PP’s Madrid mayor candidate shrugs off first controversy

Esperanza Aguirre was at odds with party over future role as head of regional branch

The Popular Party’s candidates for mayor, Esperanza Aguirre (l), and regional premier, Cristina Cifuentes (r).
The Popular Party’s candidates for mayor, Esperanza Aguirre (l), and regional premier, Cristina Cifuentes (r).Chema Moya (EFE)

Barely three days after her candidacy for Madrid mayor was announced, and Esperanza Aguirre has already begun her campaign. The veteran Popular Party politician, who has already served as Madrid regional premier and a government minister in her career, on Monday morning promised to “lower all taxes” should she be successful in upcoming municipal elections, and added that she had no intention of spending time in the Cibeles Palace, the current home of Madrid City Council, on the basis that she did not want to run a “megalomaniac” administration.

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The council headquarters were relocated to the Cibeles Palace – formerly a post office – under former PP mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, a long-term rival of Aguirre’s. The move from the 300-year-old Plaza de la Villa building to the landmark palace on one of Madrid’s busiest traffic circles cost around €500 million.

Aguirre made the comments during an interview on Spanish TV channel Telecinco, where she also sought to clear up controversy that arose over the weekend as to whether she would willingly give up her position as head of the regional branch of the PP were she to become mayor. “My commitment is that if I am mayor, I will not stand at the next regional congress,” she told presenter Ana Rosa, saying her decision would be based on the “guidelines laid down by the [party] statutes.”

In comments made on her Twitter account and to media outlets – including EL PAÍS – over the weekend, Aguirre appeared to be prepared to defy the party leadership, insisting that she would continue to lead the regional PP. But after the intervention of the party and of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy – who is often perceived to be at odds with the fiercely independent Aguirre – the disagreement now appears to be settled.

Aguirre also explained that she would soon be holding a meeting with current mayor Ana Botella (PP) to “get up to date with the state of affairs” in the capital’s City Council.

Also announced on Friday was the Popular Party’s candidate for the role of Madrid regional premier. Cristina Cifuentes, who is currently the central government’s delegate in Madrid, will run on the PP ticket.

Traffic incident

Although she stepped down from her role as regional premier in 2012, Esperanza Aguirre has often been in the headlines since. In April 2014 she was involved in a high-profile incident after she was alleged to have driven off while being fined by traffic police on Madrid’s Gran Vía, knocking over a police scooter in the process before being pursued by officers. But the court case against her related to the incident was dropped by a judge in January because of a lack of evidence and conflicting accounts over what happened.

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