Madrid’s Aguirre pleads for anti-Podemos pact

Esperanza Aguirre, the PP candidate who failed to win a majority in Madrid, is desperately courting the socialist opposition to form a pact against the anti-austerity candidate.

Madrid's Aguirre pleads for anti-Podemos pact
Esperanza Aguirre, the Madrid mayoral candidate, is trying to forge a pact after losing the PP absolute majority. Photo: Dani Pozo / AFP

The candidate for mayor of Madrid of Spain's governing Popular Party (PP) has offered the opposition Socialists a pact to block a far-left anti-austerity politician from winning control of city hall after weekend election.

“My goal is to stop Podemos,”  Aguirre, told a news conference on Tuesday,confirming that she had offered her Socialist rival an alliance to bar Manuela Carmena – who is backed by the  Podemos protest party – from becoming the capital's mayor.

Carmena, a 71-year-old retired judge, led the Ahora Madrid coalition, a group spawned by the anti-austerity “Indignado” protest movement of 2011.

Manuela Carmena of Ahora Madrid is seeking an alliance with socialists. Photo: Pedro Almestre / AFP

Her team came second in Sunday's municipal election, winning 20 councilseats to Aguirre's 21.

She could yet defeat Aguirre for mayor if she forges an alliance with the mainstream opposition Socialist Party, which came third and won 9 seats.

That avenue remained open after the Socialist candidate, Antonio Miguel Carmona, rejected the Popular Party's overtures.

“Regarding Aguirre's proposal…my response in that name of the Socialists and in my own name was a firm NO,” he wrote in a Twitter message.

He reiterated that in a subsequent press conference.

Meanwhile, Carmena has said that she was confident of taking city hall and becoming mayor, with the backing of the Socialists.

Together, Ahora Madrid and the Socialists would have 29 seats in the 57-seat Madrid municipal assembly, enough to drive the PP out of the city hall stronghold it has controlled for 24 years.

But Aguirre made other calculations, arguing an alliance between the PP, the Socialists and centre-right party Ciudadanos, which won seven council seats, could form a municipal government that represented most voters.

She tweeted an invitation to PSOE and Ciudadanos to form a broad coalition arguing that 62 per cent had voted for centrist parties.

“There are a million voters who back an option of the broad centre, that takes in the centre-left, the centre-centre and the centre-right,” she later said at a press conference.

Using strong rhetoric, she has repeatedly attacked her rival for mayor and railed against the protest party she represents.

Podemos “want to use the mayor's office as a trampoline to break the western democratic system, a trampoline to become the main political force at the national level,” she added.

An avowed admirer of the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, she warned during the campaign that if the new anti-austerity party won a general election “it will be the last time we vote freely.”

“After that we will vote, but like they do in Cuba,” she added.

Ahora Madrid and other groups born out of the “Indignado” movement battered the governing Popular Party (PP) in Sunday's local and regional elections.

The PP lost its majority in most regions, in a vote seen as a warm-up for a general election due in November. 

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