Spanish  mainstream political parties are reeling from the unexpected rise of Podemos.

The radical left anti-austerity, eurosceptic party was sinking rapidly in the polls with a mere 16% of the projected vote a week ahead of the election. Instead, Podemos received 21% of the actual vote.

That was enough for third place, and nearly second. The nationalistic party Ciudadanos fell to a distant fourth from a projected second-place finish.

Unexpected “Victory”

With that unprecedented final week swing Podemos Declares Victory and an end to Spain’s two-party domination.

Pablo Iglesias, leader of the anti-austerity Podemos party, emerged as the only true winner of Spain’s general election and was quick to claim victory, albeit from third place.

“The era of two parties is done. It no longer exists,” Mr Iglesias said on Monday.

Mr Iglesias, who launched the insurgent leftwing party two years ago, set out to break the dominance of the establishment centre-right Popular party and the centre-left Socialists. In the end, his party did better than even the most optimistic polls had predicted but the pony-tailed former politics lecturer will now have to prove himself, not just as a campaigner but as the leader of a large and potentially unruly bloc in parliament.

Podemos won 69 seats in the 350-seat parliament, behind prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP) on 123 and the Socialists (PSOE) on 90.

It came within a whisker of the Socialists in terms of share of the vote (21 per cent versus 22) and would have won even more seats were it not for an electoral system that favours parties with well-established operations in rural Spain.

Splintered politics.

The Podemos “victory” leaves politics in Spain splintered heavily, possibly beyond repair.

To highlight the differences, simply take a look at five key Podemos demands that leader Pablo Iglesias laid out today.

Five Primary Demands

  1. More proportional electoral system
  2. Addition of housing, health and education as constitutional rights
  3. Recognition of the right of self-determination for regions such as Catalonia
  4. Depoliticised judiciary
  5. Rules against politicians serving on corporate boards

Points one and four seem reasonable enough. Point two on “constitutional rights” may not look scary at first glance, but details outlined in Incredible Populist Positions in Podemos’ “Economic Manifesto”; Populism Explained) show many downright scary, radical socialistic ideas.

Coalition Review

Point three is totally unacceptable to the other political parties.

Ciudadanos seeks to return more power to the central government, not less. Thus, a three-way coalition with the socialist PSOE party, Podemos, and Ciudadanos simply cannot work even though Podemos’ other four demand would likely be appeal to the group as a whole.

PSOE and Rajoy’s PP party not only have huge differences, they lack insufficient votes even if they would agree to work together.

No coalition with enough votes to form a majority makes any sense given the huge differences between political goals.

Prime minister Rajoy may not even try to form a minority government. That possibility would immediately lead to new elections.

But leaders seldom step aside voluntarily, so the most likely outcome appears to be formation of a very unstable minority government that will fail soon enough. Either way, new Spanish elections are on the event horizon.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock