The rise of SYRIZA in Greece has been widely reported by the media and parallels are often given with how Spain’s austerity programme could come to a grinding halt if the left-wing populist party Podemos are elected in the Spanish general election in December. Opinion polling currently suggests that Podemos’ support is relatively steady at around 20%, which is five points lower than the high point of last November, thus putting Podemos in not-so-distant third place and enabling the party to have significant influence on Spanish politics after the election. Considering Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right People’s Party are at around 27% and the traditional centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) are around 25%, it is very possible that Podemos could the junior partner in a left-of-centre coalition, unless the PSOE commit electoral suicide by entering into a grand coalition with the People’s Party.
Media commentators are right to point to Podemos as another popular left-wing force like SYRIZA that could challenge the austerity agenda of the Troika, especially as Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has stood alongside Podemos Leader Pablo Iglesias at campaign rallies. However, despite being a number of moths away from the general election a number of left-wing parties, including Podemos, are already implementing policies to prevent animal cruelty all over Spain.
Starting off with Podemos, although they are not running the government of any particular region single-handedly, the elections to regional parliaments in May 2015 saw Podemos grow in strength and as a result there have been many instances of bullfighting events being cancelled with political discussions taking place was whether referenda should be held to ban the practice.
In the Madrid City Council Podemos worked with other smaller left-wing parties in an electoral coalition called Ahora Madrid; because the parties worked together the coalition went from zero seats to twenty, giving it only one fewer than the People’s Party. But this radical left-wing group didn’t fail to achieve power; a majority on the City Council requires 29 seats and, after reaching out to the PSOE who won nine seats, the Leader of Ahora Madrid, Manuela Carmena became the new Mayor. In this traditionalist city, Carmena declared that “not one Euro of public money” will be spent on bullfighting.
To a lesser extent Podemos’ increase in influence was also felt in the provincial government of Castilla-La Mancha with the party’s 2 seats giving the PSOE the assistance it required to remove People’s Party from government; the left-wing coalition cancelled a bullfighting festival in Villafranca de los Caballeros with €18,000 saved being spent on textbooks for local schools.
Podemos also worked in an electoral coalition in Zaragoza as a part of the Zaragaza en Común group under the leadership of former university professor Pedro Santisteve Roche; together with the PSOE and the Aragonese nationalists of Chunta Aragonesista the local government of Zaragoza withheld public money from the Toros Embolados festival which involves attaching firecrackers to the horns of bulls.
Joan Ríbo, the new Compromís mayor of Valencia, has declared that his new administration will actively oppose city funds going towards events that involve the killing of bulls. Ríbo is also aware that he has the support of the Valencian Parliament which is run by the PSOE’s Valencian regional branch along with Compromís and Podemos in supporting roles.
However the fulcrum of recent left-wing opposition to bullfighting has been the province of Alicante. In the 2015 municipal elections the Valencian nationalists and eco-socialists of Compromís picked up 167 seats out of the 1681 on offer, and the United Left coalition of communists, socialists and environmentalists, also picked up 78 seats; when added to the PSOE’s 508 seats, the three groups easily overpower the People’s Party’s 635 seats.
Through pressure from the leftist-run municipal government the towns of Gandia, which is locally run by the PSOE, Denia, which is led by the People’s Party, have both cancelled bullfighting on grounds of animal abuse and both will have referenda on whether to ban the practice outright. In the city of Alicante itself the PSOE is also supported by leftists Compromís and Guanyar Alacant, as well as the more progressive elements of the centrist party Ciudadanos.
The Spanish general election in December shall prove to be a very interesting set of results as at a national level the support of smaller regional parties of the left seem to be uniting behind Podemos, with some exceptions that also champion regional separatism like the Republican Left of Catalonia. As long as Podemos’ poll numbers stay at around 20% they, in partnership with the PSOE, will be able to institute real left-wing policies for Spain.
With the kind of grassroots leftist movement that is being built in Spain, which has already brought about significant electoral and policy change, I am confident that in the next five years the scourge of bullfighting shall be finally removed from mainstream Spanish culture. With this barbaric practice outlawed Spain shall continue to remove vestiges of its imperialist and fascist past, creating a new progressive society that improves the lives of people and animals alike.