Residents of Madrid, one of Europe’s worst-hit regions in a pandemic, are voting Tuesday for a new regional assembly in elections that test people’s resistance to locking measures
Early elections were called by a conservative regional chief trying to hold on to power after her center-right coalition disintegrated. Isabel Díaz Ayuso made a name for herself by resisting the toughest measures against the virus and criticizing the national government’s response to the pandemic.
Here is what happened during the vote on May 4:
WHY ARE MADRID’S LOCAL ELECTIONS IMPORTANT?
By keeping Madrid’s bars, restaurants, museums and concert halls open, Díaz Ayuso has strengthened his support for his conservative Popular Party. She also entered the ranks of voters recently seduced by the patriotic populism of Vox, the far-right rebel party.
Restorers have designed dishes and menus with her name, and her portrait is ubiquitous on city billboards and on ballots. Díaz Ayuso says the election chooses between her promise of “freedom” and left-wing “socialism” and “communism”, compared to her two rivals who are part of the ruling national coalition.
WHAT DO HEALTH DATA SAY?
The virus has ravaged nursing homes in the Madrid region, especially last year. More than 5,000 elderly people died before the hospital system managed to kick them out in the middle of the first wave of infections.
Since then, maintaining the country’s economic driver has become a key goal of Díaz Ayus, even though it has meant adding hospitals and more beds to treat patients with COVID-19.
Díaz Ayuso firmly resisted restricting travel to and from Madrid. Instead, she relied on mass screenings for coronavirus antigen tests and setting up large sites to speed up vaccination.
As a result, the region, home to 14% of the country’s 47 million people, has seen more than 19% of the country’s 3.5 million infections and the number of confirmed deaths nationally is over 78,000.
The 14-day accumulated load on Friday was 384 new infections per 100,000 population, well above the national average of 229 new cases per 100,000.
WHAT DO THE SURVEYS SAY?
Although several pollsters predict that the absolute majority of seats in the regional assembly will go to Díaz Ayus conservatives, most estimates suggest a victory of over 40% of the vote. That would potentially double the number of Popular Party MPs since the last 2019 elections.
Polls also put the far-right Vox party as the most likely choice for an alliance that would allow Diaz Ayus to form a government.
There is less chance that the center-left camp, fragmented into three parties, will gather enough votes to form a ruling alliance.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?
Most political analysts agree that any solid victory for Diaz Ayus will pave the way for greater antagonism between the socialist-led national government and the conservative party that until recently dominated Spain’s political landscape.
It would also mean a rebuke to the recent strategy of the popular leader of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado, who tried to distance his party from Vox’s far-right ideology.
Whatever comes out of the vote, the winner will have the challenge of getting Madrid back on its feet after a difficult year with COVID-19 that included a winter blizzard that paralyzed the city for days.
The region, full of inequality, has been a stronghold of the Popular Party since 1991.
Díaz Ayuso has promised to cut taxes to attract more companies and increase spending, as well as build more than 6,000 social housing units.
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