By Cristina Galan
MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s main opposition Popular Party is poised to win May 4’s snap election in the key Madrid region, probably returning conservative Isabel Diaz Ayuso to power there in a blow to the leftist central government, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.
Ayuso has clashed with the government on issues from social policies to the COVID-19 pandemic response, notably keeping bars and shops open to support Madrid’s services-heavy economy, while other regions have shut non-essential activities.
The vote in the region around the capital, Spain’s wealthiest, is seen as a mid-term test for the country’s fragmented political class.
The survey by Metroscopia pollsters showed Ayuso’s PP winning 59 seats in the 136-seat regional assembly, up from 30 in the 2019 election, which means she would still need the support of the far-right party Vox to secure a majority.
Ayuso, whom opponents label a populist in the mould of former U.S. President Donald Trump, has not ruled out a pact with Vox, which would get 13 seats according to the poll, which was carried out on April 20-26.
Centre-right Ciudadanos, which ruled in a coalition with the PP until Ayuso called the snap election in March, is likely to lose all its seats in the assembly.
The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will see its seats halved, the poll suggests, and the broader left, including the two far-left parties, Mas Madrid and Unidas Podemos, will secure just 64 seats.
“Voters who are angry at the left-wing government understand the election as an opportunity to punish Pedro Sanchez through Ayuso,” Metroscopia Director Andres Medina said in a report released on Tuesday.
Tensions between right and left have spiked in Madrid, where Ayuso is running with the slogan “Communism or Freedom”, escalating in recent days after Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and several government officials received death threats by mail.
Iglesias and Podemos have adopted the slogan “Democracy or Fascism” after Vox questioned the authenticity of the letters.
(Reporting by Cristina Galán, Editing by Inti Landauro, Andrei Khalip and Catherine Evans)