Spanish conservatives score an impressive victory in Madrid vote

Photo: AP Isabel Diaz Ayuso casts her vote in Madrid, 4 May.

Spain's conservative People's Party scored an impressive victory in early regional elections in Madrid on Tuesday, in a win that is likely to increase pressure on the national government, dpa reported.

The People's Party, led by incumbent regional President Isabel Diaz Ayuso, won 65 of the 136 seats in the regional parliament, the election authority said with some 99% of votes counted. It was more than double the party's result from 2019, when it won 30 seats. The official results are expected on Wednesday.

Ayuso has called the vote the "beginning of the end" of PM Pedro Sanchez's left-wing national government.

Sanchez's Socialists lost 13 of its 37 seats in the region, while the three left-wing parties only managed to secure 58 seats between them, leaving them no chance to form a government.

In her victory speech, Ayuso told jubilant supporters that "freedom has won today!" She said a "new chapter" was beginning in Spain and that Sanchez's days were numbered.

Spain's influential daily El Mundo published a banner headline in its online edition reading "Ayuso knocks out Sanchez."

Ayuso made a name for herself mainly by criticizing the restrictions pushed by Sanchez's central government since the beginning of the pandemic and implementing them only reluctantly or not at all for Madrid. She was dubbed the "pub queen" by broadcaster RTVE for keeping bars and cafes open in recent months.

The People's Party is expected to turn to the right-wing populist Vox party to keep power and form a state government since it failed to obtain an absolute majority of 69 seats. Vox got 13 seats, according to the electoral authority data, compared to 12 in 2019. Ayuso has deemed the prospect of relying on Vox as unproblematic, while Sanchez has warned that a People's Party pact with Vox could endanger the democratic system of the whole of Spain.

Vox promotes a traditional image of the family, relies on nationalism and above all demands an extremely tough course against illegal immigrants and Catalan separatists.

 Meanwhile, the leader of Sanchez's national coalition partner Unidas Podemos Pablo Iglesias said he will leave politics after the left-wing alliance's poor showing. His party gained ten seats in the new parliament, up from three seats, but analysts had expected a much better result. He suggested the national labour minister, Yolanda Diaz, as new party leader.

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