National Implications of the Madrid Regional Election

The center did not hold.

Pablo Casado Isabel Díaz Ayuso
Spanish People’s Party leaders Pablo Casado and Isabel Díaz Ayuso celebrate their regional election victory in Madrid, May 4 (PP)

Isabel Díaz Ayuso triumphed in Madrid’s regional election on Wednesday. The conservative People’s Party (PP) leader vanquished her erstwhile coalition partners, the liberal-nationalist Citizens, and fell just four seats short of an absolute majority.

The expectation is that the far-right Vox (Voice), with thirteen seats, will give Díaz Ayus a second term.

The combined left won 58 out of 136 seats in the regional assembly.

National implications

  • The Trumpification of the Spanish right continues. Díaz Ayuso flirted with COVID-19 skepticism and polarized Madrid by labeling her left-wing opponents “communists”. Nationally, the People’s Party has moved to the right on everything from abortion rights to Catalan nationalism to immigration. This hasn’t stalled the rise of Vox, which is polling at 16 to 18 percent nationally, up from 15 percent in the last election. The PP has gained from the collapse of the Citizens (see below). Díaz Ayuso’s success gives credence to those who argue for a hard line and undermines the more moderate and Christian democratic wing of the party.
  • The center did not hold. The Citizens had a moment in the sun in 2019, when they won 57 out of 350 seats in Congress. But they refused to be a center party. Twice they were given the opportunity to form a government with the Socialists. Twice they refused. They chose to compete with the PP and Vox for right-wing votes, and lost. Conservative Spain doesn’t need three parties.
  • Far-left voters are disappointed. Podemos (We Can), which emerged out of the anti-austerity protests of the euro crisis, placed fifth in Madrid and is polling at 11-13 percent nationally. Diehard supporters are disillusioned by Pablo Iglesias’ pact with the Socialists, which has given Podemos power but not everything it wanted. Pragmatists in Madrid had an alternative in not just the Socialists but Más Madrid (More Madrid), co-founded by Iglesias’ former deputy, Íñigo Errejón, who left in opposition to a deal with the communists. Iglesias has quit as party leader.
  • The Socialists win by default. If Podemos lurches to the left and the PP clings to Vox, the social democrats can claim the center ground. They are at 26-28 percent in the polls.