Spain’s rising political star is communist labor minister Yolanda Diaz, who has won over employers and voters and is now trying to secure a new place on the far left before the next parliamentary elections.
Little known two years ago, surveys show that the 50-year-old labor lawyer is Spain’s most respected politician, ahead of socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the leaders of conservative parties.
The conservative daily ABC called her Spain’s “most powerful politician” and her followers on Facebook fan pages dream of becoming the country’s first female prime minister.
Diaz is a member of the Communist Party of Spain and joined the coalition government of Sanchez in January 2020 with the far-left Podemos party.
Her profile continued to rise in May this year after the charismatic but polarizing leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, handed her the reins of the far left after deciding to get out of politics.
In July she was appointed second deputy prime minister.
With her constant smile, she cultivates a friendly and conciliatory image that contrasts with Iglesias’ often angry tone, which is greeted by business leaders.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Spain, Diaz negotiated with trade unions and business associations the terms of the country’s vacation program, which provided financial aid to hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs were affected by the health crisis.
She is also responsible for a law to protect delivery workers and is currently in talks on reforming the country’s labor laws, which has led to conflicts with socialist cabinet members.
– ‘Something wonderful’ –
As her popularity grew, Diaz was one of the main founders of a November 13th left activist meeting known as “Other Politics” in the eastern city of Valencia.
The gathering was widely seen as the first step in the creation of a new far-left platform that would stand in the next general election in two years’ time.
“This is the beginning of something that will be wonderful,” she said when she was surrounded by left-wing politicians.
Cristina Monge, political scientist at the University of Zaragoza, said that Diaz was talking “not about parties” but about a “different organizational model” that focuses on civil society.
The strategy aims to “expand the space” that the left is occupying with a focus on “feminism, environmental protection and social justice” at a time when Podemos has collapsed in the polls.
“Diaz is aware that Podemos is no longer in its prime,” Monge told AFP.
– “Observe carefully” –
Diaz was born in the same region of Galicia, northwest Spain, into a trade union family that included former right-wing dictator Francisco Franco.
Her father was a member of the Communist Party during the dictatorship when education was illegal, and she entered local politics in Galicia in 2003.
Her pride in her political affiliation led her to marry decked out in red, and she loves to tell of how she received a kiss on the hand from the historic leader of the Spanish Communist Party, Santiago Carrillo, at the age of four.
As her profile rose, Diaz has changed her style, dyed her hair from brown to blonde and dressed more elegantly, a change that analysts say makes it more attractive to more centrist voters.
However, Podemos will try to position itself clearly on the far left and ensure that it continues to lead this part of the political spectrum, Monge said.
In most polls, the main opposition Conservative People’s Party is currently at the top in terms of voting intentions, just ahead of the Socialists.
The socialists are “watching” what Diaz is doing as they are aware that after the next election they will need the support of the far left again in order to continue to govern after the next election, added Monge.
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