This past week here in Spain, news outlets were dominated by the announcement of the abdication of King Juan Carlos, who has ruled the country since 1975. While the king's rule has been generally supported by the Spanish public, due to his implementation of a democratic system following the oppression of the fascist Franco regime, Spain's support of the king has dwindled rapidly in pace with the country's economic deterioration over the past 6 years. Although the king proclaimed that the succession of the throne by his son Felipe would bring new energy towards facing Spain's economic issues, new political parties, including "Podemos" that won 1.2 million votes in Sunday's elections, believe that the economic and political system created by Juan Carlos' government needs significant changes to meet the economic needs of the Spanish people.
Amidst the protests for economic and political change since the announcement, Podemos' calls for change are supported by daunting statistics regarding the Spanish economy. An underground, unregulated economy now accounts for 25% of Spanish GDP, the ease of starting a new business rate stands at 142nd, and 5.9 million Spaniards still remain unemployed. Furthermore, Spain is experiencing simultaneously a brain drain of its most educated professionals to the United States, emigration of its younger professionals to countries like Germany for better working opportunities, and a significant drop in its birth rate that has economists worried about future generations of the Spanish workforce. These figures have resulted in mass distrust of not only the monarchy's support of the Popular Party government nor the Socialist Party opposition, but the entire government's ability to maintain a healthy economy.
As a response to severe economic difficulties, Podemos offers radical alternatives. Podemos has stated that they plan to establish a minimum income for all citizens, citizen auditing of the public and private debt, introduction of a maximum wage, reduction of the retirement age to 60, making it more difficult for companies to fire workers, abandoning the free trade treaty with the US, re-nationalizing strategic sectors of the economy, and raising corporate and wealth taxes to fund all of these changes.
Clearly, these dramatic propositions represent a protest against the inequality of a global and European economic system that has caused great economic hardship for millions of Spaniards since 2008, as well as that current politicians have proven incapable of adapting to changes in this system. Podemos' views on the Spanish economy still remain in the minority, but should the situation fail to improve under Felipe's the VI's elected government, one can only expect more radical proposals on politics and the economy to surface, and gain support, as Spain continues to struggle with securing its economic future.