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Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera quits after election debacle

The center-right party fell from 57 seats in Congress to just 10 at Sunday’s vote, with the conservative Popular Party and far-right Vox making major gains

Albert Rivera (r) speaks to supporters after Sunday’s general election results came in.
Albert Rivera (r) speaks to supporters after Sunday’s general election results came in. Europa Press

The leader of Spanish political party Ciudadanos (Citizens), Albert Rivera, today resigned from his role in the wake of the center-right group’s dismal showing in Sunday’s repeat general election.

Having picked up 57 seats in Congress at the April 28 poll, Ciudadanos fell to just 10 seats on Sunday, with the conservative Popular Party (PP) and far-right Vox making major gains. The Socialist Party (PSOE) won most votes at Sunday’s poll, but once again fell short of a majority.

It is a bad result, without excuses or mitigating circumstances

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera

“It is a bad result, without excuses or mitigating circumstances,” admitted Rivera in a brief statement shortly after 11pm on Sunday. A red-eyed Inés Arrimadas, the party’s congressional spokesperson, stood next to him.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Rivera explained his reasons for quitting. “Out of responsibility, I must resign from this position,” he said. “Bad results belong to the leader.” He went on to announce that he was also quitting as a deputy in Congress, saying that he was doing so “for the good of the project.” He added that he wanted to “make way for another deputy who is passionate about entering Congress. I have never been tied to a seat in politics.” He made clear that he was “leaving politics. Public life. I have enjoyed it, and I have learned.”

On Sunday, Ciudadanos lost more than 2.5 million votes and gave up 47 seats in Congress, leaving the once-surging force with just 10 representatives in Spain’s lower house.

Inés Arrimadas is the most likely candidate to succeed Rivera

Ciudadanos is now Spain’s sixth party in terms of its congressional presence, behind the far-right Vox, the anti-austerity Podemos and even the separatist party Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which managed 13 seats.

Following this crushing defeat, Rivera gathered his executive committee on Monday morning and announced his resignation. An extraordinary party congress will decide who takes over as the new leader.

The Catalan-born politician, who is not yet 40 years old, took over the reins of Ciudadanos 13 years ago on a liberal reform program that gradually shifted to the right as Rivera sought to compete with the conservative PP.

Following the April 28 election, he refused to negotiate a governing agreement with caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE, and has recently been competing with the far-right Vox for votes, triggering resignations by senior party officials who disliked Ciudadanos’ new approach.

Arrimadas is the most likely candidate to succeed Rivera, but there are other party figures who could be in the running, such as Luis Garicano, who represents Ciudadanos in the European Parliament.

English version by SImon Hunter and Susana Urra.

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