Hopes were high that Unidos Podemos, the electoral coalition between the upstart anti-austerity party and the anti-capitalist left led by the Communist Party, could triumph in the June elections in Spain and bring an end to the neoliberal consensus that ruled the country for decades.
Unfortunately the results were disappointing, with the right-wing People's Party once again coming out on top, though without enough seats to form a government. In many ways the results of the June 2016 election are a mirror of the December 2015 election that led to a stalemate in the Spanish Cortes and left the country with only a caretaker government.
Nonetheless, Unidos Podemos is now the third largest political force in Spain, only a few years removed from the founding of Podemos.
The continued success of Podemos represents yet another challenge to the neoliberal consensus that only years ago seemed unquestioned throughout Europe.
In Spain, the “traditional” leftist party, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, known as PSOE, was nearly eclipsed by Unidos Podemos. Throughout the campaign it seemed as if their leader, Pedro Sanchez, was running only against his challengers from the left, instead of Mariano Rajoy and the People's Party.
It is worth remembering that Rajoy's People's Party came to power in 2011 after the PSOE was booted out by voters after the socialists under Jose Luis Zapatero adopted an austerity program. In 2011, Podemos did not yet exist and the country was still dominated by two parties, which meant voters who were disgruntled with the socialists went to the People's Party.
The results of the June election prove that the success of the leftist party in the last elections was not a fluke and now represents a permanent challenge to neoliberalism in Spain and Europe.
According to Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias, the coalition between Podemos and the United Left is here to stay and expects to form the Spanish government.
This political marriage is important as it also brings together the forces of the Indignados movement with those of the historical left and working-class movement in Spain.
Despite the fact that Podemos and United Left actually lost votes in the June election compared with the December election, Iglesias, also the presidential candidate of Unidos Podemos, said their coalition was the “correct path” for the two forces.
Should the coalition stay united, the future for the left in Spain looks promising. Support for Unidos Podemos is overwhelmingly concentrated among the country's youth. It is the young people of Spain who have been forced to endure the consequences of neoliberalism and austerity.
For the much maligned “millennial” generation, this is the only system they've ever known: a system that masquerades as democratic, but which only functions to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of few.
Despite “winning” the election, Rajoy once again cannot count on an absolute majority. Another election is unlikely, so whatever government is formed in the coming weeks will be unstable. This opens the door to many possibilities for the Spanish left.
People everywhere, not just in Spain, are becoming more and more disillusioned with neoliberalism. The question is what will emerge from these tumultuous times.
In the United Kingdom, the misery generated by neoliberalism gave rise to xenophobia and racism, which was cleverly exploited by the leave campaign and led to vote for the U.K.'s exit from the European Union.
“One clear message from last Thursday's vote is that millions of people feel shut out of a political and economic system that has let them down and scarred our country with grotesque levels of inequality,” said U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
In the United States, the resentment among young people toward the political system gave rise to the Bernie Sanders phenomenon. Though he, like Unidos Podemos, ultimately fell short in the end, the struggle against neoliberalism and its institutions is not over.
“Real change never takes place from the top down, or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors … It always occurs from the bottom on up, when tens of millions of people say ‘enough is enough’ and become engaged in the fight for justice,” said Sanders recently.
“That’s what the political revolution we helped start is all about … That’s why the political revolution must continue.”