The national leadership of the Popular Party (PP), as well as several high-ranking members of the Spanish government, gave their blessing on Wednesday to a post-electoral strategy in Madrid of seeking pacts with the Socialists (PSOE) and Ciudadanos, with the aim of keeping new anti-austerity group Podemos out of power in City Hall.
The strategy was announced on Tuesday by Esperanza Aguirre, the PP mayoral candidate, who won most seats in Sunday’s municipal elections (21) but fell short of an absolute majority of 29. Manuela Carmena, a 71-year-old former judge who ran as candidate for Podemos-backed group Ahora Madrid, secured 21 seats, and will become mayor of the Spanish capital if she can reach an agreement with the PSOE, who took nine seats at the polls on Sunday.
We need to guarantee governability between parties that clearly defend the Spanish Constitution” Interior Minister Jorge Fernández-Díaz
High-ranking PP figures are also in favor of other party members seeking other such agreements elsewhere, given that the PP lost ground nationwide on Sunday, both in regional and municipal votes.
“We need to guarantee governability between parties that clearly defend the [Spanish Constitution],” Interior Minister Jorge Fernández-Díaz told reporters in the hallways of Congress. “I am completely in agreement with my party and that proposition, so that we can avoid a political force like that one [Ahora Madrid] from being able to govern.”
“The PSOE is cozying up to Podemos to close off the path for Aguirre, when the reasonable thing to do would be to allow the most-voted list to govern and develop a culture of minority governments and specific pacts,” added Health Minister Alfonso Alonso. “The people have spoken,” he continued. “They have removed power from the PP, but the party is still the biggest political force.”
During her press conference on Tuesday, Aguirre had harsh words for Ahora Madrid, describing it as the “radical left” and accusing Carmena of wanting to “use City Hall as a springboard to destroy the western democratic system.”
The solution she offered was for the PP to reach a pact with the PSOE – usually their arch rival – and emerging force Ciudadanos. “A million Madrileños voted for the different centrist options: the center left of the PSOE, a key party in the construction of Constitutional Spain; the center-center option of rising party Ciudadanos; and the center right of the PP, which has been the preferred choice of Madrileños.”
Speaking on Wednesday, however, Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo toned down the rhetoric about Podemos. Carmena, he said, “is not, of course” a danger to democracy. Nor, he added, are any other of the parties that ran in Sunday’s municipal and regional races.
The PP says that it must take the initiative in a bid to take power in places where it was the most-voted force
Margallo went on to say that Ahora Madrid has a “different” model – its electoral manifesto was based on citizen initiatives – but that he did not think that “any of the parties” that ran on Sunday “are a danger for democracy, and of course, nor is Carmena.”
Sources from the PP leadership, meanwhile, said that while the party may have lost most of its absolute majorities in the municipal and regional polls, it must not “exclude itself” from dealmaking, and must take the initiative in a bid to take power in places where it was the most-voted force.
The same sources added that the PSOE should take the time to decide on its next moves, and consider whether it wants to do deals with the “extreme left” in order to get the PP out of power.