The battle for Madrid

Isabel Díaz Ayuso

The results of the elections in the Autonomous Community of Madrid on May 4 have reverberated throughout Spain because it is the richest and most dynamic region in the country, with a great difference over the others. And Madrid has just slammed the door loudly on the policies of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos from the Moncloa with the self-interested backing of peripheral groups always more concerned with their own interests than with the common interest.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso is accused of being a "Trumpist" nationalist and "tavern-goer" populist when, without discarding her populist touches, what has led her to her overwhelming triumph last Tuesday (more seats on her own than the three left-wing formations combined) is her determined commitment to confront the central government and for an ultra-liberal economy that would keep the capital's economy and hospitality industry alive in the hard times of the pandemic. The numbers of victims and hospitalised people are high in Madrid, but no worse than in other communities that closed bars and restaurants outside their regional perimeters. Díaz Ayuso called this "defending freedom" against what she described as "communism". Naturally she did not speak of inequalities, even though they are growing at an alarming rate, because she starts from the premise that if wealth is not created first, there is nothing to distribute. The PP has destroyed the left and has contained the rise of VOX, so that now its abstention is enough to govern alone, as Ayuso wants.

The PSOE has been the big loser and the blame is shared between Pedro Sánchez (who should have had the elegance to accompany Gabilondo on his sad election night) and Ángel Gabilondo, who should have stood up when Moncloa interfered in his campaign on the issue of taxes and then forced him to embrace a toxic Pablo Iglesias. His image is that of an honest man in the wrong place. The result has been that Gabilondo came first two years ago and third now, with a loss of 13 seats and 275,000 votes. A disaster to blame the Moncloa because Pedro Sánchez fell into the trap set by Díaz Ayuso of turning this election into a plebiscite on his policies. That is why those in the PSOE who are now calling for Gabilondo's head with no elegance are wrong, although it is well known that a losing horse is nothing but fleas. It will be said that the PSOE obtained good results in the Catalan elections, and it is true, but the reason was largely due to the useful constitutionalist vote that took refuge in its acronym, something that nobody in Madrid has needed to do. With Pedro Sánchez, the drift that began with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has worsened, leading the PSOE to lose its signs of identity, to the point that today it is difficult to know what it stands for because it varies according to time and place, at a high price in terms of credibility for the party and also for Spain.

Más Madrid has gained four seats and is now the second leading force in the regional chamber and leader Mónica García will lead the opposition, another bitter pill for the PSOE and also for Unidas Podemos, as it comes from a split that García has been able to manage with more skill, less confrontation and less tension. This might put García in a better position for the elections in Madrid in two years' time, but Más Madrid does not have - at least for now - national projection and achieving it will take time. In any case, the PSOE would do well to keep a close eye on those competing for the same electorate with more intelligence than that shown by Unidas Podemos.

The door that Pablo Iglesias slammed on the Vice-Presidency of the Government, after just a few months in the post, has been followed by an even shorter stay in regional politics, as predicted by the VOX candidate in a tense debate. After a tense campaign, the poor results obtained by Unidas Podemos have led Pablo Iglesias to announce that he is leaving politics, something that was a foregone conclusion because his ego would hardly adapt to the obscure role that the ballot boxes have given him, and because the rumour is that he has other plans for the future in the world of business. But he was right when he explained his departure by saying that he was more more of a burden than an advantage for his political party, as in a very short time he squandered his personal and political wealth while his party is no longer attractive.

And Ciudadanos is not getting back on its feet despite the efforts of the good candidate Edmundo Bal, weighed down by his party's stumbles and lack of credibility, a lack of credibility that could lead to its disappearance after having been the most voted force in Catalonia a few years ago and also having been decisive in the governability of Spain. Rivera's ambition and Arrimadas' mistakes have now been paid for by Bal, and this is bad news for the country because a moderate centre party could help to alleviate the prevailing political polarisation.

As for VOX, with no other programme than to stir up the atmosphere to attract attention, it does not seem interested in entering the government, even though its seats are theoretically necessary for the PP to achieve an absolute majority that it would not even need if VOX abstains. The irony is that VOX's importance in the upcoming Assembly of Madrid may now depend on the left, because if the left abstains in the investiture of Díaz Ayuso its votes will not have the slightest importance.

The conclusion is that the results of the Madrid elections are not limited to the capital, as they accentuate the confrontation between the left and the right, give the PP some breathing space while announcing its shift towards more conservative positions, and this could further complicate the governability of the country as a whole. Consequently, the PSOE, from the Moncloa, must make a serious analysis of the mistakes committed to explain the rejection shown by the citizens of each and every one of the electoral districts of the community of Madrid.

Jorge Dezcallar Ambassador of Spain