From the middle of the crowd the chanting begins and is echoed by those nearby, spreading throughout the plaza. As if one voice, the call goes out and repeats the now famous line over and over:
-¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede!
Without ceasing the chant, they erupt into clapping and cheering before quieting down again briefly, only to begin a few minutes later once more with the familiar cry.
-¡Sí se puede! ¡Yes, it is possible!
The general elections in Spain are a week away and it’s set to be quite a historic event. It’s the second election in under a year since the previous election on the 20th of December 2015 didn’t provide a clear majority to any party and no agreement has been reached to form a coalition.
The Spanish political scene has changed quite a bit in the past two years, going from the two traditional majority parties, the conservative PP (People’s Party) and the liberal PSOE (Socialist Party), to two brand new parties appearing on the scene and growing hugely in popularity within a very brief period of time. Ciudadanos (Citizens), on the one hand, a regional party in Catalonia, decided to join the national political scene. Defining itself as a center-right party, it provides voters with an alternative to PP. Podemos (which translates as We Can), on the other hand, was born from the 15-M movement wich in part inspired the later Occupy movement all around the world.
Yesterday, Podemos held a rally at “las Setas” in Seville, making their case for the change they hope to achieve in this country if they win on the 26th of June (26J).
In under two years they have made their mark on Spanish politics, turning what was essentially a two-party system that took turns to hold power into a more partitioned but also diverse parliament. In this way it provides more options and forces a change on the way things have always been done, making agreements between parties necessary. Just 4 month after creating the party, Podemos won 5 seats in the 2014 European Elections with 7,98% of the votes.
During the past elections they won 20,68% of votes and 69 seats in Parliament, becoming the third largest party represented. This was a huge achievement for a party as young as Podemos and a big blow to the bigger parties, the previously ruling PP and PSOE. However no single party had enough votes to form a government and negotiations began to attempt a coalition.
Despite many hours of meetings and proposals, the parties of the “new politics” were reluctant to join forces with the “old politics” and numbers still didn’t add up, bringing the country to a new general election due to take place next Sunday.
This time, Podemos has allied itself with Izquierda Unida, a party made up of smaller communist and left-wing groups, to form Unidos Podemos (Together We Can), hoping that this time around they will add enough seats to be able to form a government. The campaign is now well under way and the event held yesterday in the centre of Seville was a chance to hear some of Podemos’ proposals and ideas.
Scheduled to begin at 1pm, the crowds began to gather from noon onwards, filling up the rows of chairs quickly and the remaining standing room also shortly after. By 1:20pm when the event began, the whole square was full of supporters for the purple party eager to listen to what they had to say.
There was a lively atmosphere with cheery citizens of all ages chatting and joking as they waited for the rally to start. Drums sounded around the plaza as a group of drummers danced their way through the gathered crowds enlivening the atmosphere and the wait. There was a hopeful feel in the air, a sense of joy sprouting from the idea that change might finally be possible.
Their theme: “Por la sonrisa de un país”, to make a country smile, may sound like a dentist advertisement to some but, far from it, it seeks to inspire hope that a different country is possible, one that doesn’t have to suffer cuts and more austerity measures.
It is often thought that Podemos voters are made up of young people who, tired of the situation left by the economic crisis and the measures taken by the conservative government since then, want a change and hope to find it in this newly formed party. However, there were rows and rows of older people, of grandparents and parents as well as the younger generations who had come to hear what Podemos proposes.
Shortly after the group of newly formed politicians arrived and the media had their opportunity for interviews and photos, the event finally got under way. The group representing the party were Iñigo Errejón, the political secretary of the party; Teresa Rodriguez, the head of the party in the Andalusian parliament; Sergio Pascual, Auxiliadora Honorato and Begoña Gutiérrez, MP candidates for Seville constituency; and Julio Rodriguez, MP candidate for Almería constituency as well as Pablo Bustinduy, MP candidate for Madrid constituency.
Before joining Podemos to defend the rights of the people against cuts and austerity measures enforced by the previous government, many were simple citizens whose minds were far from a political career. Yet now they have taken on a role to represent those who didn’t feel represented by their politicians.
During the rally they defended a country free of corruption, where the policies created and adopted favour families and not the Banks, as well as the implementation of a basic income that would provide families with dignity and the means to make ends meet.
They shared stories of people they’d spoken to in the street such as a grandmother who told how all she was having for supper was bread and butter so that her grandchildren could have the only eggs left. Teresa Rodriguez said she remembered a similar story her grandmother would tell and that though many good things had happened in between, the latest cuts had left some families as resourseless as those from 40 years ago.
They talked about lowering tax on basic food items and electricity, while increasing tax for those who earn over 60.000€ a year. 70% of the population don’t earn anywhere near that since its 6.5 times higher than the minimum wage.
They also focused a lot on Andalusia. This region has been discriminated against by the central government for many years and they ask that policies put in place may also benefit the South of Spain as much as the other regions. Another topic broached was the creation of an industry based on renewable energy and research, making the most of the climate and providing jobs that are not only based on tourism.
They spoke of Europe, a Europe that has become unrecognisable to some, leaning further and further to the right and rejecting the thousands of refugees who seek safety within our borders and who instead are being mistreated, rejected and kicked out.
Each speech was accompanied by plenty of cheering and chanting of ¡Sí se puede!, plenty of nodding in agreement and applause.
Errejón focused on the fact that the party to beat on the 26th was PP and that many of those who voted for that party also lost many things due to cuts and austerity measures. He insisted that they were not the enemy, they were also citizens and they would work towards making this country a country worth living in. A country all the young people who have been forced to leave in search of jobs abroad might be able to return to with pride.
The event ended with the Andalusian anthem playing and everyone singing in unison as the green and white flag proudly waved up on stage and among the crowd.
As the session drew to a close and everyone headed home for a late lunch, the atmosphere was one of hope and expectation. Now all that remains is to wait for the results next Sunday and see what 26J will bring.
Photos: ©SpanishBerry 2016