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Mass turnout at Spanish anti-austerity rally

January 31, 2015

Madrid has seen the biggest show of support yet for anti-austerity party Podemos, with tens of thousands taking to the streets. The party's policies have drawn comparison with Greece's new left-wing government.

Pablo Iglesias (L), leader of Spain's party "Podemos" (We Can) waves as he attends a rally called by Podemos in Madrid January 31, 2015. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
Image: Reuters/S. Perez

Saturday's "March for Change" in Madrid saw tens of thousands of Spaniards take to the streets in support of Podemos, which has experienced a rapid surge in popularity since the party formed just one year ago.

Crowds chanted "Yes, we can" - in reference to the meaning of the party's name in Spanish - and "tic tac tic tac," suggesting that time is running out for those in charge.

The success of Podemos, which hopes to beat mainstream parties in the November general election, echoes that of Greece's Syriza party. Syriza, and its leader Alexis Tsipras, easily won Greece's parliamentary election a week ago on its anti-austerity platform.

Shock European win

Podemos won five seats in elections for the European Parliament last May and is currently leading voter surveys in the run-up to local, regional and national elections in Spain this year.

The party rejects austerity programs as a means for lifting countries out of deep economic crisis and, among other things, has called for a return to a fully state-controlled health care system and for labor laws to prevent profitable companies from firing their workers. It has also pledged to tackle corruption.

Its policies have met with considerable public support in Spain, which has been beset by a number of corruption scandals and hard hit by public spending cuts imposed by both the current conservative ruling party and the previous Socialist government after the 2008 economic crisis.

High unemployment

Although Spain has now officially come out of recession, thousands of households are still struggling, with nearly one in four Spaniards unemployed and salaries still not back to pre-crisis levels.

Podemos, led by former university professor Pablo Iglesias (seen waving in the photo above), was born partly of the so-called Indignant protests that filled Madrid's Puerta del Sol square at the height of Spain's economic crisis in 2011.

Iglesias appeared alongside Syriza's Tsipras to publicly support him during his election campaign earlier this month.

tj/cmk (AFP, Reuters)