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Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena defeated at local elections

Despite receiving the worst result in its history, the Popular Party is set to govern the Spanish capital with support from Ciudadanos and the far-right group Vox

Acting Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena (c).
Acting Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena (c).

The acting mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, won the highest percentage of the vote at the local elections on Sunday, May 26, winning 30.94% of voter support, but in the end was defeated by the right-wing bloc.

While the Popular Party (PP) saw the worst result in its history, it could join forces with the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and far-right Vox – which will enter Madrid City Hall for the first time – to govern Madrid.

Carmena’s Más Madrid party won in 16 of the capital’s 21 districts. But with 824,761 votes (with 99.29% of the vote counted), the right-wing bloc defeated the left by 101,834 votes. The last four years of a progressive government will remain a parenthesis in a city that was governed by the PP for 26 years until 2015, when Carmena won the local elections with the Ahora Madrid party.

Carmena, who had warned ahead of the election that she would step down if she was not re-elected, resigned from Madrid City Hall on Sunday. “I am sure Madrid will continue to be a great, progressive and open city,” she said.

As mayor of Madrid, Carmena spearheaded a number of pioneering initiatives, such as Madrid Central, which sought to reduce air pollution by making the center off limits to non-residential cars, and regulation on tourist apartments, which aimed to help curb soaring rental prices.

After the results were announced, Vox secretary-general Javier Ortega Smith, warned: “From tomorrow, Madrid Central is over.”

“I will not continue to be mayor, but Madrid will continue to be progressive, and participatory, Madrid will continue being a great, progressive and open city.”

José Luis Martínez-Almeida, from the PP, is set to be the new mayor of Madrid, despite the party’s poor results. Support for the PP fell 10.69 percentage points, from 34.91% in 2015 to 24.22% at Sunday’s poll, leaving the party with 15 councilors – six fewer than in 2015. Although the result is a far cry from the absolute majorities the PP won between 1995 and 2011, it allows the party to recover control of its main municipal stronghold, and is positive news after its crippling defeat at the April 28 general election.

Popular Party leader Pablo Casado (C), celebrates the election results with PP candidate to Madrid's regional government Isabel Diaz Ayuso (l) and PP candidate to Madrid's City Hall Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida.
Popular Party leader Pablo Casado (C), celebrates the election results with PP candidate to Madrid's regional government Isabel Diaz Ayuso (l) and PP candidate to Madrid's City Hall Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida. AFP

“From tomorrow, I will start working to lead this much-needed change in Madrid,” Almeida, who is one of the least-known candidates of the election, said from the party’s headquarters.

Almeida will be able to govern Madrid thanks to the rise in support for Ciudadanos, which won 19.12% of the vote – 7.58 points more than what it achieved at the 2015 local election, making it the party with the biggest gains. Ciudadanos entered the Madrid city council for the first time at the 2015 elections with seven councilors, led by Begoña Villacís; now it has 11 councilors – four more. Although Ciudadanos did not achieve its goal of beating the PP, it will play a decisive role in the conservative government in Madrid, as it did in the Andalusian regional government.

The far right enters Madrid city council

The support of the far-right group Vox will also be decisive if the PP wants to govern Madrid. The party has entered the local government for the first time, winning 123,403 votes, or 7.63% at Sunday’s poll. During the campaign, the far-right group said it wanted to move the Gay Pride festival, which takes place every year in the central neighborhood of Chueca, to the Casa de Campo, a public park in the west of the capital.

The left lost two representatives, which were crucial to remaining in government. Más Madrid fell 1.22 points on 2015 results to 30.94%, and lost one councilor. Carmena did not win the 2015 local elections but was able to govern with 20 councilors and the support of nine from the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). But an internal crisis within Más Madrid split support for the left.

From tomorrow, Madrid Central is over

Vox secretary-general Javier Ortega Smith

The PSOE candidate Pepu Hernández, a former basketball coach, was unable to increase the party’s presence in the Madrid city council, which has been falling since 2003. The last time the Socialists won local elections in Madrid was in 1987. On Sunday, support for the party fell 1.5 points at Sunday’s election to 13.74%, leaving it with eight councilors, one fewer than in 2015.

The new party Madrid en Pie Municipalista, led by Ahora Madrid councilor Carlos Sánchez Mato who broke with Carmena, did not win enough support to enter the Council. The left-wing group won 2.63% and 42,598 votes, which fell below the 5% threshold needed for representation. If it had topped the threshold, the left would have won an extra councilor, but still have been defeated by the right.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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