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Isabel Díaz Ayuso Wins Madrid Election by a Landslide, Pablo Iglesias Leaves Politics For Good

Díaz Ayuso Wins Madrid Election
Image: Flickr | Illustration: Marta Caro
Díaz Ayuso Wins Madrid Election
Image: Flickr | Illustration: Marta Caro

Isabel Díaz Ayuso will never forget last Tuesday’s night. The hardline conservative leader secured a resounding victory in Madrid, Spain’s wealthiest region, for the People’s Party. It did not come as a surprise. Madrid is a PP stronghold —it has governed the region uninterruptedly for 26 years— and almost every pre-election poll predicted her victory.

Long queues formed outside polling stations by mid-morning, with turnout standing at a record 76%, about 11 percentage points higher than 2019. After a divisive and sometimes corrosive campaign soiled by death threats and lacking clear proposals, there were doubts about which bloc had mobilized voters the most.

But shortly after the vote count started, there was little doubt Ayuso would win the election by a landslide. The 42-year-old politician has more than doubled the PP’s tally in 2019, confirming her status as a rising star in her party, one with the potential to overshadow the party’s national leader Pablo Casado. But despite this accomplishment, she has failed to achieve her goal of attaining a broad majority to “govern with freedom.”

Coming in with 44.7% of the vote and 65 seats in Madrid’s 136-seat assembly, she has fallen short of the majority threshold of 69 seats. This means she will need the support of the far-right party Vox, not exactly what her party wanted, but she seems comfortable with the prospect of creating alliances: «[PP and Vox are] different parties but have agreed on fundamental issues, and that will continue to be the case.” Vox mustered 13 seats and a coalition of the two parties is unlikely to happen. On election night, Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal announced they would support Ayuso’s investiture “to ensure that there is no way for the left to govern in Madrid.”

The left took a drubbing on Tuesday night, having been able to only gain 58 seats between the three parties. The socialist PSOE, the current national ruling party, and the winner of the Madrid election in 2019 went from 37 seats to 24 and was pipped to third place in the Madrid assembly by the regional party Más Madrid, also with 24 seats but with a few thousand more votes. Podemos, led by Pablo Iglesias, who stepped down as one of Spain’s deputy prime ministers to run in the Madrid election, made poor gains, going from 7 to 10 seats.

The three left-wing parties, which had come together to prevent the far-right from entering the Madrid government, failed to appeal to voters in a city showing signs of pandemic fatigue and economic distress. Ayuso’s decision to keep bars and shops open, alongside her heavy-handed yet enticing one-word slogan in the context of the pandemic —libertad, or freedom, has paid off at the ballot box. But pandemic figures in Madrid reflect Ayuso’s lax measures: the number of Covid cases per 100,000 people stands at 343 in Madrid, while the national average stands at 214. In Madrid’s intensive care units, 44% of the beds are occupied by Covid patients, while the average in the rest of the country proportion is 22.9%.

The election results have triggered a political earthquake on the left that so far has claimed three casualties. Pablo Iglesias announced on Wednesday that he is quitting politics for good. “I’m leaving politics as understood as party and institutional politics. I will continue to be committed to my country, but I won’t stand in the way of a renewal in leadership that needs to happen in our political force,” he said. The crushing defeat of the left has prompted him to end his political career, which started in 2011 when he co-founded the anti-austerity party Podemos, born from born the citizen movement known as 15-M.

But there may be personal issues as well. During his farewell speech, he also said that he had become a “scapegoat” that mobilized the “darkest feelings”, ones that are “opposed to democracy”. Part of the Spanish press has been relentlessly critical of the leftwing politician and he and his family —he is a father of two— have had to put up with protesters regularly gathering outside his home ever since they moved to a detached house in north-east Madrid. Some critics say his ability to mobilize the right has been much greater than his aptitude to activate the left. Ione Belarra, the current Minister for Social Affairs, is set to become his successor at the helm of Podemos.

The PSOE candidate for the Madrid election, Ángel Gabilondo, resigned on Thursday as a member of the Madrid Assembly, and José Manuel Franco stepped down as the PSOE general secretary.

The centre-right had another casualty — the liberal Ciudadanos party failed to pick up enough votes to secure representation in the regional parliament, losing the 26 seats it gained two years ago. Ciudadanos and PSOE were the masterminds of the failed attempt at toppling the PP-led government in the southeast region of Murcia. Their move prompted Ayuso to dissolve her coalition government with Ciudadanos and call a snap election that has proved to be a clever move by the regional president. Not only has she gained enough power to govern almost on her own, but she also has got rid of Ciudadanos’ former deputy Ignacio Aguado, with whom clashes over the handling of the pandemic were common.

Meanwhile, the PP leader Pablo Casado hailed the results as “a motion of no confidence against sanchismo,” During her victory speech, Ayuso hailed the result as “another triumph for freedom in Madrid” and said that Sánchez has “his days numbered”. For the PSOE the results in Madrid cannot be extrapolated to the rest of the country, in the same way, that the terrible results of the PP in recent polls in the Basque Country and Catalonia cannot be extrapolated to the rest of Spain.

