Jim Lawley

Is this a new dawn for the Spanish right?

Isabel Díaz Ayuso (photo: Getty)

In Tuesday’s regional elections in Madrid, the right-wing Partido Popular emerged as by far the most successful party, more than doubling its representation to win 65 of the 136 seats in the assembly.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the 42-year-old local Partido Popular leader who was seeking re-election, won more seats than the three left-wing parties combined. Vox (13 seats), the most right-wing party on the Spanish political spectrum, has already promised Ayuso the support she needs in order to govern.

Despite not quite delivering an outright majority, Ayuso’s bold decision to call the snap election has clearly paid off. Her slogan of ‘Libertad’ (Liberty), her attacks on the way Spain’s socialist Prime Minister has handled the pandemic – ‘Madrid’s problem is Pedro Sánchez’ – and her comparatively light touch with Covid restrictions have clearly won her many friends, especially in the hospitality sector.

Politics in Spain is now likely to become even more polarised, bad-tempered and aggressive

Most significantly of all perhaps, she has seen off her previous partner in government, the liberal, right-of-centre party Ciudadanos. Over the last couple of years Ciudadanos has seen its support collapse. The party won 57 seats in the April 2019 general election but only managed ten in the re-run in November later that year. It won 36 seats in the Catalan regional parliament in 2017 but just six in the election in February this year. And now it has lost all 26 of its seats in Madrid.

During a bruising and at times vicious election campaign Ciudadanos tried in vain to carve out a new role for itself as a peace-maker, proposing that all six competing parties – three on the left and three on the right – agree to condemn violence and undertake to stop branding their political rivals as criminals.

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