Aguirre: “If Podemos wins, it will be the last time Spaniards vote freely”

PP’s candidate for Madrid mayor issues warning after poll shows her in tie with leftist rival

Esperanza Aguirre addresses a crowd on Monday.
Esperanza Aguirre addresses a crowd on Monday.Julián Rojas

If Podemos becomes Spain’s top force after this year’s elections, it will be the last time that the country holds a free vote, Madrid mayoral hopeful Esperanza Aguirre said on Monday.

The candidate for the center-right Popular Party (PP) issued the warning a day after a voting intention poll published by EL PAÍS ahead of this Sunday’s local and regional elections showed her in a technical tie with Manuela Carmena, who represents Ahora Madrid, a leftist coalition supported by Podemos.

In its 15-month existence, the anti-austerity party has risen to the top of voting intention polls on its promise to sweep “the political and economic caste” out of office across Spain. But detractors point to Podemos’s ties to the personality-driven, authoritarian regimes of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, where several of its leaders have worked.

The city is not there to ruin people’s lives with bans, taxes or ill-judged construction projects”

Esperanza Aguirre, Madrid mayoral hopeful

“If some Madrileños want to have Podemos in office at Madrid City Hall, that’s up to them,” said Aguirre, whose party has controlled the capital uninterruptedly for the last 24 years. In her opinion, Ahora Madrid goes against her own principles of “freedom, life, private property, the rule of law and pride in being Spanish.”

What’s more, if Podemos were to win at the national level in the general election scheduled for this fall, “that will be the last time we vote freely; after that we will vote, but like they do in Cuba.”

The statements are not out of character for the veteran politician, who is one of the PP’s most outspoken figures. Known as the Spanish Iron Lady, Aguirre was Madrid’s regional premier between 2003 and 2012, and served as a minister under former Prime Minister José María Aznar in the late 1990s. She stepped down from the premiership in September 2012 citing health reasons, but still heads the Madrid branch of the PP.

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The 63-year-old is no stranger to controversy. Last year she was involved in an incident with traffic officers that landed her before a judge, and more recently she expressed a desire to remove homeless people from the streets because of the poor image they convey to tourists.

If elected, Aguirre said she wanted to “return hope to citizens who wish to live freely, with free media, low taxes and no state intervention. The city is not there to ruin people’s lives with bans, taxes or ill-judged construction projects.”

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