Spain”s deputy prime minister has quit his role to run in Madrid’s regional elections.
Pablo Iglesias, who leads the left-wing coalition partner Podemos, announced he would be stepping down on Monday.
Iglesias said he had informed Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of his decision to stand in May’s elections for the Madrid regional government.
In a video published by his party on social media, he said his political efforts would be “most useful” in battling opponents in the Spanish capital.
Prime Minister Sánchez recognised Iglesias’ contribution to government work and said he would announce Cabinet changes in the coming days.
Speaking at a summit in Montauban with French President Emmanuel Macron, Sánchez said he had “wished [Iglesias] good luck in his new political adventure”.
Yolanda Diaz, Spain’s current labour minister, has been proposed to take on the role of deputy prime minister in charge of social rights as Podemos’ candidate in the next legislative elections in 2023.
A journey from nowhere to Spain’s government
It was just fifteen months ago when Iglesias led Podemos into Spain’s first coalition government in four decades.
The party was created in 2014, growing out of public anger at austerity measures introduced after Europe’s financial crisis in 2008.
Pony-tailed and famed for wearing open-necked shirts at official events, Iglesias was a political novice before he emerged as the leader of Podemos.
The party were able to put aside differences with PM Sánchez’s Socialists (PSOE) to form a fairly stable executive, despite initial fears the two parties wouldn’t last together for the full four-year term.
Spain has just endured four consecutive years of elections that failed to produce a majority government.
But while Podemos has been losing momentum in the polls, analysts say Iglesias’ move is a huge gamble, as leaves the national political scene with no assurance of winning Madrid’s elections.
Spain’s political shockwaves
Spain was thrown into political chaos last month as several regional government alliances collapsed.
In Murcia, the liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens) party withdrew its support for its conservative coalition partner, Partido Popular (PP) and announced a surprise pact with PSOE.
The move prompted a number of no-confidence motions where other regional governments were built on coalitions between the Citizens and PP, including Madrid.
On Wednesday, Madrid’s president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, dissolved the executive to prevent a motion of no-confidence and brought forward elections to May 4.
Polls have suggested that Díaz Ayuso could seek to return to office repeat in office in coalition with the far-right Vox party.
To avoid this, Pablo Iglesias said he will ask Más Madrid – another left-wing splinter group of Podemos – to promote a single candidate while maintaining independence.
Meanwhile, Díaz Ayuso hs said that voters in the capital’s region will have to choose “between socialism and freedom.”
Madrid is Spain’s richest region and has been a conservative stronghold since 1995, even though PSOE won the most votes at the last election in 2019.