Pablo Iglesias lamented “the success of the Trumpian right” and added that it is a “tragedy for healthcare, education and public services.”

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published on Fridays to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go.
Sign up to Dearexpat,

Isabel Díaz Ayuso will never forget last Tuesday’s night. The hardline conservative leader secured a resounding victory in Madrid, Spain’s wealthiest region, for the People’s Party. It did not come as a surprise. Madrid is a PP stronghold —it has governed the region uninterruptedly for 26 years— and almost every pre-election poll predicted her victory.

Long queues formed outside polling stations by mid-morning, with turnout standing at a record 76%, about 11 percentage points higher than 2019. After a divisive and sometimes corrosive campaign soiled by death threats and lacking clear proposals, there were doubts about which bloc had mobilized voters the most.

But shortly after the vote count started, there was little doubt Ayuso would win the election by a landslide. The 42-year-old politician has more than doubled the PP’s tally in 2019, confirming her status as a rising star in her party, one with the potential to overshadow the party’s national leader Pablo Casado. But despite this accomplishment, she has failed to achieve her goal of attaining a broad majority to “govern with freedom.”

Coming in with 44.7% of the vote and 65 seats in Madrid’s 136-seat assembly, she has fallen short of the majority threshold of 69 seats. This means she will need the support of the far-right party Vox, not exactly what her party wanted, but she seems comfortable with the prospect of creating alliances: «[PP and Vox are] different parties but have agreed on fundamental issues, and that will continue to be the case.” Vox mustered 13 seats and a coalition of the two parties is unlikely to happen. On election night, Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal announced they would support Ayuso’s investiture “to ensure that there is no way for the left to govern in Madrid.”

The left took a drubbing on Tuesday night, having been able to only gain 58 seats between the three parties. The socialist PSOE, the current national ruling party, and the winner of the Madrid election in 2019 went from 37 seats to 24 and was pipped to third place in the Madrid assembly by the regional party Más Madrid, also with 24 seats but with a few thousand more votes. Podemos, led by Pablo Iglesias, who stepped down as one of Spain’s deputy prime ministers to run in the Madrid election, made poor gains, going from 7 to 10 seats.

The three left-wing parties, which had come together to prevent the far-right from entering the Madrid government, failed to appeal to voters in a city showing signs of pandemic fatigue and economic distress. Ayuso’s decision to keep bars and shops open, alongside her heavy-handed yet enticing one-word slogan in the context of the pandemic —libertad, or freedom, has paid off at the ballot box. But pandemic figures in Madrid reflect Ayuso’s lax measures: the number of Covid cases per 100,000 people stands at 343 in Madrid, while the national average stands at 214. In Madrid’s intensive care units, 44% of the beds are occupied by Covid patients, while the average in the rest of the country proportion is 22.9%.

The election results have triggered a political earthquake on the left that so far has claimed three casualties. Pablo Iglesias announced on Wednesday that he is quitting politics for good. “I’m leaving politics as understood as party and institutional politics. I will continue to be committed to my country, but I won’t stand in the way of a renewal in leadership that needs to happen in our political force,” he said. The crushing defeat of the left has prompted him to end his political career, which started in 2011 when he co-founded the anti-austerity party Podemos, born from born the citizen movement known as 15-M.

But there may be personal issues as well. During his farewell speech, he also said that he had become a “scapegoat” that mobilized the “darkest feelings”, ones that are “opposed to democracy”. Part of the Spanish press has been relentlessly critical of the leftwing politician and he and his family —he is a father of two— have had to put up with protesters regularly gathering outside his home ever since they moved to a detached house in north-east Madrid. Some critics say his ability to mobilize the right has been much greater than his aptitude to activate the left. Ione Belarra, the current Minister for Social Affairs, is set to become his successor at the helm of Podemos.

The PSOE candidate for the Madrid election, Ángel Gabilondo, resigned on Thursday as a member of the Madrid Assembly, and José Manuel Franco stepped down as the PSOE general secretary.

The centre-right had another casualty — the liberal Ciudadanos party failed to pick up enough votes to secure representation in the regional parliament, losing the 26 seats it gained two years ago. Ciudadanos and PSOE were the masterminds of the failed attempt at toppling the PP-led government in the southeast region of Murcia. Their move prompted Ayuso to dissolve her coalition government with Ciudadanos and call a snap election that has proved to be a clever move by the regional president. Not only has she gained enough power to govern almost on her own, but she also has got rid of Ciudadanos’ former deputy Ignacio Aguado, with whom clashes over the handling of the pandemic were common.

Meanwhile, the PP leader Pablo Casado hailed the results as “a motion of no confidence against sanchismo,” During her victory speech, Ayuso hailed the result as “another triumph for freedom in Madrid” and said that Sánchez has “his days numbered”. For the PSOE the results in Madrid cannot be extrapolated to the rest of the country, in the same way, that the terrible results of the PP in recent polls in the Basque Country and Catalonia cannot be extrapolated to the rest of Spain.

Pablo Iglesias lamented “the success of the Trumpian right” and added that it is a “tragedy for healthcare, education and public services.”

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,