Monday. A cold rainy morning in Barcelona. All across Europe the headlines scream: Le Pen winner of French elections, UKIP wins in UK.
Racist, xenophobe right-wing extremists who once struggled to eke out even a single seat in the Europarliament have now become many voters’ number one option. France’s prime minister Manuel Valls (not exactly an immigrant’s best friend himself) publicly called LePen’s victory ‘a disaster for Europe’. I don’t know how you say ‘a fucking disaster’ in French, but that’s probably what he said in private.
By mid-day though, rays of sun break through the clouds.
In Spain, a new formation by the name of Podemos (one of the ‘smaller grassroots platforms’ that I mentioned yesterday) surpasses all expectations with over 1.2 million votes. 5 seats in the European parliament from which to pursue their platform, available here in Spanish. Regardless of what you think of their agenda, it’s undeniably heartening that a group with only 4 months of existence and a campaign budget of some €200,000 has been able to make such a dent in its first elections.
Some have complained that leader Pablo Iglesias’ experience as a panelist in a number of Spain’s ever-popular TV ‘tertulias’ (debate programs somewhat in the vein of the old McLaughlin Group or Cross-fire) have given him an unfair advantage. Iglesias responded thusly (quoted from an article in El País):
“The criticism is fair. I don’t like it either that there are people who are famous just for being on TV […] We don’t have the funding of the PSOE or the PP, we haven’t asked for a loan, we don’t have any powerful friends nor any friend in the media who give us concessions as favors–we just have a kid with a ponytail on the TV.”
However, some allege that they do in fact have friends in the media–Grupo Planeta, for instance, or Mediaset. Others say that LaSexta TV’s televisedsparring matches between Iglesias and La Razón director Pepe Marhuenda function as a sort of mediated, self-congratulatory voodoo doll are designed to make viewers feel like their voice is being heard and at the same time keep them passive, on their couch, glued to the screen.
Maybe so. Be that as it may, Europe and the world seems to be getting grayer and more dystopic with every passing day. Podemos has a long way to go if it truly hope to achieve its goal of winning the next elections. In the meantime, I say: Damn it, for once just please let me have this one ray of sun.