Disruption and its Aftermath in Spanish Politics

On May 15, 2011, thousands of indignados filled Madrid’s Puerta del Sol in an impromptu protest that would mark the beginning of the Spain’s anti-austerity movement. In June 2017, Emory University students taking part in the Political Science Department’s European Politics summer program, heard from Irene Martín Cortes how that single day and the protests that followed shifted the political landscape and broke what had evolved to be a two-party system in Spain.

Martín Cortes is a Professor of Political Science at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and a doctoral researcher with the Carlos III – Juan March Institute for Social Sciences. During the lecture, she addressed the role of the Podemos party, formed in 2014, and the impact of their rhetoric and electoral success on the Spanish political system. Students were especially interested in the gap between Podemos’ record-setting turnout in its first election as a political party and the party’s future after decreased votes in subsequent elections.

The lecture was ideally timed, just days after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had faced a no-confidence vote brought forward by Podemos to denounce corruption. Martín Cortes challenged students to consider the optics and symbolic importance of the vote for Podemos, even if Rajoy’s minority coalition ultimately survived.

Directed by Emory Professor of Political Science, Jeffrey Staton, the program spends three weeks in Madrid before continuing comparative study in Barcelona, Edinburgh, and Berlin. Students enroll in three courses, one examining differences in electoral and party systems across Europe and the results for public policy, a second course addressing authoritarianism and historical memory in Spain and Germany, and a third Economics course.

While in Madrid, Accent also arranged lectures with local faculty on Spanish history, as well as meetings with political figures including Miguel López, advisor to Podemos for peace and security, and Ivan Sven Glasovac, a political consultant and lobbyist who has worked extensively with Spain’s current governing party, Partido Popular.