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Madrid set for early elections after regional government collapses

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By Matthew Holroyd
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Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the President of the Madrid region, has called an election for 4 May.
Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the President of the Madrid region, has called an election for 4 May.   -   Copyright  HANDOUT / COMUNIDAD DE MADRID / AFP
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Spain's political landscape has been shaken after the regional government in Madrid split and called an early election.

The region's president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, announced on Wednesday the right-wing coalition in the Spanish capital — consisting of the liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens) party and the conservative Partido Popular (PP) — had been dissolved, less than two years into its current mandate.

It was sparked by events a few hours earlier in south-east Spain.

There, in Murcia, Citizens withdrew its support for PP in the regional government and announced a surprise pact with the Socialist Party (PSOE).

Citizens then presented a vote of no-confidence in the government, which, if successful, would give the party the regional presidency.

Political shockwaves

Spain's 17 autonomous communities are ruled by regional governments, separate from the country's national executive.

The split in Murcia has sent political shockwaves across the country, where other regional and municipal governments are built on coalitions between the Citizens and PP.

Political analysts have rumoured that the Socialists could now seek to form alliances with the Citizens to unseat PP in multiple regions.

In an effort to prevent a motion of no-confidence in Madrid, Ayuso broke up the government and brought forward elections to May 4.

Voters in the capital's region will have to choose "between socialism and freedom," she told reporters at the regional government headquarters.

"I have been forced to take this decision for the good of Madrid and Spain and against my repeated desire to finish the mandate."

The Socialists (PSOE) and left-wing Más Madrid group had presented a no-confidence motion in the capital on Wednesday but it is unclear if this was registered in time before the government had split.

If it was filed early enough, the dissolution of Madrid's government would be invalid, and the matter would go to a vote rather than an election.

Could there be other knock-on effects?

Meanwhile, the Socialists have also filed a motion of censure in a third region, Castilla y León.

In addition to these areas, PP and Citizens govern together in Spain's largest region, Andalusia, and depend on parliamentary support from the far-right Vox party.

The liberal vice-president of Andalusia, Juan Marín, has reiterated the "absolute stability" of the regional government, adding that "relations between the PP and Ciudadanos are moving in the direction promised two years ago".

The most significant centre-right coalition is in Madrid, Spain's richest region, which has been a conservative stronghold since 1995. Even though PSOE won the last election in 2019, PP made a pact with Citizens to continue to govern in a coalition.

Ayuso has become a prominent figure of the opposition PP, with her strong criticism of Spain's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

She has argued that the health restrictions imposed by the Socialist government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez are bad for the country's economy.

It is too early to say whether the motions of no-confidence will affect Spain's national government, where the PSOE rule in a minority coalition government with Unidas Podemos, supported by smaller parties.

Additional sources • AFP, EFE