How Madrid Will Decide Spain´s Political Future

Spain is generating more politics in a month than many countries do in a decade.  Moisés Ruiz, Professor at the Universidad Europa and expert in Leadership and Communication helps us to make sense of it all.

Each event supersedes prior events, with little time to interpret what is happening. The political convulsions began in Catalonia, with ironically, elections on Valentine´s Day giving victory to
those who want to break the long-standing relationship.

Yet this was nothing compared to the earthquake in the region of Murcia, where a motion of no confidence by the Socialist (PSOE) party and the centrist Ciudadanos against the right-wing Popular Party has loosened all the anchors of national politics.

All eyes have now turned to Madrid. The president of the region, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, fearing that the events in Murcia would be repeated in Madrid, and that a PSOE-Ciudadanos pact
would expel her Government, called an early election. Truth be said, Murcia offered the perfect excuse to break the uncomfortable political marriage she had formed with Ciudadanos, with
both sides repeatedly expressing discontent with the other.

Then, in the most unexpected twist of all, the vice premier of the Spanish Government, Pablo Iglesias and leader of the far-left party Podemos, facing the gloomy prospect of his party all but disappearing in Madrid, decided to throw his hat into the ring. Announcing his decision to step down from the central government so that he could run, he claimed he was doing it to save Spain from the extreme right, but in part he is doing it to save his Podemos party from its own political inefficiency.

The sudden rupture has dislocated the national political map and may well suit Ayuso, who is seen as a cunning emerging leader, and has already been referred to as the Spanish Thatcher for her firmness in some of the decisions she has taken, and for attacking the left. She has a commanding lead in the polls ( the latest in El Mundo sees her doubling her seats ) and will run a Trumpian campaign- polarize, look for enemies and position herself as the saviour of everything. Her motto when calling the election was socialism or freedom, and once Iglesias got involved, it quickly changed to communism or freedom, with the message that a vote for her will save the region from the red hordes that want to nationalize everything and raise taxes.

This should galvanize her supporters (and perhaps others not too pleased with her record running the region) and there is likely to be a high turnout on the right. She will also try to use
the fear of Iglesias to deactivate the VOX effect, since many voters of this far-right formation, which is on the rise in the polls, may opt for tactical voting, shoring up her support.
Facing her is the centre-left PSOE, likely to maintain its share of the vote.

Below them is Mas Madrid, a split from Podemos which positions itself as the social democrat side of that formation. Finally, there is Podemos itself, with many of its core supporters coming from the defunct communist party.

The strategy of Pablo Iglesias was to reunify the vote on the left wing of the PSOE, forming a pact with  Mas Madrid. However, he may have committed the first error of political leadership,
in announcing such a move on television, before consulting his potential suitor. It therefore came as no big surprise when the Más Madrid leader, Iñigo Errejón, quickly shut the door on
the idea.

The centrist Ciudadanos is the sixth in voting intention, hovering below the 5% vote limit that gives access to parliamentary representation, and if they do not reach that threshold, will mean their elimination from the Madrid political map. In many ways, they are in the same situation as Podemos, with the exception that Ciudadanos does not have a leader who can give it a boost as Iglesias can.

Meanwhile, Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of the coalition government (PSOE & Podemos) is breathing a sigh of relief, as the relationship between himself and Iglesias had becoming increasingly fraught, with Iglesias often considered to be a more effective critic of the Prime Minister than the opposition leader of the right-wing PP party, Pablo Casado.

The outline of the political map of Spain may well be decided in Madrid. If Ayuso gains an absolute majority, she will emerge as a genuine national leader on the right. If she wins, but without an absolute majority, she will need the support of the extreme right party VOX, whom her boss Pablo Casado has reviled in parliament.

If she loses and the sum of the three left-wing parties is enough to govern the region, then Pedro Sánchez will have eliminated two annoying rivals (Ayuso and Iglesias). Ciudadanos, having made the mistake of not picking the correct leader to replace Alberto Rivera, is likely to end up absorbed by the PP at some stage, both regionally and nationally. Podemos, who will most likely reach the required 5% threshold in Madrid, will remain an important force for the foreseeable future, but may pay a heavy price for their leader’s Madrid gamble.

The show has only just begun.


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