Tuesday , April 20 2021
Home / The Economist Europe / Madrid’s snap election shakes up Spanish politics

Madrid’s snap election shakes up Spanish politics

Summary:
Mar 27th 2021MADRIDANTONIO MACHADO, a Spanish poet, once referred to Madrid as “the breakwater of all the Spains”. That is the effect a snap election for the capital’s regional government on May 4th is having on national politics. A polarised campaign has roiled both right and left. The contest has prompted Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, a hard-left party, to step down as Spain’s deputy prime minister to stand in the election himself because, he said, of the risk of “an extreme right-wing government” in the capital. For Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the conservative regional president, it is a battle between “freedom and communism”. In fact the election may be followed by calmer water for Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, and for Spain itself.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support

Topics:
The Economist: Europe considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

The Economist: Europe writes The EU’s Calhounian moment

The Economist: Europe writes The battle to succeed Angela Merkel gets nastier

The Economist: Europe writes Fish tongues, a Norwegian delicacy harvested by children

The Economist: Europe writes Italian women take more top jobs, but many have no job at all

ANTONIO MACHADO, a Spanish poet, once referred to Madrid as “the breakwater of all the Spains”. That is the effect a snap election for the capital’s regional government on May 4th is having on national politics. A polarised campaign has roiled both right and left. The contest has prompted Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, a hard-left party, to step down as Spain’s deputy prime minister to stand in the election himself because, he said, of the risk of “an extreme right-wing government” in the capital. For Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the conservative regional president, it is a battle between “freedom and communism”. In fact the election may be followed by calmer water for Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, and for Spain itself.

Listen to this story

Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.

The election is the indirect consequence of a bungled attempt by Ciudadanos, a declining centrist party, to bring down the conservative regional government in Murcia in which it was the junior partner. Rather than run a similar risk, Ms Ayuso dissolved her own coalition with Ciudadanos and appealed to the voters.

Home to 6.6m people, the Madrid region is a flagship for the People’s Party (PP), led by Pablo Casado, which has governed it since 1995. Its policies of low taxes and light regulation have helped give Madrid one of the fastest economic growth rates in the country. Critics say that the price has been cuts in health care that covid-19 has exposed. Ms Ayuso, a 42-year-old former press officer on the PP’s right wing, has been determined to keep Madrid’s bars and restaurants open. That may have worsened the pandemic in the capital, but it has also turned her into Mr Sánchez’s most visible opponent. Early opinion polls suggest the PP will win around 39% of the vote, up from 22% in 2019. Its gains will come largely at the expense of Ciudadanos, which may be in terminal decline. But Ms Ayuso may need the support of Vox, a hard-right party polling around 11%, to form a government. Its entry into a large regional government for the first time would be a big problem for Mr Casado.

Mr Iglesias’s candidacy is a defensive move. Podemos grew swiftly through alliances, which have unravelled. “Podemos’s main challenge is to strengthen its organisation on the ground to have something to go back to” when it leaves government, according to Sandra León, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid. Mr Iglesias’s past ruthless sidelining of rivals in Podemos makes that harder. His appeal to join forces with a regional party led by Íñigo Errejón, his former deputy, was rebuffed. The left-wing vote will be split between them as well as the Socialists.

Mr Iglesias is a better campaigner than administrator. His coalition with Mr Sánchez has been an uneasy one. He has called for interventionist policies on the labour market and housing, and aligned with Catalan separatists and Basque former terrorists. After the government managed to approve a budget in December, the prime minister has increasingly ignored his deputy. Yolanda Díaz, the labour minister who will take Mr Iglesias’s place in the government, is a less disruptive figure. In choosing to devote himself to leading his party, Mr Iglesias will have more freedom to snipe at the government. But he will almost certainly have less power. Many Spaniards, including Mr Sánchez, will breathe more easily as a result.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline "The Madrid breakwater"

The Economist: Europe
With a growing global circulation (now more than 1.5 million including both print* and digital) and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognized and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *