Neither the PSOE was 50,000 votes “at best” from ending 26 years of PP governments, nor did Ángel Gabilondo convince the people of Madrid as “the good thing to know”. The winner of the 2019 elections signed the worst result of the Socialists in the jewel in the crown of the right with the lowest percentage of votes (16.8%, 10.5 points less than two years ago) and fewer seats than never (24). A hecatomb that Pedro Sánchez cannot ignore, since it occurs in his federation and after having decided both the electoral list and the campaign strategy. The culmination, in a very severe defeat with 275,000 lost votes, was the passing of Más Madrid. “I have tried to offer calm proposals, obviously I have not succeeded. The results are not good and we did not expect them, ”Gabilondo acknowledged Tuesday night in an appearance without questions.
The surprise electoral call made the PSOE indigestible from the beginning, with an exit candidate, pending since the summer of his planned appointment as Ombudsman. Joaquín Leguina obtained 32 deputies in 1995, but then 103 seats were distributed compared to the current 136. But it was the first time that the PSOE fell below 30% of the vote (29.7%). A record that Tomás Gómez worsened in 2011 (26.3%). With Ciudadanos y Podemos in action, Gabilondo oscillated between 25.4% in 2015 – he stayed one seat from governing, as IU did not achieve the minimum 5% to have representation in the Assembly – and 27.3% with the who won the elections in 2019. Despite the dire portents of the polls, no one foresaw the cataclysm of 4-M.
More Madrid occupied the space left by the socialists in the worst health, economic and social crisis in a century. The miracle of the massive mobilization to which they clung to Ferraz and La Moncloa not only did not occur, but a large part of socialist voters punished, voting for other options or abstaining, the lack of forcefulness of Gabilondo in the most crude of the pandemic. Mónica García’s punch, much more attractive to the younger and more educated progressive electorate, penalized the PSOE. And it opens an unpredictable crisis in one of the most convulsive socialist federations.
At first, La Moncloa based the campaign on growing at the expense of Ciudadanos. The strategy was traced to the one that led the PSC to win the 14-F elections for the first time since 2003. In Madrid, it was a huge fishing ground (630,000 voters in 2019). The warnings of the Madrid PSOE leadership – which has not painted anything in the campaign and has allowed itself to be done in the renewal that Sánchez has imposed on the electoral list -, warning that the electorate of Cs in Madrid and that of Catalonia are very different, were not taken into account. The candidacy of Salvador Illa captured a good part of the electorate of Cs that was a former voter of the PSC and he returned to his origins convinced by the alternative project to independence. In Madrid, on the other hand, the bulk of Cs votes came from the PP and that is where they have returned en masse six years later. A bloc that became even more stony due to suspicion of Pablo Iglesias, as socialist ministers critical of the former second vice president of the Government were feared. “Many center or center-right people willing to vote for us will not do so for him,” predicted several ministers weeks ago. But, without Iglesias in action, Unidos Podemos would have risked being left out of the Assembly. A drama that the left already lived in 2015 with IU and that left Gabilondo at the gates of the presidency.
Photogallery: The night of the regional elections in Madrid, in images
The night confirmed that the bet was extremely risky: leaving the entire left flank, exposed and without fighting, to Más Madrid and even to United We with the almost impossible mission of fishing in Cs. If one of the three parties could achieve it, it was the PSOE, those responsible for the campaign maintained until the end. In the candidacy, it was assumed as a lesser evil to lose part of the usual electorate as long as the sum of the left trident was worth to govern. But 13 fewer seats sounded impossible. What was not measured was the discomfort in the own ranks due to decisions such as not raising taxes as patrimony, in the only community where it is not applied, or that of inheritance and donations, eliminated in practice by being subsidized at 99%. A message designed for the undecided of Cs that, on the contrary, was not well received in the traditional socialist electorate. An enlightening fact: 80% of PSOE voters in Madrid have incomes of about 20,000 euros.
The PP, Más Madrid and Unidas Podemos consider, like PSOE cadres critical of the chosen strategy, that the socialists’ campaign has been erratic. One of the examples they give is the sudden turn to the left. It occurred right at the end of the Telemadrid debate 13 days before the elections, with Gabilondo asking for Iglesias’ support after a month saying that he would not agree with him. And without clarifying if that would mean a tripartite government with United We Can, to the fright of potential voters from Cs. The PSOE increased its turn after Vox’s refusal to condemn the threats to Iglesias two days later in the SER debate. By then, socialist sources estimated that they had captured 45,000 votes from Cs (between 5% and 7% of their electorate) who did not see well that a government of Ayuso was reissued with Vox. Gabilondo focused from that moment on asking for the support of socialists, progressives, democrats and disappointed Cs voters. The goal: the mobilization of 200,000 voters. An El Dorado that did not go beyond the mirage.
Sánchez barely participated
Another proof of the lurching that is attributed to the campaign is that, contrary to the original idea, Sánchez himself has participated the least. Unlike the deployment with six acts in the Catalan elections, the president limited his presence to the three rallies that were held on Sundays, including the closing in Entrevías. Faced with the prominence he had in the pre-campaign, unintentionally contributing to Ayuso’s confrontational strategy with the government, Sánchez opted for a secondary profile and avoided melee with the president of Madrid in the two weeks prior to the elections. “I am the candidate,” Gabilondo had to claim in his third elections as headliner of the PSOE.
For not being nor was the consolation, if it could be called that, that Más Madrid did not surpass the PSOE. And that the overcoming of Más Madrid in the capital was assumed already in the campaign. The very recent precedents did not invite optimism: Manuela Carmena was already mayor in 2015 with Now Madrid and Pepu Hernández led the PSOE to the worst result in the city in 2019. But Ferraz never feared, until he was almost overtaken by Más Madrid at the end of the vote, for its hegemony on the left and as the main opposition party. The strength in the big cities of the industrial south of Madrid and the Henares corridor was not enough. Ferraz resorted to the management of its 59 mayors, in a region with 179 municipalities, to mobilize its electorate, but it was not enough to even come close to the result of 2019.
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