Spanish Elections: Five Key Takeaways From M28

John Boyce assesses the fallout from last weekends’ municipal and regional elections in Madrid and around the country.

 True blue Madrid

After a bitterly contested campaign Madrid went true blue again with the popular party’s (PP) regional President Isabel Diaz Ayuso achieving the overall majority that narrowly alluded her the last time out.

Ayuso slightly outperformed most polling expectations, garnering 71 assembly seats by assiduously courting far right voters and mopping up what was left of right-wing rivals Cuidadanos voter base.

Madrid regional premier, Isabel Diaz Ayuso

The party’s 47 % vote share was its best performance in the capital since the victory of Esperanza Aguirre in 2011. The party also made serious inroads into socialist party territory by winning every one of the city’s districts.  Madrid’s PP mayor, who just a few short months ago looked quite vulnerable to a challenge from the main opposition party, Mass Madrid, also exceeded expectations.

Riding on the coattails of the popular Ayuso, incumbent Almeida won the twenty-nine seats required for an overall majority and will no longer need to rely on the support of the far right.

Left wing meltdown

The elections were little short of calamitous for the governing progressive coalition.

The Socialist party (PSOE) surrendered urban heartlands from Seville to Valencia but will console themselves that their vote share held up reasonably well compared to the last general election, and that they remain less than four percentage points behind the PP.

Nevertheless, the results prompted Pedro Sanchez to take his biggest gamble yet. In his decision to call an early general election he is trying to deny the PP further momentum and hopes that the prospect of the far right negotiating entry into regional governments across the country over the next six weeks will motivate his base and boost turnout.

Even more worrying for the president is the disastrous performance of his coalition allies Unidas Podemos (UP), who lost a whole swathe of seats across the regions and have disappeared completely from the Madrid and Basque country assemblies.

Irene Montero of Podemos

These results have lent even great urgency to the task of establishing of an electoral pact with Spain’s newest left-wing party, Sumar, in order to avoid a similar debacle in July.

 Vox are now a firm fixture in local government.

While the radical left licks its wounds the far right is in celebratory mode, with Vox making significant inroads in municipal and regional legislative bodies across the country. M 28 saw the party more than double its number of regional assembly seats and the party now has representation in 16 of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities.

Only Galicia has resisted their charms due to the extraordinary strength of the Popular Party in that region.

Already in power in Castile-Leon, the party will be pushing to enter government in at least five other territories where the PP may need their support to form a governing majority, including Valencia and Extremadura.

Vox leader, Santiago Abascal

Based on these results Vox will also have high hopes of becoming king makers at national level come July 23rd.  The one black spot in another wise triumphant evening was Madrid, where a PP blowout has rendered the party largely irrelevant in the capital.

Voters call time on Ciudadanos

Originally a Catalan political formation, centre right Ciudadanos exploded onto the national scene in 2016, before becoming the third largest party in the Spanish parliament in May 2019, winning 57 seats.

However, their implosion has been as stunning as their rise. Less than six months after their greatest triumph the party lost 80% of those same seats, and in subsequent elections have continued the downward spiral. Since their inception the party struggled to find a consistent political space, in recent years drifting ever rightward to compete with PP and Vox.

Their voter base consisted largely of erstwhile Popular Party voters disillusioned with endemic corruption in the party.

That these voters have now firmly returned to the PP fold was confirmed by the election results, with Ciudadanos disappearing from every regional assembly in the country.

Their ruling body’s subsequent decision not to contest July’s general election sees the party finally consigned to the dustbin of political history.

Contrasting fortunes for Catalan separatist parties

Perhaps the most tightly fought election in the country was in the municipality of Barcelona. Resurgent Right-wing separatists, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), more than doubled their seats to eke out a narrow victory over both the Catalan socialists and Barcelona en Comu.

The result represents a major revival in the fortunes of Junts under the leadership of former mayor, Xavier Trias, who came out of retirement to stand as their candidate once again.

Xavier Trias

Current incumbent Ada Calau resisted the anti-leftist tide better than her UP allies elsewhere, losing just one seat.

However, her battle to hold on to power by putting together a progressive coalition has been dealt a blow by the decision of left-wing separatists ERC, whose support collapsed in the election, to rule out any such deal.

Trias is now hot favourite to take over as mayor, but the shape of his governing majority is, as yet, unclear.

Front Page Credit: Karl Oss Von Iya



Share The Madrid Metropolitan: The only Madrid English language newspaper