The leftist outsiders of Spain are about to enter

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MADRID – Pablo Iglesias and his party Podemos broke into the Spanish political scene in 2015 by winning more than a fifth of the votes in their first national election, igniting dreams of beating the Socialists as the largest leftist party and reshaping the government.

Instead, after his meteoric rise, Iglesias faced the internal tensions of the party and endured the same kind of criticism of his leadership and lifestyle that he had long launched at a political establishment he called "the caste." Support for his party has fallen dramatically.

However, Mr. Iglesias, 41, now seems to have his first chance to at least share the power under an agreement that he would see him take the post of deputy prime minister and his party would become the junior partnerr in a government headed by the most moderate socialist leader, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

With strong rivalries and political differences, it is an awkward alliance, and the road ahead for Mr. Iglesias could be as difficult as the last few years have been. But if Sanchez can get parliamentary approval for his proposed coalition, he would make Spain one of the few European countries, and easily the largest, where the far-left ministers are part of the government.

Sánchez and Iglesias signed their pact only two days after the November 10 elections, hugging the cameras, a contrast to the aggression that marked their previous months of fruitless negotiations, which had forced Spain to its fourth election in four years. .

But even combined, the two sides do not have a majority. And so, having reached an agreement with Mr. Iglesias, Mr. Sánchez must still win the support of some smaller parties, probably including Catalan separatists, to allow him to form a new government.

His next challenge would be to keep his minority coalition government together in the midst of a European economic slowdown.

If there were a recession, "We could have every interest in showing a differentiating factor, to convince the electorate that any frustration that accumulates should not be attributable to them," said Ignacio Jurado, professor of politics at the Carlos III University of Madrid.

The media connoisseur, Mr. Iglesias, who appeared regularly on television chat programs before entering politics, has tried to reformulate himself as a statesman rather than as a fire mark. During a televised campaign debate, he repeatedly read articles of the Constitution of Spain, while reminding other candidates to respect the laws of the country.

Before founding Podemos, he and some of his allies taught politics in universities and worked as political consultants in Latin America, including for Mr. Chavez's government. Once the party gained strength, they faced news reports that Podemos had received undeclared money from Venezuela and Iran, a claim they have repeatedly denied.

Mr. Iglesias argues that under the Conservative government that lost power last year, its party suffered for a long time a state-backed media defamation campaign, orchestrated by a former senior police officer, José Manuel Villarejo.

Mr. Villarejo is in jail, awaiting trial for bribery and money laundering. Prosecutors say he became rich while working for years as a secret agent for political and corporate clients, spying on and defaming his enemies, and even fabricating evidence. The conversations he secretly recorded have leaked, shedding a flattering light on the rich and powerful of Spain.

United We argue that Villarejo was behind false claims about the party's foreign funding, and that he illegally spied on party officials. Mr. Iglesias is a party to one of several court cases focusing on Mr. Villarejo.

"Perhaps we can understand, without justification, that a state uses illegal mechanisms to fight terrorists, but not to fight a political formation," Iglesias said during a recent meeting with a group of foreign journalists.

But even if the legal tangle surrounding Mr. Villarejo vindicates Mr. Iglesias and United We Can, his problems will be far from solved.

The polarization in Spain has deepened recently, with Vox finding a receptive audience for its anti-immigrant and ultra-nationalist rhetoric, and political power is more fragmented than ever.