Five lessons from the elections in Madrid
The results of the elections in the Comunidad (Region) of Madrid held on May 4 are as follows (with a scrutiny of 95.6%): Partido Popular wins the elections comfortably (44.57% of the votes) and reaches an absolute majority with VOX (9.11%); the Socialist Party (PSOE) suffers a historic setback (16.98%) and is surpassed and humiliated by the almost newborn Más Madrid (16.99%). Podemos, for its part, approaches irrelevance (7.25%). The PP outpolls the three parties of the Left (44.5%-41%).
Here are five lessons to be taken from these results:
- Madrileños value Madrid’s liberal model. Madrid has developed its own political model in Spain during the last 26 years (the time that the Popular Party has been governing). This model has very clear characteristics: low taxes, promotion of individual freedom, open economy, facilities for entrepreneurs, public spending aimed at modernizing public infrastructures… The COVID-19 pandemic put this model to the test. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the president of Madrid, decided to tackle the pandemic by focusing on the “Madrid model”. She led the first measures against the pandemic when the central government ignored the problem, invested in new health infrastructures, kept the economy open, did not raise taxes and even achieved a zero deficit in 2020. Ayuso’s victory is the victory of the liberal model of Madrid.
- The PSOE falls off the cliff. It is hard to believe that the PSOE governs in Spain in view of its results in Madrid. The PP more than doubles the result of the PSOE and Más Madrid surpasses it in votes. The government of Pedro Sanchez comes out of this contest very weakened. The PSOE candidate in Madrid was grossly micromanaged from the national government, so his failure is also Sanchez’s failure. This is the biggest blow to Sánchez since he achieved the presidency in 2018. It would be an inauspicious moment for him to call an early general election; he would call it from weakness and not from strength.
- Ciudadanos disappears and the Spanish right unifies. For the last few years, the center-right vote in Spain has been divided among three parties: PP, Ciudadanos and Vox. Ciudadanos, however, has gone from 26 seats to 0 in these elections. It has literally disappeared. VOX, the other right-wing party, is left with 13 seats, far behind the PP. An important step has been taken to overcome the fragmentation of the Spanish right wing. The rapprochement of Ciudadanos with the Socialist Party has brought a near-death experience for it and, as a result, the right-wing vote comes out of these elections more united.
- Podemos is in free fall. Podemos, the far-left party, was born in Madrid in 2014. It had a spectacular growth to the point that, in 2017-2018, it seemed that it could, even, surpass the Socialist Party. That time has passed. Podemos’ civil war rants and class struggle rhetoric has begun to tire Spaniards concerned about getting their lives ahead in such difficult times as those of the pandemic. Added to this is the utter lack of credibility of Podemos’ leader Pablo Iglesias, whose actions have systematically betrayed his words. Iglesias ran for election demanding the support of Más Madrid; Más Madrid rejected him and has more than doubled his votes. Iglesias thought he was the solution to the decline of Podemos and it turns out that he was its direct cause. The resignation and abandonment of politics on the same election night of the until a few weeks ago Vice President of the Government of Spain has not surprised anyone; Pablo Iglesias was born in Madrid and died politically in Madrid.
- Credibility over “moderation.” The overwhelming victory of the PP in Madrid disproves those who defend that elections are always won from the center or with moderation or with a low turnout (the turnout, 80.73%, has been historic). Ayuso, backed by a good management, has won with an ideological discourse of confrontation with the Left. She has not won only because of her ideological discourse (the management, I insist, was good), but this rhetoric has not prevented her from winning. Ayuso has benefited, above all, from a key asset: credibility. She has a well-defined political figure, with a coherent discourse and a strong character. Voters have valued her firmness and have trusted her word. Credibility is a value far superior to moderation.