November 2013, according to a monthly survey conducted by state-run pollster CIS. Support for Podemos support has declined by about 4 points to 16 percent since the election, according to an Advice Strategic Consultants’ poll of 2,500 people published Sunday by Europa press.

“Between 30 and 40 percent of the potential voters still haven’t decided who to support,” said Bescansa. “The game is really open.”

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