Despite being local, Tuesday’s elections in the autonomous community of Madrid, Spain, will have strong consequences at the national level. Both the government and opposition parties have invested heavily in the vote, and the result could determine the next political balance, and even the strength of the current Spanish government: as the headline on Monday Country, “In Madrid Spain is at stake for its future”.
All national leaders actively participated in the electoral campaign (in the case of Pablo Iglesias, leader of Unidas Podemos, also as a candidate), invested enormous resources and contributed to presenting the vote as an event of national significance: the center-right argued that winning in the autonomous community of Madrid will be the first step in returning to the government of Spain, while for the center-left it means putting a stop to an increasingly aggressive and extremist right. Other parties, such as the centrist Ciudadanos, are even at stake in these elections for their very existence.
1. The strength of the center-right in Madrid
Elections in the autonomous community of Madrid were called last March by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the outgoing governor of the People’s Party (PP, center-right), two years ahead of the end of the legislature, after her government partner, Ciudadanos , he had threatened to withdraw support.
According to the polls, Díaz Ayuso is the favorite for reconfirmation: the PP would have about 40 percent of the consensus and could be able to govern together with Vox, the far-right neo-Franchist party, or even alone, in the event of a success beyond expectations.
Díaz Ayuso, by calling early elections, took a risk that could pay off not only at the local level: a truly landslide victory could be the signal that the consensus for the center-right has become very strong in the country, and could even destabilize the national center-left government. . During the election campaign, Díaz Ayuso gave a very clear idea of what is at stake, saying that the enemy to beat is “sanchismo”, that is, the power block of the current president of the national government, Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE ).
2. The estate of the national government of Pedro Sánchez
The PSOE candidate is Ángel Gabilondo, in his third consecutive elections in the autonomous community: in 2015 he lost for a seat, while in 2019 he was the most voted candidate, but did not get the government due to an alliance between right and centrists. This year, however, Gabilondo was largely sidelined by the presence of Pedro Sánchez, the president of the government, who participated in numerous rallies in Madrid in which he argued that these local elections are essential to stop the right.
The election campaign strategy was decided by the prime minister’s trust team, which also mobilized the most important members of the government. Sánchez’s participation, which has shrunk in recent days due to uninspiring polls, helped make the vote in the autonomous community a poll of the executive.
Pedro Sánchez, left, and Ángel Gabilondo (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images)
3. Freedom and bullets in the election campaign
One of the main themes of the election campaign was the coronavirus pandemic. Díaz Ayuso and Sánchez accused each other of having made the wrong strategy to contain the virus, which in Madrid had terrible consequences, but the bulk of the debate has been over strategies for reopening.
The electoral slogan of Díaz Ayuso was “Communism or freedom”, where “freedom” was understood as an invitation to reopen activities and start life again, “in the style of Madrid” and with as few restrictions as possible, which Díaz Ayuso he now considers superfluous and for which he blames the central government – “communist”, in fact. In response to the ideological polarization of Díaz Ayuso, the center-left also adopted a rather harsh slogan: “Democracy or fascism” – is the slogan of Unidas Podemos, but it has also been used in various forms by the rest of the left.
Death threats contributed to the polarization of tones. Several politicians from both sides in recent weeks have received anonymous envelopes with bullets inside them, including Iglesias (twice), Díaz Ayuso, some local politicians and former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The local minister of industry even received a knife with an apparently bloody blade. For now, it is not known who could be the perpetrators of the threats.
4. The bet of Pablo Iglesias
Proof of the importance of the elections is the fact that Pablo Iglesias, leader of Unidas Podemos (UP) and partner of Sánchez in the government, decided a couple of months ago to leave the vice-presidency to run as a candidate. Things are not going very well for him: the polls show UP just over 7 percent, with no particular improvements brought about by Iglesias’ candidacy. The left is further divided: Más Madrid is also running in the elections, a formation that broke away from UP a few years ago and is doing very well, is above 16 percent.
According to the polls, the three united center-left forces (PSOE, Más Madrid and UP) are behind the center-right, but only by a few points, and it is not excluded, although unlikely, that in the end they will succeed in surprising the pollsters and obtaining the majority: is the hope of Sánchez, who in this way would strengthen his government.
Pablo Iglesias (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
5. Ciudadanos is at stake for survival
Ciudadanos, the centrist party, has collapsed nationwide from 28 per cent in polls in 2018 to less than 5 per cent today within a few years. The party is in a very strong crisis everywhere, and according to many analysts in the autonomous community of Madrid its future is at stake, in every sense: according to local polls, it is just above the threshold of 5 percent and risks not having deputies , after being a government partner in the previous legislature.
The national leader, Inés Arrimadas, spent practically the entire election campaign alongside her candidate, former lawyer Edmundo Bal, but for now things don’t seem to be improving. For the party, the only possibility of having any relevance is that of being able to tip the balance in the hypothesis in which the center-right and center-left are tied, and Ciudadanos has crossed the threshold.
– Read also: Ciudadanos is becoming irrelevant
6. The internal equilibrium in the two sides
The result of the elections will also be important for understanding the relative power relations within the camps. In the center-right, after years of growth, Vox began to lose support, largely eaten by the PP. If at the beginning of March, according to the Vox polls, it had about 16 per cent of the consensus in the autonomous community of Madrid, at the end of April it fell below 10. In the meantime, the PP won more than 10 percentage points. If the PP manages to win by keeping Vox below 10 percent and eliminating Ciudadanos, its national leader Pablo Casado may have some hope of reuniting the right.
At the same time, in the center-left, the PSOE lost votes mainly in favor of Más Madrid. If the results are particularly disappointing, especially for UP, alliances in the national government could become shaky.