This is part of the Festival of Democracy, 16 October 2015
Speakers: Francisco Jurado Gilabert and Professor Simon Tormey
On the 15th May 2011 Spain was convulsed by one of the most extraordinary popular uprisings in the history of any advanced democratic society. Up to 8 million Spanish citizens took part in the occupation of squares and public buildings in 60 towns and cities across the country. The movement of “the Indignados” (or “pissed off”) was born. The Spanish had much to be pissed off about: recession, high unemployment, endemic corruption, croneyism, failed “mega-projects”, high government and local authority debt and much else besides. With both major political parties complicit in this state of affairs, the occupation of public space was arguably a necessary antidote to the ‘business as usual’” mantra offered by the mainstream media. 15M, as this event became known, demonstrated the power of an ICT enabled citizen protest politics to set in train the search for a new politics that could break the logjam. Since 2011 Spain has witnessed a quite extraordinary period of political experimentation. Many new initiatives have been created, together with new political parties designed to build on the legacy of 15M. The most notable of these has been Podemos (“we can”) created in early 2014 to contest the European elections. It polled 9% of the popular vote with very little time for preparation, giving it 5 seats in the European Parliament. But Podemos’ rather populist approach has left space for other kinds of confluence and alliance based parties to do well. In the municipal elections of May 2015 structures such as these succeeded in winning the elections in Madrid and Barcelona, with the result that two radical mayors, Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau, now run the two largest cities in Spain. Looking ahead, the Spanish general election is scheduled for the end of the year. This will show in clearer terms the state of play between these various initiatives and the political mainstream. Will we see a Spanish “Syriza” emerge victorious? Or has the rage now subsided to the point where “normal” politics is restored?