After recent Spanish elections left the government in a turmoil, the first meeting of all four political groups in Spain’s parliament caused a real stir.
The lower house of Spain’s parliament was filled with new faces on Wednesday morning as members of the four main parties, the PP, PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos, got together for the first time. The PP may have won the most votes in the recent general elections, but the party no longer holds a majority, meaning the four parties will have to agree to form a new government soon or risk new elections.
While Spain’s parliament is used to men and ladies in smart outfits, Wednesday saw quite a difference, with many strolling around the lower house in casual gear with open shirts, jerseys and jeans prevailing for the members of the Podemos anti-austerity party, who achieved 71 seats in the recent elections.
Not only that, but pony tails and dreadlocks were also sported openly in Parliament and one member of Podemos, Carolina Bescansa, brought along her 6-month-old baby, too.
As reported by El Pais, naturally the more traditional parliamentarians were appalled, with Javier Maroto, a senior official in the conservative People’s Party, tweeting, “this is not feminism, conciliation or progressivism.”
Esto no es ni feminismo, ni conciliación, ni progresismo. En el Congreso hay guardería. Ya vale de reírse d la gente pic.twitter.com/FbIhDkQD7J
— Javier Maroto (@JavierMaroto) January 13, 2016
The baby made such an impact with others in parliament that one person suggested the baby would be best placed to take the role of speaker of the house.
However, while a baby in Spain’s parliament caused a stir, it was probably the dreadlocks that caused the most controversy in the lower house. Photographs captured Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy looking on in consternation as the radical hairdos passed him by.
Imágenes del nuevo congreso: Alberto Rodríguez (Podemos) pasa delante de Rajoy pic.twitter.com/EV9IHC2Mrb
— El Huffington Post (@ElHuffPost) January 13, 2016
One person sporting dreadlocks was Alberto Alberto Rodríguez, a new parliamentarian representing Tenerife for Podemos.
It turns out it wasn’t the party’s leftwing politics that caused the most concern, it was their cleanliness. Celia Villalobos, deputy speaker from the Popular party said in an interview with the state broadcaster, “I don’t care if they have dreadlocks. But I want them clean so that they don’t give me lice.”
Her insulting comment immediately sparked a furor, but also gave the perfect opportunity for Podemos to point out the political corruption scandals surrounding the previously-ruling Popular Party.
Another Podemos member, who sports dreadlocks himself, took the insult more personally. Miguel Ardanuy said, “If only the party of Celia Villalobos was half as clean as my rastas.”
Ojalá el partido de Celia VIllalobos estuviera la mitad de limpio que mis rastas pic.twitter.com/kLuWb5iZFX
— Miguel Ardanuy (@Miguel_Ardanuy) January 14, 2016
“The lack of respect shown to us at the opening session of parliament confirmed exactly what stuff these people are made of,” Ardanuy added.
Speaking of Rajoy’s expression as dreadlocks passed him by, Ardanuy (pictured above) later told a local newspaper in Tenerife, “I think his face clearly shows that he has not understood that this is a new political era, a new time, and that parliament is no longer the preserve of the few.”
Another major change is the ratio of women to men in Spain’s parliament, with 138 women in the lower house, compared to 212 men. While still unbalanced, it is a definite improvement on previous years. Also one member, Rita Bosaho, 50, is a Podemos MP from Alicante and took her seat Wednesday as the first black parliamentarian in Spain’s history.
According to the Local, the youngest member of Spain’s parliament is also a woman, with the Socialist MP Maria Such Palomares at 25-years-old.
Podemos is an offshoot of the “15M” indignados who took over the squares of the major Spanish cities back in May 2011, protesting against austerity in the country.
The leader of the party is Pablo Iglesias, 37, who was previously a lecturer in political science at the Complutense University of Madrid. While the party did not win the election outright, it has proved the point that people can, indeed, bring change.
The party has promised to upend Spain’s traditional political system from within. This began with the swearing in ceremony, when Podemos MPs changed the usual oath by promising to “abide by the Constitution and work to change it.”
[Photo AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza]