With a 75% participation rate, the PP and Isabel Ayuso take 65 seats in the Madrid Comunidad elections, four short of a majority. She will need an abstention from Vox to become president, and is also likely to negotiate a confidence on supply agreement with them.
Ayuso has eaten Cuidudanos alive and kept Vox at bay, whilst also gaining more seats than all the left together. This is certainly a boost for the PP at a time when the national party is struggling because of a squeeze to its right from Vox and ongoing corruption cases.
That said, Pablo Casado’s lack of direction, being a right-wing weathervane, and the threat of a popular Ayuso, means his days as leader may be numbered. He has been seen beefing up his team, even recruiting Alberto Rivera, previous Cuidudanos leader.
Not all is well in casa Génova 13 for long.
Getting over 40%, Ayuso has won in the majority of districts in Madrid, including historically left wing ones. (with the left vote split 3 ways this is expected and says a lot about the PSOE who normally dominate) As far as wins go, she is yet to match Esperanza Aguirre, her old boss, who got 52%.
Fun fact: Around the time Esperanza Aguirre won Madrid with 52%, the PSOE won on a national level. Madrid is not all of Spain.
Post- Populist Rhetoric
Ayuso won due to several factors but two stand out. Bold populist rhetoric and framing the election as an either/or choice. This is something that Ayuso has more in common with Boris Johnson than Donald Trump.
‘Levelling up’ ‘Get Brexit Done’ and ‘Libertad o Communismo’ ‘Madrid es…’ España es…’. Whilst some may scoff at these empty phrases there are two things about them. Firstly, they are memorable and representative. Secondly, they frame the choice for people to make in the election.
The ability to create a new choice is a symptom of the populist era we live in and the dying old metanarratives of modernism. Brexit or another referendum? No restrictions or more restrictions?
It is not about making politics simple, but about creating an axiom in peoples’ minds, there is only one alternative!
How did Ayuso win in the majority of districts? This is what happens when the left runs a negative campaign without a viable alternative project. That said if the offer is between being allowed outside of your house and the possibility you might be told to stay inside, which are you going to choose?
Sadly, this reflects the state of the Western world, that is so reliant and attached to its economic base that “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism,”. Mark Fisher could become even more popular with the Spanish left after this!
Pablo Iglesias has stepped down as UP leader, days before the 10 year anniversary of 15M. He, along with others, has reenergised the left in Spain, which is needed now more than ever, in a time when the death knells of neo liberalism are ringing. He will likely go for a job in the media and shoot from the left in a similar fashion to Juan Carlos Monodero.
The only person more vilified in the press, is arguably, Jeremy Corbyn. What have we learnt from that? Just because he has left politics, it won’t stop until they find their new scapegoat.
Yolanda Díaz will step up as leader of UP. Will she look to further the work that has already started on the ground in Podemos? Strengthening its membership base and giving more of a say to members, as opposed to prioritising media appearances, parliamentary manoeuvres and top-down management. Diaz’s style is very different to the former leader.
Lets see where this goes.
As for Mas Madrid, can they replicate this success on a national level. After a very good campaign, they will be hoping so. But is Spain ready for a green party? Or will they sink the same as Cuidudanos?
National Politics and the Capital
Is this election loss a kick in for Sanchez at a national level, or a stamp of an approval of Ayuso’s management of the pandemic? After the harshest lockdowns in Europe last year, it is not surprising that people don’t want another lockdown, that along with a slow vaccine rollout, lack of material changes made by the coalition and a candidate that makes Shrek look electable, it’s no wonder the PSOE were the only party not to grow this election. Mas Madrid were able to grab some centre votes that Ayuso left behind, mainly because the PSOE are failing at a national level and are wedded to Podemos. The coalition project needs to start making changes to show that it is a project worth pursuing.
As for Ayuso, she has proven that she is able to communicate her free market ideology in a time of lock downs and a shifting symbolic order, but we have to question if she will be so successful on a national level? They may well depend upon the situation we find ourselves in.
Channelling people’s desires onto the empty signifier of Libertad, and their need to stabilise the wobbly reality of the real, is an ability that many politicians don’t have. Ayuso was able to do it once, as was Rajoy in 2011, but that doesn’t mean she will be able to do it again. Also it is easy when you historically have 26 years of ideology behind you!
Vox have barely flinched and resorted to Nazi type propaganda and provocative hate speech to remain relevant. As Catalonia remains a less than hot topic, Vox will resort to anti migrant speech and populist anti-communist rhetoric on the national level. They are getting desperate. With Iglesias gone, the PSOE will be in their sights.
As we discussed on the last Sobremesa Podcast, Caroline Gray and Eoghan Gilmartin concluded that even if the PP were to replicate Ayuso’s success at national level, the PP will only have Vox to pact with as no regional parties are likely to support them as long as they are arm-in-arm with Vox.
I wonder if Pedro Sanchez still thinks that snap elections autumn are such a good idea?
Oh and as for Cuidudanos… that is for a future episode!