MADRID – A Spanish court is working through the weekend after ex-Madrid leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso called a snap election and broke alliance between her Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos.
On Wednesday (10th March), Ayuso surprised everyone by announcing her resignation, breaking the alliance between her right-wing party PP and the smaller central party Ciudadanos.
Ayuso said the move was to avoid a possible no-confidence motion backed by Ciudadanos. Earlier in the day, Ciudadanos broke its coalition deal with the PP in another region of Spain. “If I hadn’t taken control of this situation, Ciudadanos and PSOE would have presented a no-confidence motion, something they have talked about on various occasions and it would have been disastrous for the Community of Madrid,” she told the press on Wednesday.
She also signed an order dissolving the regional parliament. At the same time, the opposition Socialists and the tiny left-wing Más Madrid party filed just such a motion. The regional parliament cannot be dissolved if a no-confidence motion has been tabled.
Court sits through weekend
The two parties claim they filed their no-confidence motions before Ayuso signed the order dissolving parliament. However, Ayuso insists she had already signed the order.
On Friday 12th March, the region’s top court received the dispute and is now deciding whether or not the elections can go ahead. The court said late Friday, it had agreed “to urgently convene on Saturday and Sunday to examine and resolve” the matter.
A divisive figure or rising star?
Ayuso is a vocal critic of the national coalition government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos. She is also one of PP’s most prominent figures. During the pandemic, Ayuso has frequently rejected or diluted central government’s COVID-19 recommendations. The result, some of Europe’s most relaxed coronavirus restrictions.
Ayuso said the snap election would allow voters to choose “between Socialism and freedom”. Pablo Casado, leader of PP explicitly supported Ayuso’s move.
“The government has treated her unreasonably, also on a personal level. She introduces a fairly supported and effective policy based on principles. For her one thing is clear: it becomes socialism, or freedom”, said Casado.
PSOE won the most seats in Madrid’s regional assembly in the May 2019 elections. However, as they fell short of a majority, Ayuso’s PP formed a coalition with Ciudadanos, with the help of far-right party Vox.
It all started in the south-eastern region of Murcia. In just a few hours on Wednesday, a no-confidence motion filed in Murcia against PP by PSOE and Ciudadanos (Citizens) led to the fall of the regional government of Madrid.
Later in the day, PSOE in the nearby region of Castilla y León, made a similar move and registered a no-confidence motion against the coalition government of the PP and Ciudadanos. The latter said it would not break with its partner nor support the motion.
Political eyes are now on the large southern region of Andalusia. This is also run by a coalition of PP and Ciudadanos. The government there has stated that its stability is assured, despite calls for an early election by the far-right Vox. Ciudadanos said it planned to stand by its partner.
Change in the political landscape imminent?
The no-confidence motions against Ayuso’s regional government in Madrid were registered on the legal basis that the election announcement is not official until published in the regional gazette on Thursday. Once this happens, it cannot be reversed. Any subsequent motions would fail to stop the vote.
The court’s decision – which will be received no later than Tuesday – will confirm whether the snap election can go ahead.
Should Madrileños vote on May 4, the election could change the political landscape. Most change would be on the right end of the spectrum, where the far-right Vox has been making significant gains. This was evident in the Catalan election in February.
Ciudadanos stands to gain its first regional premiership in Spain if the Murcia motion prospers. However, it could also lose its hold on the powerful Madrid region.