We are less than three weeks away from the Spanish general election, which will take place on the 20th of December.
Polls abound. Candidates for Prime-Minister make proposals on a daily basis. Analysts debate passionately the possible election outcomes and government coalitions. And in the process the most important tends to be overlooked: the big transformation of Spanish politics already happened.
The driving force behind it has one name: Pablo Iglesias, the formidable leader of Podemos (a left-wing party. Note: "Podemos" means "We can"). In less than 24 months, almost single handedly, he disrupted the entire Spanish political establishment. As a result of what at some point looked liked an unstoppable rise in popularity, Pablo Iglesias / Podemos achieved the impossible trinity:
1. they forced the renewal of the leadership teams of Spain's main political parties. With the exception of Partido Popular (which is in government) the leaders of all main political parties are now 35 to 45 years of age. And the same applies to the vast majority of the top decision makers in their teams.
These individuals rose to power 15 years ahead of "their time". In Spain, the 35-45 year old generation is much more international, better educated and prepared than the preceding ones. It is also the first since the 1930s civil war able to have a reasonable fact-based discussion about politics, society and economics, leaving the "fachas" vs. "rojos" childish, cartoon-like arguments on the sidelines. Coming to power 15 years earlier than expected is a blessing for Spain's political, economic and social development.
2. they (and new parties that erupted on the wake of Pablo Iglesias' "anti-establishment revolution") won the support of many discontent voters in Catalonia who would have otherwise voted for pro-independence parties. This gives the new Spanish government to come out of the December election a 2-3 year window of opportunity to reform the country's constitution and accommodate Catalonia in a politically reformed Spain. Catalonia's secession, which looked unstoppable 2 years ago, can now be avoided. Avoiding the related political and economic turmoil is good news. Taking into account that one of Spain's main strengths is the dynamic resulting from the healthy rivalry between its main regions (and this doesn't apply only to football's Barça-Madrid) keeping Catalonia as part of a politically reformed Spain is very good news. For everyone involved.
3. they generated a new wave of interest and enthusiasm for politics among Spaniards, especially the young, and gave ordinary citizens new hope for a better future. Dreams, even when potentially unrealistic at inception, are essential to create a dynamic of positive change. And interest, hope and enthusiasm is all what is needed for new, innovative social and political movements to be born. Projects able to offer effective solutions for the problems Spain is facing.
Podemos only shortcoming is its economic illiteracy. It is a major shortcoming.
However, the disruption of the Spanish political establishment, and the new wave of political enthusiasm, triggered by Pablo Iglesias / Podemos created the space for new political movements to flourish. According to all polls, one of them became in the meantime a top 4 political party: Ciudadanos, the centrist party led by Catalan born Albert Rivera. It has an excellent economic and institutional reform programme (https://www.ciudadanos-cs.org/programa-electoral). More importantly, it is almost certain that it will be part of a future Spanish government coalition as no party will have an absolute majority. And if only half of its proposals are implemented by the new government Spain will be a benchmark for quality institutions and economic policy in 5 years time.
Whatever the outcome of the 20th of December election, one thing is clear: a country that is able to create political leaders of Pablo Iglesias' spectacular dimension and political movements capable of designing economic and reform programmes of the quality of that of Ciudadanos has a very bright future ahead. And should be proud of its very lively civil society.