Thousands came out to cheer the swearing in of new mayors in Spain on Saturday June 13, in scenes not seen since 1979 or perhaps 1931. The May 24 municipal and regional elections represented a serious setback for the ruling right wing PP. But the extent of their defeat was not clearly visualised until June 13, when mayors representing parties and alliances to the left of social democracy were sworn in, in 4 of the 5 largest cities in the country: Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Valencia. The fifth, Seville, was taken over by a PSOE mayor, with the support of Podemos-backed “Participa Sevilla”, and United Left (IU).

Sunday the 24th of May will go down as a landmark in Spanish history. Municipal and regional elections were held across Spain (except in Galicia, Andalusia, the Basque Country and Catalonia, where the vote was for municipal but not for regional governments). The right-wing PP (People’s Party) was unseated from most of their historical strongholds. However, the sharp turn to the left in Spanish society is best exemplified by the rise of Podemos and the electoral fronts that it led, which won in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Coruña, Oviedo, Cádiz... In most big cities the Socialist Party (PSOE), only socialist in name, has been overtaken by Podemos and has now become a secondary player in Spanish politics, where Podemos is now setting the agenda.

Only a few days ahead of the local and regional elections, the ruling class have used all the dirty tricks in the book. Both Popular Unity lists for municipal elections and Podemos (standing in the regions) have been slandered with links to “drug dealing Venezuela” and accused of wanting to bring about “a Cuban-style dictatorship”. But, why so much panic?

On March 22 elections were held in the region of Andalusia, the most populated region in Spain and a key political arena. This is especially so because, firstly, these are the first elections in a year that will be marked by the ballot box: there will be municipal elections in May and general elections in December.

The PP government intends to approach the 2015 election by declaring, with great fanfare, that the crisis is over. It is true that GDP increased by 1.4% in 2014 and that net-employment increased by 417,500. This year GDP is expected to increase by more than 2%. Does this mark a fundamental change in the economic situation?

Since PODEMOS started registering members on its website in July 2014, over 300,000 have joined. Tens of thousands take part in the weekly meetings of over 1000 circles scattered all over the country. With just over a year of life, Podemos has gone from nothing to becoming, according to all opinion polls, the first party of the country, polling at 30% with about 6.5 million votes. One would have to go back to 1977, immediately after the fall of the dictatorship, to find a comparable political phenomenon in terms of enthusiasm, hopes and mass organisation.

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