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Spain: Podemos & the Rise of the New Left Online

Austerity in Europe has given rise to a wide range of new right and left-wing parties. And in Spain, Podemos, is suddenly very popular indeed. This partly comes down to public disaffection with standard politics. However, is also boils down to a rather savvy use of technology. 

Podemos (“We Can” in Spanish) has only existed for several months,” said Luke Stobart, who covers politics in Spain for the Guardian and is co-editor of La Hiedra magazine. Despite this, it gained 1.2 million votes (8% of the total) in the European elections and currently has five MEPs in the European Parliament.

This is Podemos London, an event in celebration of a party, which is born out of “growing detachment from mainstream politics”. And Stobart is just one of the high profile speakers which include film director, Ken Loach, left-wing commentator, Owen Jones, and the extremely popular, Spanish MEP, Tania González Peñas.

#PodemosLON is a big publicity bash, which is still far more widely covered in the Spanish media. It is streamed online on Podemos Radio, whilst Público [Spanish] listed the event as its third most viral news story. Because although the party may have built much of its initial profile through television, especially talk-shows, most of the money came through crowdfunding.

Tech sits at the heart of this party. In fact, although many Spanish electoral campaigns cost more than 2 million euros per party, Podemos achieved success by raising just 100,000 euros (US$133,650) online. Then, via a wide range of online communities and grassroots organisational structure, it helped to promote its message out to the Spanish population.

With 751,353 likes on Facebook and 352,000 followers on Twitter, it currently has more social fans than any other Spanish political party. It is also in the process of introducing Appgree and Loomio, online tools that will allow people to submit ideas and vote on them.

Online forms of engagement were utilised very early on. In the first instance, Agora Voting was employed to select the MPs and attracted 33,000 voters who were verified through SMS. Although those votes accounted for 3% of the actual voter base, it is now working on an even more ambitious project: LaboDemo. This should allow for instant mass polling.

Christina Flesher Fominaya, senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen is keen to stress that tech is not a catch all solution: “We need to approach digital media reflexively and strategically,” she said. In fact, activists use technology very differently depending on where they come from. For example, in Spain TitanPads are widely used, while this is not the case in Ireland.

Across Europe a number of new political movements are emerging to counteract austerity. Many of these would struggle to attract the support they have, without the use of new forms of technology. In fact, as these last European elections have shown, the political landscape has changed incredibly rapidly.

 

Over the last few months IDG Connect has looked at a few different ways technology is interacting with politics around the world:

Europe

Europe: The Rise of the Far-Right Online

Beppe Grillo & Italian Internet Politics

Can the Internet Help Curb Corruption in Russia?


Asia

SE Asia: The Curious Case of Internet Freedom

Asia: Authoritarian Governments on the Internet

Flower Speech in Myanmar

Social Media Censorship in Vietnam

The Politics of Social Media in South East Asia

 

 

Kathryn Cave is Editor at IDG Connect

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