Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lockdown opponent wins Madrid election

She Kept Madrid Open in the Pandemic. Voters Rewarded Her | New York Times - Raphael Minder:

May 5, 2021 - "She is a conservative who campaigned on a slogan that came down to one word: freedom. She offered herself as a champion of small business and scoffed at national coronavirus restrictions. Her critics called her a 'Trumpista.' But Isabel Díaz Ayuso is now a rising force in Spanish politics. Voters rewarded the right-wing leader of the Madrid region with a landslide victory on Tuesday after she defied the central government by keeping the capital’s bars and shops open throughout much of the pandemic.

"She suggested that her victory showed that pandemic fatigue and economic distress had left Spaniards unwilling to endure more of the measures favored by the left-wing national government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez....

"Ms. Ayuso’s Popular Party more than doubled its number of seats in Madrid’s regional assembly, trouncing other parties, including Mr. Sánchez’s Socialists. Her party fell just short of an absolute majority but will hold onto power with support from the far-right Vox party.

"She is the most talked-about politician in Spain right now. But with nationwide elections not planned for another two years, analysts are divided over whether she could make the leap to the national political stage, or would even want to. Even so, Ms. Ayuso’s victory could signal that a shift to the right is underway more broadly as the country struggles to emerge from the ravages of the pandemic.

"Ms. Ayuso, 42, stuck to a simple and clear message that connected with voters who have endured more than a year of pandemic, said Lluís Orriols, a professor of politics at the Carlos III University in Madrid. 'Maintaining Madrid open and economically active was something visible to all, while demonstrating that lockdown measures really help keep people healthy is something harder to do,' Mr. Orriols said.

"Madrid was the epicenter of Spain’s pandemic in the spring of 2020, when its hospitals overflowed with Covid-19 patients. But after the central government lifted a nationwide state of emergency last June, Ms. Ayuso ensured that the city was one of the most bustling in Europe, even when its Covid-19 infection rate crept back up after Easter [2021]....

"Ms. Ayuso’s handling of the pandemic provoked tensions even within her administration. After resigning last year as the head of Madrid’s regional health services, Dr. Yolanda Fuentes recently attacked Ms. Ayuso’s campaign slogan on Twitter. 'To understand that freedom means to do whatever you want during a pandemic, when intensive-care units are above capacity and colleagues feel defeated, seems to me indecent, to say the least,' Dr. Fuentes said.

"Outside the headquarters of the Popular Party on Tuesday evening, a crowd of supporters ... said they were celebrating Ms. Ayuso’s personal victory rather than that of her party and its national leader, Pablo Casado.... Mariola Vicario, a 25-year-old student, said of Ms. Ayuso. 'I don’t consider Casado to have her strength.' In terms of handling the pandemic, Ms. Vicario said that Ms. Ayuso 'took measures when needed, but what she did not do is let people starve to death' by keeping Madrid’s economy shut down as long as that of other cities.

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