Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thousands March Against Austerity In Spain
Crowds are packing into Madrid's Puerta del Sol in support of Podemos, the year-old political party compared to Greece's Syriza.

14:25, UK,
Saturday 31 January 2015

Tens of thousands of people have marched in Spain in the biggest show of support yet for anti-austerity party Podemos.

Crowds chanted "yes we can" and "tic tac tic tac," suggesting the clock was ticking for the country's political elite, before packing into Madrid's Puerta del Sol.

Many waved Greek and Republican flags and banners reading "the change is now" in support of the party formed just a year ago, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Greece's new governing party Syriza.

State broadcaster TVE said that hundreds of thousands were at the march, but no official attendance figures were provided.

The rise of Podemos has been largely attributed to the charisma of its leader Pablo Iglesias, who joined Greek PM Alexis Tsipras at a huge rally in Athens on the eve of his election victory last week.

The 36-year-old political science professor told the crowd: "We want change. I know that governing is difficult but those who have serious dreams can change things."

Podemos caused a shock by winning five European Parliament seats last May and is currently topping opinion polls in the run up to local, regional and national elections this year.

"People are fed up with the political class," said Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid who had come to the demonstration with her family.

Fernandez, who lives with her husband on a €700-a-month combined pension cheque said she used to vote for the socialist party but had lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies.

"If we want to have a future, we need jobs," she said.

Spain is emerging from a seven-year economic slump as one of the eurozone's fastest growing countries, but the exit from recession has yet to ease the hardship for thousands of households, in a country where nearly one in four of the workforce is out of a job.

Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras promised that five years of austerity, "humiliation and suffering" imposed by international creditors were over after his Syriza party swept to victory.

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