Regional election win boosts Spanish conservatives' ambitions
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's conservative People's Party (PP) said on Wednesday that its resounding win in Madrid in regional elections signalled "the beginning of the end" for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government.
However, Sanchez's mandate runs for two more years and analysts said there was little incentive right now for him to hold an early national election.
The Madrid region's incumbent leader, the PP's Isabel Diaz Ayuso, won re-election in Tuesday's elections boosted by her refusal to close down bars and shops during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The elections also strengthened the far-right Vox, saw the center-right Ciudadanos collapse, and dealt a blow to the left.
"The People's Party is ready for general elections," PP lawmaker Pablo Montesinos told EITB radio station. "This is the beginning of the end of Pedro Sanchez. The main loser was Pedro Sanchez."
PP lawmaker Teodoro Garcia Egea said the defeat of the Socialist Party in the Madrid region, where its assembly seats fell from 37 to 24 seats, was a sign that voters considered Sanchez to have mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
The PP has controlled the capital region for the past 26 years but although its convincing win could give it impetus at a national level, the right does not have enough lawmakers in the national parliament to force Sanchez to call a snap election.
Analysts said the regional election result should only push Sanchez to aim to see throught the whole legislature.
"I totally rule out elections at a national level," said Pablo Simon, a political science professor at Madrid's Carlos III university.
"What incentive does the prime minister have to call an election now? None. The budget was voted, he must wait for the impact from the vaccination campaign to be seen, and for EU funds to come to relaunch the economy."
However, insider sources have said that early elections at some point before 2023 cannot be ruled out, the question being when that could work in the Socialists' favour.
One government source pointed at the disarray on Tuesday night within Sanchez' party over their candidate's disappointing results in the regional ballot.
The Socialists run a minority coalition government with the left-wing Podemos, whose leader Pablo Iglesias quit politics late on Tuesday after a poor showing in the Madrid election.
The PP held power in Spain between 2011 and mid-2018, when the Socialist Party took over with a minority government. After two inconclusive elections, Sanchez finally managed to put together a minority coalition and formed a government in January 2020.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Ingrid Melander, Belen Carreno; Editing by Angus MacSwan)