Madrid Mayor Carmena: “If I could rewind, I wouldn’t have run for office”

Leftist leader compelled to issue clarification after comments in book spark resignation calls

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena.
Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena.Samuel Sanchez

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena has confessed that she feels overwhelmed by the job and regrets having run for office in the first place.

“If I could rewind to last February, I would reassert my initial refusal to run for mayor,” she says in a new book published by journalist Maruja Torres.

Carmena, a 71-year-old former judge with no prior experience in politics, ran for office at the request of Pablo Iglesias, head of emerging leftist party Podemos.

All this is absolutely excessive. I am overwhelmed. I am not happy now, and that’s not good” Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena

Although she initially turned down the offer, Carmena finally agreed to head a leftist alliance called Ahora Madrid, which includes Podemos.

The municipal elections on May 24 of this year granted a narrow victory to the incumbent Popular Party (PP), but support from the Madrid Socialists allowed Ahora Madrid to take control of the city council. Carmena took her oath of office on June 13.

Five months later, she says she feels “overwhelmed.”

“You end up being less in control of yourself, and become a little more controlled by others,” she tells former EL PAÍS columnist Torres in Manuela Carmena en el diván de Maruja Torres (or, Manuela Carmena on Maruja Torres’ couch), which went on sale on Tuesday.

“It’s too much for me. All this is absolutely excessive. I am overwhelmed. I am not happy now, and that’s not good,” she adds.

The mayor says the only part of the job she really cares about is “improving Madrid” and “the quality of life of Madrileños.”

More information
Five policies that Manuela Carmena wants in place in her first 100 days
Ahora Madrid-PSOE pact likely to keep Aguirre from mayoral post in capital

Carmena says she takes the subway because she believes in being in touch with citizens, and believes that political positions should not be held by professional politicians.

In her conversations with Torres, Carmena discusses politics but also her family, her origins, and her thoughts on feminism, makeup and sex, noting “the large amount of pleasure to be had without penetration.”

Carmena now “happy”

By midday on Tuesday, the statements made in the book had caused such a reaction that Carmena felt compelled to issue a statement on Facebook asserting that she is “very happy and satisfied” as mayor of Madrid.

The book, she explains, “reflects thoughts I had last summer, when my family vacation was being subjected to public scrutiny.”

In August of last year, photos of Carmena on vacation in Cádiz, in the south of Spain, were splashed on the front cover of the Spanish daily La Razón. The accompanying story detailed the cost of the property in which the Madrid mayor was staying: €4,000 a week. Carmena later clarified that the cost had been shared by the eight people who were staying there together.

“Of course I sometimes miss my heavenly retirement, and some moments have been tough, but the bottom line is positive: I am very happy and satisfied with the work we are doing in Madrid City Hall, and I know we will do a lot more good work in the coming three and a half years,” she added in the Facebook statement on Tuesday.

The Madrid councilor for citizen participation and transparency affairs, Percival Manglano of the PP, had called on Carmena to step down if she harbors any doubts or prefers “her own happiness over her responsibility.”

English version by Susana Urra.

A rocky road in office


The Carmena administration has already faced a number of crises. Just hours into the job, it emerged that the new culture and sports councilor, Guillermo Zapata, had tweeted offensive messages in 2011 making fun of the Holocaust and of victims of ETA terrorism. Zapata resigned 48 hours later.

Just a few days later, a Tax Agency report analyzing the economic measures proposed by Carmena concluded that some of her ideas were "nonsense," others violated existing legislation, and yet others would sink Spain into bankruptcy. Since then, the mayor has backtracked on her idea for a municipal public bank.

In mid-July, the opposition called on the mayor to shut down a new official website aimed at "correcting" the media's coverage of city affairs.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS