The conservative leader of Spain’s Madrid region, who for months defied the leftist central government by keeping bars and shops open during the COVID-19 pandemic, won a regional election on Tuesday, an opinion poll showed as voting ended.
Isabel Diaz Ayuso, from the People’s Party (PP), will still need the support of one more party to keep running the region, according to the telephone poll conducted in the last few days by GAD3 for broadcasters TVE and Telemadrid.
But the PP more than doubled its score to 62-65 from 30 in 2019, the opinion poll showed, in a win for the maverick Ayuso, who had banked on her loose COVID strategy to appeal to voters.
The center-right Ciudadanos, which was running the region with the PP, collapsed, winning no seats at all, compared with the 26 it achieved two years ago, according to the GAD3 poll.
That makes the far-right Vox party, which went from 12 seats to 12-14, a likely candidate to back Ayuso. Vox was already backing the PP/Ciudadanos coalition and the question is now whether it will ask to become part of the government.
The emphatic victory for PP and the wider right in Madrid, if confirmed, could alter the balance of power nationally by strengthening the right.
Official results will now start trickling in and confirmation of the winner should come in the next few hours.
The PSOE of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez went from 37 seats to 25-28, according to the GAD3 poll, not enough to allow the Socialists and other left-wing parties to challenge Ayuso.
The Madrid region, home to seven million of Spain’s 47 million people, on Monday recorded 369 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the last 14 days against a national average of 223. Occupancy of intensive care units is also the highest in Spain, at about 44.7%.
But Ayuso, 42, has won the support of many Madrid residents by refusing to close bars and restaurants to curb the pandemic.