MADRID (AFP) - Spain's first parliamentary session Wednesday saw a lot of brand new faces, but perhaps most surprising of all was the presence of a five-month-old baby boy brought to work by his mother, lawmaker Carolina Bescansa.
One of 69 lawmakers from the upstart, anti-austerity Podemos party, Bescansa walked into the lower house with her baby, taking her seat and holding him on her lap throughout the session, even carrying him with her as she got up to vote for the parliamentary speaker.
The footage unleashed an avalanche of jokes and debate on Twitter, in the press and among politicians. Some argued that a baby is never better than in the arms of his mother while others wondered whether this was really the place for an infant.
"This is going to be a short legislature. With the crying of Bescansa's baby no one will hear a thing," joked @DavidPenalver on Twitter.
Beatriz Escudero, a lawmaker for the conservative Popular Party that won December elections but without an absolute majority, vented her indignation on Twitter.
"Every mother and father gets organised to go to work. Podemos thinks that it's above the institutions," she wrote, accusing Bescansa of using her baby to grab the front pages.
Javier Maroto, also from the PP, said this was neither "feminism" nor "progressist." "There is a nursery in parliament," he tweeted.
Journalist Cecilia Jan, on the other hand, branded the move a "necessary posture" in the El Pais daily.
"It helps to remind everyone, society and public authorities, that babies don't look after themselves," she wrote.
Bescansa herself told reporters she thought it was a sign of "normalisation." "In this country there are millions of mothers who unfortunately cannot raise their children as they would like, who cannot go to work with their children as if it was something normal," she said.
"And I think that the fact that coming to parliament with a breast-fed baby makes the news says a lot about this country. That means we need to give more visibility to this." Bescansa is not the first parliamentarian to make headlines for taking her baby to work.
In 2010, Licia Ronzulli, an Italian member of the European Parliament, also grabbed the spotlight when she showed up carrying her one-month-old baby girl in a sling in a show of support for "all those women who cannot reconcile serenely pregnancy and jobs." Women's rights were at the heart of the electoral programme of Podemos, which came third in the December polls just two years after emerging on the back of a devastating economic crisis.
One of its proposals was to implement free nurseries for all.
And as if to emphasise this point, Pablo Iglesias, the pony-tailed Podemos leader, was seen tenderly cuddling Bescansa's baby in parliament on Wednesday.