Madrid region to face early election after coalition split

National News

FILE – In this Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, left, welcomes Madrid’s regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso, center, and Madrid’s mayor Jose Luis Martinez Almeida during an event to commemorate the ‘Dia de la Hispanidad’ or Spain’s Hispanic Day in Madrid. Spain’s central region of Madrid will face snap elections after regional vice president Ignacio Aguado announced Wednesday, March 10, 2021 that its right-wing coalition government has dissolved. Aguado, of the liberal Citizens party, told Spanish media in an impromptu televised appearance that regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso had decided to break up their coalition. (Kiko Huesca/Pool via AP, File)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s powerful central region of Madrid will face an early election after infighting between two right-wing parties caused the capital’s coalition government to collapse on Wednesday.

Regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso, one of the rising stars of Spain’s conservative Popular Party, dissolved the regional legislature after breaking with her government’s junior party, the liberal Citizens party.

The rupture came just hours after Citizens had announced it is withdrawing its support for the Popular Party’s regional government in southeast Murcia and presenting a no-confidence vote along with the Socialist Party. If successful, that would give Citizens the regional presidency of the rural region that the Popular Party has ruled for over 25 years.

“The institutional instability provoked this morning by Citizens and Socialists in Murcia has forced me into this situation,” Ayuso said, while claiming that Citizens and the Socialists were preparing to join forces and oust her from power.

Ignacio Aguado, the Citizens leader in Madrid and a regional vice president, said he urged Ayuso not to end their partnership, calling an early election during a pandemic “terribly rash.”

The Socialist Party and the leftist Más Madrid party did register motions to present no-confidence votes against Ayuso’s government on Wednesday, but only after Ayuso had dissolved her government.

Ayuso has been one of the leading critics of the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by Spain’s central left-wing government led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. She has consistently pushed back against health restrictions and lockdowns, saying they are bad for the economy.

Ayuso said the new regional election, whose date she did not announce, would be for “Madrid’s residents to choose between socialism and freedom.”

The region surrounding the capital accounts for nearly 20% of Spain’s economy and is the focus of its political and administrative power. It has been in the hands of the Popular Party since 1991, although it needed to team up with Citizens to keep left-wing parties from taking control in 2019.

The breakup of the Popular Party and Citizens could cause more political shockwaves across Spain, where other regions and municipal governments — including Madrid’s town hall — depend on deals between the two parties.

Both parties are struggling to stop the surge of the far-right Vox party, which surpassed both in recent regional elections in Catalonia.

Citizens’ distancing from the Popular Party, which leads the opposition in Spain’s national Parliament, could push the party closer to the ruling coalition and give Sánchez more options when seeking support on key votes.

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