The political landscape in Madrid has turned upside down. Just a year ago, the three parties that had made possible the governments of Almeida and Ayuso (PP, Ciudadanos and Vox) put aside any difference, formal or substantial, to close ranks around the defense of a Madrid turned into a “Gallic village” who opposed everything that came from the Government of the nation. Today, on the contrary, that monolithic bloc has been blown up and each of the forces that made it up follow differentiated strategic lines. Even opposite.
There are several reasons that explain this, but the most decisive was Ayuso’s incontestable electoral victory in the regional elections held on May 4. Ciudadanos turned out to be the great victim of the president’s risky maneuver, going from 26 deputies to zero. It is quite likely that this tsunami will sweep away the formation led by Arrimadas today, but until that happens, they seem determined to change their policy of alliances, openly confronting Vox and cooling down the seemingly inevitable process of integration into the Popular Party. Now, Ciudadanos intends to reoccupy the space “of the center” that Rivera resigned, seeking agreements on the right and left that exclude the so-called “extremes.” In the electoral campaign of Castilla y León this turn is clearly being seen.
For its part, Vox also came out touched by the Madrid elections. Although he managed to save the furniture by adding a seat to the 12 he already had, he was out of the campaign until the Vallecas altercations. The far-right party was forced to take its already extreme discourse (anti-immigration and anti-left) to the extreme in order to have something with which to differentiate itself from its main rival, who was none other than the president. The candidacy of Pablo Iglesias and his crazy campaign strategy (anti-fascist alert) provided them with the perfect alibi to avoid the massive transfer of votes to the PP that many polls predicted. Even so, they saw the ears of the Ayusista wolf and, probably, understood that they needed something more than criminalizing unaccompanied migrant minors to maintain their presence in Madrid’s institutions.
Ayuso’s advance dislocated his two main allies and at the same time competitors, but also removed the foundations of his own party. Its overwhelming result worried the national leaders of the PP, who saw in it an incipient threat in the face of a hypothetical -and quite probable- third electoral defeat in the next general elections. If Casado and García Egea fear anything, it is that the thrust of the Madrid president will force a renewal in the leadership of the party in the event that they fail again in their attempt to reach Moncloa, which is why they dedicate their greatest efforts to prevent it from taking control of the match in Madrid.
And here Martínez-Almeida enters the scene. The mayor of Spain, the cool mayor, the mayor of all, as he was baptized due to the dialoguing attitude he maintained at the beginning of the pandemic and the folksy and joker profile he has tried to cultivate, has been immersed in this internal war. Although it seems that he has already given up on running for the presidency of the party, Genoa has been using it to curb Ayuso’s aspirations. Without him, the national leadership would have nothing to oppose the president. For this reason, the extreme political and media right-wing directs all kinds of criticism and insults at him, accusing him of giving up his program and giving in to the policies of the left. “Judas” is one of the many names that Jiménez Losantos dedicates to him in his morning homilies.
In that fight between Ayuso and Almeida, Vox has found the reason for its existence. While she is the heroine who stands up to anything that smacks of progressivism, he is the traitor who has taken over the agenda of the left. When the PP makes right-wing policies, you can count on their support. When not, Vox is there to denounce him before his voters, and incidentally scratch him a good handful of votes.
The penultimate episode of this theater has been the budgets of the capital. All Almeida’s efforts to get Vox to sit down to negotiate were in vain. Ortega Smith, spokesman for the far-right party, already anticipated in the November plenary session that there would be no agreement, and he carried out his threat. “May it go well, but with us, do not count,” he sentenced. A few days later, he explained in an interview on esRadio the reasons for his refusal to support the mayor’s accounts: the maintenance, and expansion, of Madrid Central in the mobility ordinance approved a few months ago and the creation of the Joint Group.
And here are the keys to the rupture between the municipal government and the one that had been its fundamental support in the City Council. That Almeida, after having announced, promised and repeated that he would put an end to Madrid Central, included in his mobility ordinance the same restrictions on access to the Central district approved by Carmena, offered Vox the perfect excuse to justify his break with the mayor before the PP electorate. But, in addition, the appearance of the mixed group gave rise to a new parliamentary arithmetic that reduced the influence of the far-right party over the municipal government, whose votes had been essential until then to obtain a parliamentary majority.
By having the ability to function as an independent municipal group, freed from the impositions and ties to which we were subjected within Más Madrid, we have been able to offer a credible alternative to the extreme right. Without complexes, we have reached out to the government of Almeida and Villacís with the real will to negotiate and reach agreements, something that neither the Socialist Party nor More Madrid were willing to do, since their only opposition strategy is to see who says more high and more times “no” to anything the government does or does not do.
But we are not risking it to remain sheltered in ideological or party trenches, but to decisively influence municipal politics. We did so with the mobility ordinance, which we support after ensuring the maintenance of Madrid Central, and we have done so with the budgets. Our only red line has been to leave Vox out of any decision that affects the lives of the people of Madrid. We have taken the risk of agreeing with the right even knowing that a part of the left will never forgive us. That same left, by the way, that has been criticizing and opposing everything that comes from the right for 30 years while the right continues to govern.
With our budget agreement, for example, we managed to get the City Council to refinance Pride and recover subsidies to LGTB groups, at the cost of eliminating subsidies to organizations such as the Madrina Foundation, which is dedicated to coercing women who go to the centers of termination of pregnancy. Likewise, we have obtained free EMT buses at rush hour in the morning and afternoon on the days with the highest intensity of traffic. Or that the municipal administration is involved in the processing of minimum vital income and help families with difficulties to pay the mortgage or rent by creating a housing emergency fund. In addition, we have managed to lower the IBI for those who have a home whose cadastral value does not exceed three hundred thousand euros instead of that indiscriminate reduction intended by Almeida to benefit more those who have more properties. And, among many other issues that it is not possible to detail in this article, we also included in the agreement the appointment of Almudena Grandes as Madrid’s favorite daughter. We did it because its merits to receive this recognition are more than accredited and because Madrid is a much more open and advanced city than its mayor intended it to be.
Almeida’s unfortunate statements do not detract from the writer one iota. Quite the contrary, they magnify his figure in contrast to a mayor gripped by the attacks he is receiving from the extreme right. Something that we have also seen with Djokovic. His nod to the anti-vaccines, Vox’s electoral fishing ground, has forced him to have to give a few explanations and the consequent rectification.
Returning to Almudena, the mayor’s words are nothing more than a reflection of his fears and pressures. Nothing has contributed so much to showing the face of the true Almeida than putting him in front of the mirror of his contradictions. In fact, he has been much more criticized for his contempt for the figure of the author than when he received Vox’s support for his investiture.
This would never have happened with a staunch opposition that entrusted everything to the wear and tear of not carrying out this year’s accounts. As if Ayuso had not swept the elections, despite the fact that he had not been able to approve a budget in his previous term.
Our outstretched hand strategy has changed the script and rearranged the pieces. You only have to compare the situation of the right in the Assembly and in the Madrid City Council. The board of municipal politics has moved more in these last four months than in the previous two years. Because opposing does not consist in opposing everything but in making visible the contradictions and mistakes of the adversary and, incidentally, offering a solid, credible and attractive alternative to the citizenry. That is our task and we are devoting all our efforts to it. Because when we separated from Más Madrid we said that we were not here to keep a seat but to recover the municipal government in 2023. Today, after having forced the rupture of the conservative bloc, we are a little closer to that goal.