Clara Lamas Hermoso.


Fear. The main weapon used by the establishment forces in order to fight its main enemy: change. Only a political system is afraid of change if it has found an invariable and unbreakable comfort area. Even if it’s only for a few. This is the principal characteristic that the academics have been giving to democracies framed in the cartelization model. Spain is an example of a cartel party system, in which its parties tried to shield the country of a new political force which threatened with the change: Podemos[1]. Change brings chances. The main focus of this article is find out whether Podemos really is or not a political party aside of the system.

First of all, it is important to understand what we are referring to when we talk about cartel party system. Making a brief summary of the S.Katz and P.Mair´s thesis, the cartel party system some characteristics: the parties depend a lot on the state, which has the continuous consequence of moving away from citizenship; there is a steady collusion between different parties with an impact on depoliticization of these ones, demonstrated in the disappearance of the traditional left-right axis and in the fact that they resemble each other[2]; the sterility of the national politics in issues related to the conventional economic concerns like unemployment or inflation[3]; the dependence on the state includes the use of large quantities of public money in order to found political parties and to finance a professional and expensive electoral campaigns: the only moment in which the support of the voter receives extraordinary importance[4]. In the end, like the Politikon collective says in La urna rota (2014), “parties have a relationship with the state base on the control of government positions limiting the political competition, restricting entry to new political actors[5]”. Far from adapting to the versatile social demands, the representative parties design laws to stay in power. They are politicians but they do not make politics anymore.

Podemos is a political party that was born in 2014 and has its roots in the very heart of the 15m movement. In the Mover ficha manifest, the group firstly present its aim before its formal foundation, related to the idea of a democracy with the assembly contents of the republican tradition.

According to the ideological list presenting at its founding moment, as a political party, Podemos introduced dynamics that inaugurated new options completely different to the country’s rigid political structure. In its financing, contrary to the idea of bank loans, Podemos presented the microcredits[6] and ‘crowdfundings[7]’, in addition to the optional collaboration, which also seemed to offer an independence from the public subventions. Moreover, an important key of the internal organization was the assembly spirit of the party, which allowed the people to takes part in the party decisions participating on its virtual platform or on the different assemblies[8].

In addition to that, the party not only tried to develop itself as a completely different and refreshed party, but also Podemos has promoted derogations or changed rules (the proposal of suspend the law that allows politicians not to have to justify the monthly allowances[9]), and if they didn´t have the parliament support (what usually happens) they even have made resistance (the donation by the members of Podemos of the part of their salary awarded by law but that they consider a surplus). Another issue that maybe brings this party the presumption of being out of the system is the legal mechanisms that it used to make it trembled: the motion of censure presented last June against the president of the government.

However, there are some points that can call into question the breaking idea of this political party. In the first place, taking up the issue of political party financing, in spite of the original initiatives holding by Podemos, its own transparency portal in its web shows that this ideas don’t have much impact. Whereas in 2015, when the political party just broke into the congress after the positive results of the 2014 European elections and the 2015 municipal elections, the donor’s investments go hand in hand with the public funds, it can be appreciated as in only two years, there is a decrease of 20% of donations, leaving public funds, as in the rest of the country’s parties, the main source of investment. It´s a considerable change due to the youth of the party and the short time frame, only three years. And it´s alarming because although Podemos doesn’t do anything with private or banks financing, depending on public money is one of the features of a cartel party.




Another important point is related to the media fever that caused the foundation of the party, placing Podemos first political force of Spain in direct intention of vote when it was less than a year old[11]. Podemos is a political party that grew up thanks to the action of newspapers, social media. Its firstly electoral results were directly proportional to its trendy situation that monopolized support and voters. But then, after having sits in the Parliament, the party popularity has decreased[12]. It seems like the firstly intentional ‘return the power to the people’ aim has being taking a pause when this force needn´t its voter support to keep going. What this suggests is that Podemos could have used the assembly speech as a strategy to receive the necessary support to have parliamentary representation. We can see that behaviour in the cartel parties, which use their voters only in electoral period or in punctual situations that agitate the establishment, like the Calatan problem.

It´s too early to confirm that Podemos in the end doesn´t do nothing with the purpose of change, but its progressive disconnection to the people in terms on financing, media presence, and popularity in less than three years is at least worrying.

To conclude, even though the necessity of letting time go by in order to make an accurate analysis, it can be said that Podemos is a political party that seemed to, as Carlos Monedero (its former secretary) said, “change the political culture of Spain”, has lost a lot of credibility because from its actions it has become the evils it was trying to kill. In the end, the resignation would claim that is impossible to change things from inside, that the chances to achieve the change in the stomach of the beast don´t offer a pleasant outlet. Neither clean. Podemos chooses commodity. Or not. We will see it.





[1] Casta’ is an expression used by the political party Podemos to referring to the right political parties

[2] Even the dependence on the state, the cartel parties are far to receive the notion on ‘objects’ parties because what they write is what maintains them in the sit. Is important to understand that even they don´t act like traditional party moving by ideological ideals, they are neither puppets. Their aim is to be in the power in order to receive the corresponding money.

[3] Delegating the power to supranational neutral and technocratic organisms like the European Union.

[4] Katz, R. and Mair, P. (2009). The Cartel Party Thesis: A Restatement. Perspectives on Politics.

[5] (2017). Los partidos en España. ¿De la clandestinidad al cártel?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2017].

[6] Granted by the militants, not by banking entities.

[7] Donations to develop specific projects related to the party.

[8] The consitutional Assamblies like Si se puede or State Citizens Assamblies like Vistalegre II.

[9] Was proposed in the Andalusian parliament but was not approved

[10] Podemos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2017].

[11] Metroscopia, 2014.

[12] According to the CIS (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas), the sympathy towards this political party has fallen more than ten percent in 2017, in contrast in contrast to last year, when it was the country’s best rated political party. In fact, Podemos is the political force which has lost more supporters. (The newspaper El país has analysed the data offered by the CIS: (Accesed 9 Nov. 2017).