Podemos' head Pablo Iglesias quits politics after left-wing defeat in Madrid region election
People's Party's Ayuso prevails doubling number of seats to just shy of majority but can govern with support from far-right
Secretary general of the anti-austerity Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, has quit politics after the left-wing bloc was defeated by the People's Party and far-right Vox in the Madrid regional election on Tuesday.
The former Spanish vice president, founder of Podemos in 2014 and leader of the party since then, said on Tuesday evening that he was stepping down from all his posts.
"I will stay committed to this country, but I do not want to block a renovation of leadership," he said. "When a person is no longer useful, they have to know when to quit."
According to Iglesias, the person he appointed to succeed him as vice president of Spain two months ago when he left the Spanish government and decided to run in the Madrid regional election, Yolanda Díaz, "will determine the future of Spain's left-wing in the coming years." The current Spanish work minister is expected to succeed Iglesias as leader of Podemos.
Iglesias, who became a household name after the anti-austerity movement 15-M that began in Madrid ten years ago, has been one of the only Spain-wide political leaders to some extent favour an independence referendum in Catalonia.
Right-wing governments in Madrid for 26 years in a row
His move to become the frontrunner in the Madrid election was aimed at avoiding the party from losing all of its seats. Iglesias was successful in this, as the party achieved a three-seat gain from 7 to 10.
Yet, his main goal to contribute to a left-wing victory in the region for the first time in 26 years failed. The left-leaning bloc got 58 seats, six fewer than two years ago, and 20 fewer than the right-wing.
"Yolanda Díaz will determine the future of Spain's left-wing in the coming years"
Pablo Iglesias · Podemos' secretary general
The leader of the People's Party, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, gained 35 seats compared to the 2019 vote (now 65), and was just shy of an absolute majority, at 69 – yet, despite the emphatic win, she will need far-right Vox's 13 seats (one more than in 2019) to govern.
Ayuso, Madrid regional president since 2019, prevailed after becoming a symbol of the opposition against tight Covid-19 restrictions throughout the pandemic. She opposed closing the territory's borders shortly after the outbreak of the disease and kept bars and restaurants open in the past few months while other territories, such as Catalonia, closed them or restricted their times.
"Freedom has prevailed," said Ayuso after her landslide win in Madrid. "Communism or freedom" was one of her mottos during the campaign, contrasting with Iglesias running in the vote and her Covid-19 restrictions policies only implementing loose measures through the pandemic. Iglesias was one of the voices calling her "Trumpian."
Más Madrid, a split of Podemos led by Íñigo Errejón in Spain and Mónica García in the region, came second, unexpectedly ousting the Socialists from this place. Both forces got 24 seats, but the latter lost 13 MPs in a very bad night for the party leading Spain's government.
Yet, unionist Ciudadanos came out of the night the worst, losing all 26 of its MPs in 2019. The party's crisis deepens after the February 14 Catalan election when they lost 30 of their 36 seats.