(Updates with rewrite, additional information)
Madrid, May 4 (EFE).- Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP), which has governed the Community of Madrid since 1995, strengthened its grip on power in regional elections on Tuesday, winning 65 seats, more than double the number it secured in the 2019 elections and just four fewer than an absolute majority of 69.
Meanwhile, with 99 percent of the ballots counted, the Socialist Party (PSOE), the winner of the 2019 elections, lost 13 seats and will now have 24, tied with another leftist group, Mas Madrid, which exceeded the PSOE in numbers of actual votes.
The voting was held after a tough election campaign in which significant polarization was seen between the right and the left political blocs.
The PP decisively won the balloting on Tuesday, with incumbent conservative president of the Madrid region, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, garnering a broad majority in the snap regional elections although she may have to rely on the far-right to form a functioning government.
Diaz Ayuso won by emphasizing to voters the choice between “freedom or communism,” referring to her election rival from the leftist Unidas Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias.
Although the PP does not have an absolute majority, it could govern alone provided that the ultrarightist Vox party – which improved its position in the Madrid legislature by one seat to 13 – were to abstain from any votes.
The PP was the party that obtained the most votes in all municipalities throughout the Madrid region except two, and in the capital itself it received the most votes of any party in all 20 districts.
“I’m going to be able to have the freedom to do whatever’s necessary,” Diaz Ayuso told reporters after calling the snap elections to be able to get more PP deputies into the regional parliament so that she could govern without resorting to building a coalition after two years of coalition government with the liberal Ciudadanos party and the parliamentary support of the Vox.
Although the Vox gained a seat this time around, the Ciudadanos – which had obtained 26 deputies in the 2019 balloting – dropped out of the Madrid Assembly altogether given that it failed to obtain at least 5 percent of the votes, the threshold needed to be entitled to representation there.
Rocio Monasterio, the leader of Vox in Madrid, said Tuesday after the election results became known, that the party will facilitate Diaz Ayuso’s investiture.
Nevertheless, the future Madrid government will have a limited life of two years, since in 2023 new elections must be held throughout Spain, except in the so-called historic communities of Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country, which have their own election calendar.
With its 65 seats, the PP holds more seats than the three leftist groups competing in the elections – the Socialists, Mas Madrid and Unidas Podemos – which obtained 58.
But of the three groups, the PSOE delivered the worst showing, seeing its former 24 seats reduced to 13 and now finding itself even with Mas Madrid which gained three seats.
Unidas Podemos, meanwhile, headed by the nationwide party leader, Iglesias, improved its standing in the regional assembly by picking up three seats.
But Iglesias announced on Tuesday that he is abandoning all his political posts, after which he stepped down from his post as second vice president of the Spanish coalition government presided over by Socialist Pedro Sanchez to run in the Madrid elections.
Voter turnout in the Madrid regional elections was 80.73 percent, the highest ever for this type of balloting, despite the fact that they were held amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The turnout exceeds by 16.46 percent the voter participation in the May 2019 Madrid Community elections.
Some 5.1 million residents of the Madrid Community were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s elections and all day long there were long lines at polling places, facemasks and hand sanitizer everywhere at the precincts and significant organization inside the venues to prevent too many people from congregating at any one time.
Another different feature of these elections is that they took place on a workday, although normally in Spaini elections are held on Sundays, and thus many children were also on the streets accompanied by their parents or grandparents.