Tens of thousands of Podemos supporters marched in the streets of Madrid on Saturday, in the first mass rally staged by Spain´s anti-establishment party since it was founded just over a year ago.
The demonstration, billed as a “March for Change”, marked the first attempt by Podemos to translate its recent surge in opinion polls into a show of force on the street.
Coming less than a week after the triumph of Syriza in Greece´s general election, the rally was also intended to capitalise on the apparent surge for far-left anti-austerity movements across the south of Europe.
Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos leader, urged the vast crowd assembled in central Madrid to” dream like Don Quixote”, the deluded but valiant knight of Cervantes´s novel. “Today we dream of a better country. But we have not come here to dream but to create a new reality in 2015,” he said. “This year is the year of change — we will win the elections against the PP.”
Despite growing signs of an economic upswing in Spain, the Popular party led by Mariano Rajoy has seen its standing in polls plummet on the back of damaging corruption scandals and Spain´s still-towering unemployment rate.
Teresa Cortinas, a Podemos supporter who travelled to the Madrid rally from Alicante, echoed that frustration “We want a change in the politics of this country. We believe that it is possible to do things differently, and place the people above the money once again.”
Founded in January last year, Podemos made its first headlines in the May European Parliament elections, surprising analysts and forecasters by winning eight per cent of the vote.
The party has since seen a meteoric rise in its poll ratings, with recent surveys suggesting it could become the biggest bloc in parliament after this year´s general elections.
However, Spain´s voting system and the residual strength of the two mainstream, parties make it unlikely that Podemos could repeat the kind of triumph scored by Syriza in Greece.
The far-left party led by Alexis Tsipras came within a whisker of winning an absolute majority, and faces little pressure from its coalition partners to moderate its stance.