MADRID goes to the ballot box today in a snap election to decide the look of the regional government in a bitter battle between left and right.
Not since the 1936-39 civil war has Spanish politics seemed so polarised with echoes of the past appearing in party rhetoric as opposing sides label each other ‘reds’ and ‘fascists’.
The campaign has been marked with death threat letters and bullets mailed to top politicians; including Pablo Iglesias, the leader of far-left party Podemos – the junior partner in central government.
And the polarisation of the poll has blacked out debate over the Madrid regional authority’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the record of the Popular Party, which has run the government in Spain’s richest region since 1995.
The polls tip the PP to win by a wide margin but not by enough to have a majority in the regional assembly which means they need the support of the far-right Vox to govern.
Isabel Diaz Asuyo, the outgoing leader of the Madrid region and a rising force in the PP, set the tone when she called an early election, saying voters must choose between “Socialism and Freedom”.
Her attacks have been aimed at prime minister Pedro Sánchez and her refusal to bow to central government pressure to impose tighter virus restrictions and lockdowns.
However, the pandemic has hit Madrid hard and the region accounts for 20% of over 78,000 deaths, triggering opposition criticism of Ayuso’s handling of the health crisis – left wing parties have also warned of the dangers of Vox, the prime minister claiming “democracy is at stake”.