Tuesday, February 27

Igea’s last chance

Francisco Igea began to walk through the wire the same day he decided to face the one who was a candidate of the Citizens’ apparatus for the regional elections of Castilla y León in 2019, Silvia Clemente. Since then his has been tightrope walking, because at that time the national leadership did not want him as head of the list for Castilla y León and for the 2023 elections he had little chance. Today he is a candidate again, and it may be his last time. Either he takes out a seat or hangs up the stethoscope.

Igea: “Mañueco felt anxiety about the trials that come from corruption and the primaries and pressed the nuclear button”

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Igea (apparently) lost the 2019 primaries and was preparing to return to his position as a digestive system doctor at the Río Carrión Hospital in Palencia. The political adventure that had led him to the Congress of Deputies two years earlier, and that made him yearn for the Junta de Castilla y León, had ended. His intention to put on the white coat lasted a few hours, which took time to discover the blow for which Clemente added 81 more votes. Igea, who had found himself despised during his primary campaign while his rival surrounded himself with party leaders, imposed himself on the wishes of the national leadership to run for the presidency of the Junta. The annulment of the victory of his rival occurred after he threatened the party with denouncing the blow, in fact, he did so with a knock on the doors of the courts.

After the elections of 26M he came to revolt, but only internally, when his party, with 12 seats, became key to the PP, with only 29. It was the worst result in its history of three decades of uninterrupted government in Castilla y León . Igea had guaranteed during his campaign that he would end those three decades of power and Albert Rivera forced him to do the opposite. Thus, he achieved a vice presidency that was not uncomfortable for him, despite everything and he felt strong.

Ciudadanos had 57 deputies after the general elections on April 28, and was left with 10 after the second call on November 10. The departure of Rivera from the presidency that Inés Arrimadas assumed made him consider that this was also his moment and that against all odds, he could be president of Ciudadanos and turn the party around to return it to the center. Explosive in character, but above all provocative, he had tense clashes with Arrimadas, and lost.

But there was no time for regrets, because COVID-19 broke in. Francisco Igea was not only the spokesperson for the Junta de Castilla y León, he was also a counselor of Transparency and also, the ministry of Health belonged to Citizens. There was some internal peace in the party, but there was not time for much more than managing the consequences of a pandemic that hit Castilla y León especially.

Two and a half years of coalition rule later, Igea was written off inside and outside the party for various reasons. The first, his lack of harmony with the national leadership. And the second, his complicated relationship with the PP. Neither Ciudadanos would have let him be a candidate, nor did the PP want him in their ranks. Because as vice president, together with the already former Minister of Health Verónica Casado, he was severe about the restrictions to face the pandemic. Igea and Casado, two doctors, left little room for politics or strategy when it came to containing the virus. But it is that, in addition, Igea and Mañueco supported each other and nothing more. Neither of them trusted the other and the president was tired of his vice president having more prominence than him.

The proof came on December 20. Mañueco, who had given Igea his word that there would be no electoral advancement and that he repeated it incessantly when asked in public appearances, brought the elections forward. He did it while his then vice president intervened in a radio program and categorically denied any possibility of advancement. A day before, in an interview he had also suggested that the best thing for PP and Ciudadanos was to attend the May 2023 elections in a coalition. “Hello Paco, that you know that you and all your advisers are dismissed, and that I am going to call elections because it is the best.” Mañueco communicated this to him, in a call after that first radio intervention by Igea. But it is that minutes before he had announced it on Twitter.

Igea, knocked out, intervened for the second time in that same program and wondered “what the hell” was Mañueco thinking to do something like that at such a time. Ceased, he gave his last press conference in the Cortes announcing to journalists that this was not the end. He repeated it several times. While the end came or not, he requested his reinstatement to the hospital. In those he was walking when it was confirmed that he would be a candidate for the Board without the need for primaries. It can be interpreted as a gesture of peace by Inés Arrimadas, but it is one more move: it is not the time to remove from the board who can defend the government action and can face, in many ways, President Mañueco, but also, if he loses, and the polls are not favorable to Ciudadanos, Arrimadas will have got rid of him sooner than he thought.