Madrid voters line up at polls in critical COVID-influenced election
Voters formed long lines at polling stations in Madrid on Tuesday to maintain social distancing in a regional election centered on unorthodox COVID-19 policies that could rock the country’s political landscape.
The unusual midweek vote in Spain’s wealthiest region is set to sack Isabel Diaz Ayuso, of the conservative People’s Party (PP), from power as regional leader, according to opinion polls.
Ayuso, 42, has won the support of many residents of Madrid by defying the left-wing Spanish government and refusing to close bars and restaurants to stem the coronavirus pandemic. Read more
It has given priority to economy and social life, pleasing many owners of bars and restaurants, as well as Madrid residents known for their vibrant nightlife.
A categorical victory of the PP and the right at large in Madrid could change the balance of power at the national level, starting a new electoral cycle with a restructured right side in which the PP can only obtain a majority with the help of of the far-right party Vox.
âI feel so happy,â Ayuso told reporters after voting. “Today is the best day, it is democracy day.”
Polling stations are open until 8 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) and more than 5 million people are eligible to vote, the last hour being reserved for positive and suspected COVID-19 cases. National broadcaster TVE will run exit polls when stations close. The final results are expected before midnight.
“(The elections) are very weird, I think it’s weird for all of us, the masks, the voting on a weekday, and also all the social polarization. We all have our attention on the election,” said IT consultant Borja Lava, 37 years old.
The Madrid region, home to around seven million of Spain’s 47 million, on Monday recorded 369 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 in the past 14 days compared to a national average of 223. The occupancy of intensive care units is also the highest in Spain, at around 44.7%.
The PP is expected to win over 40% of the vote, potentially doubling its assembly seats from the 2019 election, but Ayuso may need the help of the Vox party to rule.
Five activists from the women’s rights group Femen staged a topless protest before Vox candidate Rocio Monasterio arrived to vote.
“Legal fascism – national shame!” read a slogan painted on the body of a protester. They were abducted by the police.
Surveys suggest that the center-right Ciudadanos party, which in the past partnered with the PP to form regional governments, faces the prospect of not winning any seats and disappearing from the political landscape.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers Party would see its seats halved in the 136-seat assembly, and the enlarged left is on the verge of securing just 64 seats.
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