The Popular Party (PP) has regained control of the city of Madrid after a four-year hiatus marked by the leftist policies of Manuela Carmena.
The conservatives reached an eleventh-hour deal with the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) on Friday night, and struck an additional agreement with the far-right Vox at around 4am on Saturday – just hours before mayors were due to take their oaths across Spain.
The negotiations allowed José Luis Martínez-Almeida, whose party obtained its worst results ever in Madrid at the May 26 election, to take over from Carmena on a promise to undo many of her initiatives.
In her farewell address, the outgoing mayor urged people to “take care of democracy” because achieving it cost “effort and lives.”
While similar in substance, the PP’s agreements with Ciudadanos and with Vox differ on a few significant points: in the deal struck with the latter, gender violence is rebranded as “intra-family violence,” all mentions of gay pride celebrations and “LGTBI diversity” are gone, and Carmena’s signature project Madrid Central – a low-emissions area in the city center – is singled out for elimination.
The PP needed the four votes from Vox, besides the 11 from Ciudadanos, to add to its own 15 and achieve the 29-seat threshold for an absolute majority inside the city council.
Carmena, a 75-year-old former judge, said it was “a democratic paradox” that her party cannot govern despite winning the May election. In 2015 her Ahora Madrid group technically earned one seat fewer than the PP, but she became mayor through an alliance with the Socialist Party (PSOE), which gave her a combined 29 seats.
In her Saturday address, Carmena also had words for the feminist movement, which she described as “the biggest revolution to take place in the world without a drop of violence.”
A new PSOE councilor, former basketball national team coach Pepu Hernández, voiced existing concern about seeing Vox in Spain’s institutions, after the far-right party burst onto the political stage in December of last year at the Andalusian elections.
“Madrid is much more modern and advanced than the government that is being formed here today: this is a government of the past,” said Hernández, who admonished the PP for whitewashing Vox and letting it share power. The Socialist councilor pledged to defend gender equality “and the freedom to love whomever we please.”
But the new mayor challenged the opposition “to find, in any of these two programs, anything that falls outside the legal framework we have given ourselves in Spain.”
Almeida, whose party had governed Madrid for 24 straight years before Carmena’s term, thanked his new partners for enabling “a liberal, center-right government focused on the people,” and said his management will be defined by “efficiency and effectiveness.”
Begoña Villacís of Ciudadanos, who will be the deputy mayor, said that “the main thing, in this new era where absolute majorities have ended, is not who signs the deal, but what is signed in the deal.” Her party agreed to support the PP but only as long as Vox is not given any executive power over departments or city districts.
“I would like for people to say, four years from now, that Madrid has a common-sense, liberal government,” she added.
English version by Susana Urra.