May 21, 2018 / 11:26 AM / 4 months ago

Leader of Spain's Podemos to face party vote on 600,000 euro house purchase

MADRID, May 21 (Reuters) - Members of Spanish left-wing party Podemos, born from anti-austerity protests during the financial crisis, will submit its leadership to a confidence vote after the party leader bought a house for over 600,000 euros ($705,000) near Madrid.

Critics have denounced party head Pablo Iglesias and his partner, Podemos’ spokeswoman Irene Montero, as hypocrites, saying they were betraying their leftwing principles. The couple, defending the purchase, said the home was for their own use and was not a speculative move into real estate.

Podemos, which took around a fifth of the vote in 2016’s two elections, has become one of Spain’s four main political parties, matching and sometimes overtaking the traditional left-wing party, the Socialists (PSOE), according to polls.

The couple, who are expecting twins, last week confirmed a report on OKDiario website that they had bought the house with a swimming pool and visitor’s house in the town of Galapagar, 40 km (25 miles) from Madrid.

The couple had taken out a 540,000-euro, 30-year mortgage to buy the house, Iglesias said in a post on Facebook.

“We know that many Spanish families can not support a mortgage like that, even with two salaries, and that’s why we think it is so important for everyone to have decent salaries,” he said.

Iglesias critisied Spain’s then-Economy Minister Luis de Guindos for buying an apartment in Madrid for the same amount in 2012 at the height of the economic crisis sparked by a burst housing bubble that sent prices falling an average of around 40 percent.

The youth wing of far right Vox party hung a sign on the house reading “Refugees and Squatters Welcome” on Sunday, mocking the party’s stance on immigration and housing.

At a news conference announcing plans for a confidence vote late on Saturday, Iglesias and Montero said that the attacks were part of an attempt to destabilise the party.

The party’s base can vote on the couple’s future at the head of the party from May 22 to May 27, the party said in a tweet on Monday. ($1 = 0.8515 euros) (Editing by Sonya Dowsett and Richard Balmforth)

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