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The mayor succumbs to the pressure

Struggling in the polls and with minimal support among PP voters, Madrid leader Ana Botella will not stand at the next elections

Madrid Mayor Ana Botella will not stand in next year’s municipal elections.
Madrid Mayor Ana Botella will not stand in next year’s municipal elections.Uly Martin

On Monday night the seat of the Madrid city government in the Palacio de Cibeles was a scene of absolute desolation. The death of a 72-year-old man in Vallecas after being hit by a falling branch – the second such incident in the space of 90 days – provoked astonishment among councilors in the team of the governing Popular Party (PP). “It can’t be. It’s unheard of. What bad luck. We’ve done everything humanly possible to avoid more accidents. We’ve never pruned so much … There’s no explanation,” said local government sources, who appeared visibly affected by the news late Monday night.

This latest death, coupled with that of a 38-year-old soldier in similar circumstances in the capital’s Retiro park on June 21, has meant the end of Mayor Ana Botella’s career in Madrid City Hall.

Her reputation was badly damaged after she spent a weekend in Portugal the day after five young women died at a Halloween party in the municipally managed Madrid Arena in November 2012. Now, nearly two years later, Botella can no longer withstand the pressure and is stepping down.

The latest death has been the last straw in a situation that day-by-day became unsustainable

With the mayor struggling in the opinion polls and with minimal support among PP voters, her inner circle were only a few days ago saying that, little by little, she was “making a comeback.” They argued that the capital’s European election results had been better than those in the Madrid region as a whole. Her economic plan – strong control of spending in a bid to maintain essential social services – was starting to yield returns despite criticism from the opposition highlighting the cuts in all sectors, including the upkeep of the capital’s green areas. In the PP on the other hand, they were talking openly about her “good economic management” – the municipal coffers no longer seemed to be in the bleak state in which her predecessor, current Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, had left them.

But the death of the Vallecas resident has been the last straw in a situation that day-by-day became unsustainable. In fact Madrid regional premier Ignacio González did not want her as a comrade-in-arms in the local elections, knowing that without a strong candidate in City Hall (which represents 50 percent of the vote in Madrid as a whole) the region would be lost for the PP. For that reason Botella, who didn’t hide the fact that she wanted to be mayor, definitively threw in the towel on Tuesday afternoon. Although she was not directly responsible for them and they pained her deeply, seven deaths are too many to stand in an election.

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