July 9 was the second anniversary of the inauguration of Alfonso Fernández Mañueco as president of the Junta de Castilla y León. The ‘popular’ candidate came to power thanks to a government pact with Ciudadanos, in what was the first coalition in the history of the community after having achieved the worst results of the PP in autonomous regions: 29 seats compared to 35 for the PSOE . When he was elected in 2017, after defeating Antonio Silván from Leon in a primary now being investigated by the courts, Mañueco was a not very charismatic candidate, in the shadow of the powerful Juan Vicente Herrera, who had governed the Junta for fifteen years.
The management of the pandemic during these two years of legislature has breathed oxygen into Mañueco, who has become, according to a recent survey, the only community leader to receive the approval. He has also managed to strengthen himself abroad, coming to be considered one of the strongest moderate barons of the PP, along with the Galician Alberto Núñez Feijoo and the Andalusian Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, far from the hard line of Pablo Casado.
The strategy of representing moderation in the face of the national leadership and the ability to avoid pandemic attrition, leaving it to always be the Board’s spokesperson, Francisco Igea (Cs), who would deliver the bad news and announce restrictions, have allowed Mañueco to consolidate. According to the polls, Mañueco’s PP would easily win the regional elections, repeating the same thing that happened in the legislature from 1991 to 1995, when the PP engulfed its parliamentary partner, the CDS.
In the May 2019 elections, Mañueco failed to revalidate the absolute majority of his party. The PP achieved poor regional results in General, although Citizens came to the rescue. In a remote-controlled negotiation from Madrid by Teodoro García Egea (PP) and José María Espejo (Citizens), the parties that shared power after signing a programmatic agreement. Ciudadanos took over the departments of: Transparency and Open Government, Employment, Health, Culture and Tourism. And the PP all the others.
Francisco Igea was given support for Mañueco, as seen in the photographs after the signing of the agreement, where he appeared in disgust. But by dint of negotiation and endless government councils, the relationship between Igea and Mañueco has strengthened during the pandemic. The two parties show their chests and say they have fulfilled more than 88% of the government agreement they reached for the coalition. On a personal level they do not hide their good harmony. At a press conference last Friday to show the unity of the coalition, the president and vice president praised each other: “For two years of friendship, work, loyalty, trust and endurance,” said Igea; “For the integrity, the defense of the principles in what he believes and the capacity of anticipation and foresight during the pandemic,” snapped the ‘popular’. Asked Mañueco if he would like to continue counting on Igea as a counselor for the next legislature, the ‘popular’ threw balls out, and claimed to be only pressing in the present.
Change with the motion of censure
The advancement of the elections in Madrid caused by the motion of no confidence in the Region of Murcia resulted in the unexpected change in the balance of forces in the center-right coalition. With the defector María Montero, Ciudadanos went from 12 to 11 seats, with which the sum of PP attorneys -which had 29- and Cs has remained at 40, one less than those necessary for an absolute majority. Now the PP is strengthened in that Government, and although they avoid talking about an electoral advance, it is increasingly evident that the ‘popular’ are stronger in the Governing Council.
“The Citizens’ Councils have handled the management of an unprecedented pandemic with responsibility and without sparing efforts. And that is a wear and tear that we also assume with pride,” says the leader of Citizens in Castilla y León, Gemma Villarroel. During the pandemic, the Minister of Health proposed by Ciudadanos, Verónica Casado, and Igea did and undid as they pleased, imposing restrictions and designing the de-escalation; now tied short, Mañueco has his hands loose. With the incidence soaring among young people, last week the Board only closed nightlife after two in the morning and imposed restrictions on capacity and consumption.
“Mañueco is a consolidated leader, endorsed by his government action. Moderate, dialogue, but firm in defending the interests of Castilla y León,” explains the deputy spokesman for the Popular Parliamentary Group in the Cortes, Salvador Cruz. Mañueco has shown this ‘moderation’ on several occasions, such as when he decided to absent himself from the demonstration against pardons in the Plaza de Colón in Madrid because he had an appointment in his hometown: “These are the Salamanca festivals.” In recent months the president of the Board and his party boast of this ‘moderation’ without showing fear in public of the rise of Vox in the Community. Europe and the defense of the state of the autonomies are the slogan to prevent the arrival of the ultras to the Community, which now only have one attorney in the Cortes.
According to the latest polls, the ‘popular’ would once again be the first political force in the community, surpassing the PSOE, which won the 2019 elections with 35.2% of the votes, and which would now leave 5.7 points, taking 29.5% of the total. According to the projection of seats, the PP would achieve 43 attorneys, two more than necessary for the absolute majority (41) and 14 more than it has now. The PSOE would lose 6 attorneys: from 35 to 28. Citizens would disappear from the Cortes of Castilla y León and Vox would take over