Podemos says parliamentary hegemony of larger groups is 'regrettable'

MEP Carlos Jimenez Villarejo, a member of Spanish political party Podemos, has criticised the European parliament for allowing members with more power to speak for longer.

By Kayleigh Rose Lewis

03 Jul 2014

After just a few days in Strasbourg, GUE/NGL deputy Villarejo said, "It seems to me that people with power can speak for as long as they like while other members are strictly regulated."

He suggested that "when our candidacy was put forward [for parliament vice-president] we had five minutes only, [Martin] Schulz had longer.

"Clearly there is control being exercised by the people in power in the European parliament, particularly on minority groups", which, he said, have less opportunity to express themselves.

"This is a regrettable degree of democracy which operates in favour of the larger groups."

"We are here to stand up for our supporters, and we are not going to be quiet" - Pablo Iglesias

Although, he added, "I appreciate the difficulty of leading a chamber with an excess 750 members, it makes it difficult for people to express themselves fully."

Villarejo was speaking at a press conference in Strasbourg during which members of Podemos outlined their priorities and commitments.

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the party, said, "We want to pay special tribute to the people who have mobilised themselves, who have called for more democracy.

"We are here to stand up for our supporters, and we are not going to be quiet."

It was noted that theirs was the only delegation to have full attendance at all plenary sessions, to which Villarejo responded, "We do try to attend all sessions, we have been voted in for just that purpose.

"That is what we understand by the representation in a democracy", he added.

Fellow Podemos MEP Pablo Echenique explained, "We are a group that doesn't spend much so we don't have a team of 25 who can prepare the ground for us.

"We are trying to work on everything at the same time."

The members of Podemos have received considerable attention for vowing to take €1930 of their €8000 wages, the equivalent to three times the minimum wage in Spain. The rest will be donated to NGOs or causes of their choice, they told the conference.

When comments from other MEPs suggesting that they would change their minds on this were brought up, Iglesias responded, "I don't think that any MEP will dare to tell a citizen of my country that you cannot live on minimum wage".

He said that presently minimum wage in Spain is €645 "and some people have the cheek to say that it should be reduced".

Teresa Rodriguez-Rubio, also representing Podemos, commented highlighting the fact that MEPs receive expenses for travel and accommodation.

She explained how the party had run their election campaign on a shoestring, borrowing money from friends and family and sharing rooms.

"So it will all work out I think," she said.

The question of remaining Podemos leader while also fulfilling the role of an MEP was put to Iglesias, to which he quipped, "I'll just have to sleep a bit less."

He said that MEPs should spend 50 per cent of their time in parliament, and the other 50 per cent in their constituency, "so it is perfectly compatible".

"I think that my being here is very positive for the media profile, not just my activities but also the work of the group, so that our citizens can follow what we are doing.

"It will be an honour for me to be a spokesperson of Podemos," he concluded.

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