Spain: municipal and regional elections look like a test before the general election

Spanish voters are being called to the polls this Sunday to renew the municipal councils and assemblies of 12 and 17 autonomous regions of the country. An election closely followed because it is held barely six months before the general election.

A woman walks in front of an election poster on the eve of the election. AFP - THOMAS COEX

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Some 35.5 million voters (including more than 400,000 foreign residents) are being called to the polls in the country's 8,131 municipalities to elect more than 67,000 municipal councillors. A peculiarity of the Spanish electoral calendar is that only 12 regions out of the 17 are concerned by the election.

Of these 12, 10 have been governed since the previous election in May 2019 by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), most often within a coalition. The other two are led by the People's Party (PP, conservative), the main opposition party at national level.

This election is important because at the end of the year the general elections will take place. Polls show the PP winning, but without an absolute majority against the ruling left-wing minority coalition of the PSOE and the radical left Podemos party. Sunday's vote is therefore considered a full-scale poll.

« What she does is war. »

On the right, if there is a charismatic figure dominating the election, it is Isabel Diaz Ayuso, president of the powerful Madrid region since 2019. She is the only leader of a conservative region certain of her re-election with many possibilities of an absolute majority, which would avoid her needing the support of the extreme right of Vox, reports our correspondent, François Musseau.

In any case, her worst enemies or her most fervent supporters agree on one point: Isabel Diaz Ayuso is a political phenomenon. At 44, she does not hide her admiration for Trump, who she likes to address people without filter and to be wary of traditional media. Many associate it with the Madrid region, which itself defends the idea that it is the only area of freedom in the country against the central government led by socialists, in its eyes "rigorist and repressive".

Luis is a shopkeeper, he intends to vote Ayuso: "She, what she does is war. And since people are very unhappy, they follow her. That is the main reason. It is at war with everyone, especially the head of government."

Her image of freedom, Isabel Diaz Ayuso forged it during the pandemic, when she left everything open, bars, restaurants, cinemas and theaters ... She has thus cultivated her rebellious profile. But for others, she is above all an ultraliberal, elitist who acts against public services, health and education especially. "She only takes care of herself and her family, the hoteliers, the people who have money... As for the public service, it wants to sink it, "scoffs Alberto, an official at the town hall. One certainty, if Isabel Diaz Ayuso wins hands down on Sunday, she will have even more power within the Popular Party, enough to worry Nunez Feijoo, the current moderate leader.

The pulse of the left

And on the left, it is notably the most popular political figure in the country, Yolanda Diaz, the current Minister of Labour omnipresent in the campaign of Ada Colau, candidate for re-election to the mayor of Barcelona, who has the wind in his sails, according to our correspondent Elise Gazengel.

>> READ ALSO: Municipal elections in Spain: in Barcelona, an important election for the Spanish left

For Joan Ignasi Sants, supporting them was natural: "It's not political strategy, it's two women who share the same values and feelings and it's more important than strategy." On the posters, the two women are side by side and the message is clear, "if one wins Barcelona and the other in Spain, their progressive project will continue".

And the importance of the election is well known to Spaniards. "When people think it's a fair party in Catalonia or Barcelona, it can be embarrassing, whereas this support at the national level, it gives strength," said Juan Perez. And indeed, a victory for Colau in Barcelona could also help the minister to run at the end of the year in the legislative elections, believes Alfons Llopis. "If Ada Colau gets a good result in Barcelona and she remains mayor, it will strengthen Yolanda's position on the unity of the left in Spain," he said.

These municipal elections will, in any case, give the pulse of the left, a left that will have to ally itself - in Barcelona as in Spain - if it wants to govern, once again.

>> Read also: Elections in Spain: "It is the campaign that has put this year the issues of climate, drought in the foreground"

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