Right's Madrid win a warning for leftist Spain government
Just two years ahead of general elections, Spain's right-wing opposition has set its sights on repeating its Madrid triumph on a national scale, sounding a warning to Pedro Sanchez's leftist government.
Although the electoral success of the right-wing Popular Party was never in doubt, the scope of its win in Spain's richest region dealt a heavy blow to the prime minister's Socialist party and its left-wing allies.
Thanks to a populist campaign focused on her refusal to impose tight restrictions on the local economy, Madrid's hardline leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso won by a landslide, with the PP securing 65 of the regional parliament's 136 seats, more than double its showing in 2019.
But falling just short of an absolute majority of 69, she will need the support of the far-right Vox to govern.
For Sanchez, however, the campaign has been a disaster. Personally involved since the start, his Socialist party suffered a major drubbing, shedding 13 seats to end up with 24, the same number as the hard-left upstart Mas Madrid.
Equally hard hit was the far-left Podemos, Sanchez's junior partner in government, whose leader Pablo Iglesias announced his withdrawal from politics after the left's three parties collectively secured fewer seats than Ayuso's PP.
Although the PP has ruled Madrid for 26 years, the party was ousted from Spain's national government three years ago and is now hoping it will be able to replicate its regional success across the rest of the country.
- 'Days are numbered' -
The leftwing government's "days are numbered", declared a triumphant Ayuso in her victory speech on Tuesday night.
"Today begins a new chapter in the history of Spain."
For José Ignacio Torreblanca, a political analyst at European Council on Foreign Relations, the result was "a vote of no confidence in Sanchez and Iglesias.. and in (their) coalition government" which took office in January 2020.
With Spain badly hit by the coronavirus crisis, suffering 78,000 deaths from more than 3.5 million cases, Ayuso had managed to "very successfully capitalise on the pandemic fatigue," he said.
All eyes are now on the PP to see if it can replicate its regional success at a national level in the general elections of 2023.
"We're now starting to set the stage for a general election and after what happened yesterday, it's a scenario in which the right has the upper hand," said Oriol Bartomeus, a political scientist at Barcelona's Autonomous University.