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Spain's Podemos tackles first major crisis after co-founder Monedero resigns

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By Alasdair Sandford  with Reuters, AFP, El País
Spain's Podemos tackles first major crisis after co-founder Monedero resigns

The resignation of the co-founder of Podemos has plunged Spain’s young left-wing party into its first serious crisis in an important election year.

Juan Carlos Monedero has stepped down from his leadership roles amid differences over strategy, arguing the anti-austerity movement should stay closer to its roots.

Podemos members have recently discussed, at times in public, whether the party should tone down proposals to capture more centrist voters and show it is a potential force for government ahead of a parliamentary election this year. Monedero explained his decision in a blog post.

The party leadership confirmed at a news conference that there had been differences in recent months over the party’s future direction.

“As you can imagine, it’s enormously painful. For me Juan Carlos is not only a long-standing team-mate, he is also one of my best friends and he has been and still is a key figure for our political careers and of course for Podemos,” said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.

Monedero resigned shortly after giving a radio interview criticising what he saw as Podemos’ drift towards the mainstream, saying it was beginning to resemble the political forces it was trying to replace.

The movement has tapped into deep discontent over austerity, unemployment, injustice and corruption – but has recently lost its lead in voter intentions, according to one opinion poll.

Conservative media and politicians often portray the group as dangerous radicals and have sought to highlight the ties of its leaders, all of whom are politics academics, with leftist governments such as in Venezuela.

Juan Carlos Monedero, a founder member of the group alongside leader Pablo Iglesias, had partly withdrawn from the public eye since January when he confirmed that he had done advisory work for left-wing governments in Latin America some years ago and had only recently made good tax payments on the work.