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POLITICS

Spain’s Tourism Minister receives ‘bloodstained’ knife in the post

Spain's Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said Monday she had received a knife covered in red stains by post, just days after deaths threats and bullets were sent to other top leftist politicians in Spain.

Spain's Tourism Minister receives 'bloodstained' knife in the post
Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

The threats, which the left blames on the far-right, come amid deep political polarisation and during campaigning for a regional election in Madrid on May 4th which could have important ramifications for national politics.

“We can’t be intimidated. We are conscious that democracy will defeat hate,” Reyes Maroto told reporters outside parliament after filing a complaint with police over the letter.

She held up a photo of the knife covered in red stains. Police are investigating if the stains were blood or paint.

Maroto, a socialist, has served as minister of tourism and industry in Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s left-wing government since 2018.

She has campaigned intensely in support of the Socialist party’s candidate to head the regional government of Madrid ahead of next week’s polls.

Sanchez “strongly condemned” the threats in a tweet. “Enough! We are not going to let this pass. We are not going to accept that hatred disrupts coexistence in Spain,” he added.

Last week Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the head of the Guardia Civil police force, Maria Gamez, and the leader of far-left party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, received threatening letters with bullet cartridges inside.

“Today it is me, but if the impunity and media whitewashing of the far-right continues, tomorrow it will be other colleagues,” Iglesias tweeted Thursday along with a photo of the handwritten letter which he received as well as four bullets.

Iglesias stepped down last month as a deputy prime minister in Sanchez’s coalition to run in the election as Podemos’ candidate to head the regional government of Madrid. The threats have shaken up the election campaign.

Iglesias on Friday walked out of a regional election debate on radio after the candidate for the far-right Vox part cast doubts on the death threats.

Sanchez on Sunday sought to rally leftists voters by warning that Vox was a “threat” to democracy.

Polls suggest the outgoing head of Madrid’s regional government, Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party, is poised to win the most seats but could need Vox support to govern.

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SPANISH POLITICS

What the PP’s landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain’s ruling Socialists

A resounding win by Spain's conservative Popular Party in a weekend regional election in Andalusia appears to have boosted its chances in national elections next year and weakened Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

What the PP's landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain's ruling Socialists

The Popular Party (PP) secured 58 seats in Sunday’s election in Spain’s most populous region — three more than the 55 needed for an absolute majority. That constitutes its best-ever result in the longstanding Socialist stronghold.

The Socialists won 30 seats, their worst-ever result in Andalusia. It governed there without interruption between 1982 and 2018, when it was ousted from power by a coalition between the PP and centre-right Ciudadanos.

This was the Socialists’ third consecutive regional election loss to the PP after votes in Madrid in May 2021 and Castilla y Leon in February.

Sanchez’s government has been struggling to deal with the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation worldwide, especially through increasing energy prices.

Socialist party officials argued the results of a regional election “can’t be extrapolated” nationally.

But in an editorial, centre-left daily El Pais said no one can deny the gulf in the election scores obtained between the two parties in two of Spain’s most populated regions — Andalusia and Madrid.

This was “more than just a stumble”, it argued.

“This may be a symptom of a change in the political cycle” at the national level, it added. The conservative daily ABC took a similar line.

‘Worn down’

Pablo Simon, political science professor at the Carlos III University, said this “new cycle” in which “the right is stronger” began when the PP won a landslide in a regional election in Madrid in May 2021.

It could culminate with the PP coming out on top in the next national election expected at the end of 2023, he added.

But Cristina Monge, a political scientist at the University of Zaragoza, took a more cautious line.

“The government is worn down after four difficult years due to the pandemic” and the war in Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation, she said.

She refused to “draw a parallel” between Andalusia and Spain, arguing “there is still a lot of time” before the next national election.

Sanchez come to power in June 2018 after former PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy was voted out of office in a no-confidence motion triggered by a long-running corruption scandal.

The PP then suffered its worst-ever results in the next general election in 2019, which the Socialists won.

Sunday’s election was the first since veteran politician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, a moderate, took over as leader of the PP from Pablo Casado following a period of internal party turbulence.

Partido Popular (PP) candidate for the Andalusian regional election Juanma Moreno greets supporters during a meeting following the Andalusian regional elections, in Seville on June 19, 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

‘Packing his bags’

“People are fed up with Sanchez,” the PP’s popular regional leader of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said Monday.

“If national elections had been held yesterday, the result would have been the same and today he would be packing his bags,” she added.

Up until now, the far-right Vox party had supported the PP in Andalusia but from outside government.

This time around however, it had said its support would be conditional on getting a share of the government of the southern region.

But the PP’s commanding victory in Andalusia means that is now moot: it no longer has to rely on far-right party Vox to govern.

At the national level, it could be a different story however, said Pablo Simon.

A PP government nationally that did not rely on Vox would be “impossible” due to the fragmentation of parliament, which has several regional and separatist parties.

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