Politics 15/03/2021

Ayuso, on Iglesias running for Madrid president: "Communism or freedom"

Current Madrid president celebrates having removed the leader of Podemos from the Spanish government

3 min
The president of the Comunitat de Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, in a recent image.

MadridPablo Iglesias's move has only given Isabel Díaz Ayuso more arguments for her electoral approach in Madrid. Whilst last week she intoned Donald Trump's "socialism or freedom", she has now rebranded it as "communism or freedom". The battle between Ayuso and Iglesias in the May 4 elections represents a confrontation between two of the main political profiles in the state and the PP candidate has already given hints that Podemos's leader can overshadow the winner of the 2019 elections, the socialist Ángel Gabilondo. "All those who do not want communism to enter the Community of Madrid will unite around a candidacy that represents the opposite," said the Madrid president at a press conference.

The PP candidate, therefore, has already set the tone of the debate with Iglesias, who she criticised for having a good relationship with the independence movement, "believing in expropriation and squatting" and act "against the interests of the Spanish". Ayuso, in fact, has even considered the fact that Iglesias is running a victory. "Spain owes me one: we have forced Iglesias out of the Moncloa". In addition, she has made it clear that her political adversary is the one who defends the "revolution", and not Vox.

The president of the Community of Madrid is already working on the electoral scenario and has assured that she has two jobs: on the one hand, to keep the Madrid government working at full capacity after dismissing all the Ciudadanos ministers and not appointing any new ones; on the other, to prepare for the elections. Her slogan "socialism or freedom" has already caught on: Fran Hervías, former leader of the hard core Albert Rivera supporters in Cs, used it when defecting from Ciudadanos to the PP. Ayuso is determined to exploit the exceptionality Madrid is experiencing in terms of measures to combat the coronavirus and is convinced she has full support from the hospitality sector, who is profiting from the lax covid restrictions in place.

These measures have support from the PP leader, Pablo Casado, who warned that the PP "will respond" to Pablo Iglesias's "communist" project Madrid with "civil concord and lowering taxes". Following Ayuso's lead, the PP leader has found that Pedro Sánchez's "attempt to destabilise Murcia", coordinating with Ciudadanos to unseat the PP through a motion of censure - which in the end will be unsuccessful - has ended up turning against him because he has assured that it is making the Spanish government "wobble". In fact, according to Casado, Iglesias's departure from the Spanish executive also adds uncertainty to the coalition government.

Casado has not only criticised the Spanish executive, but has also rubbed salt on Ciudadanos' wounds. "Usefulness in politics is essential. When a party ceases to be useful it loses its essence and the public mandate," he said, predicting the political death of the orange party. He has, however, called on all the Spanish centre right -even that tainted with "evident Catalanism"- to rally around the PP.

"If they accuse you of fascism, it means that you are on the right side".

Before knowing of Iglesias's decision, Ayuso started her campaign on Monday on comfortable ground and has not missed the opportunity to leave controversial headlines. "When they call you a fascist, it means that you are on the right side," she said, after journalist Ana Rosa Quintana read some of the adjectives that she had been called since she came to power. She later explained it was a "joke".

Ayuso has exploited her condition of scapegoat of the left and has predicted a "dirty" smear campaign in the face of the May 4 election. "We have done things in a sensible, especially fair way," said Ayuso. She also celebrated Madrid's High Court provisional ruling to let the elections go ahead, after controversy arose over whether the snap elections were legally called.

Ayuso explained that the decision to press the electoral button was consulted with the president of the party, Pablo Casado, but recent months have shown that her course does not always coincide with that of the state leadership. In this sense, she has refused to incorporate leaders of Cs into her list for the elections, thus opposing the Casado's attempt at absorbing the party. This does not mean that no councillors linked to Ciudadanos would be included in a hypothetical future government. "I want the government of the best", Ayuso has pointed out, aware that most people see her cosying up to far-right Vox after the polls. While a few days ago she said she aspires to an absolute majority, the Madrid president herself has settled for a "broad majority" that would necessarily force her to reach agreements.

One possibility is that Cs no longer has to be part of the combinations, at the risk of being left out of the Assembly of Madrid if it does not exceed 5% of the votes. Some polls already point in this direction. Ayuso has admitted that she "always" had a bad relationship with the hitherto vice president of her government, Ciudadanos' Ignacio Aguado. "Everbody knows that. Here there have been no surprises," she said. Aguado, on arrival at the meeting of the executive of his party on Monday, has denied it.