High turnout for Podemos Madrid leadership vote

Ramón Espinar (left) and Rita Maestre lead competing slates in Podemos Madrid leadership battle. Photos: El Periódico
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• Results in hotly contested Madrid regional leadership race expected Friday
• Turnout of more than 27,000 activists nearly doubles last internal balloting

Supporters of anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can) in the Madrid region await the results Friday of the regional party’s leadership election, which finished Wednesday after four days of campaigning and voting marked by an unexpectedly high voter turnout of 27,223 local party activists — nearly double the number who voted in the Madrid party’s last round of internal balloting in February 2015.

At the beginning of the process, the Adelante Podemos slate led by Madrid municipal council spokesperson Rita Maestre and former Madrid regional assembly representative Tania Sánchez appeared to dominate, winning the vote among some 11,000 participating party militants on nine of 11 political party planks that will guide the regional party’s future direction.

But, in the wake of a media scandal involving the purchase and subsequent sale at a profit of a subsidised low-income apartment by Ramón Espinar, a Senator in the Madrid regional assembly and leader of the rival Juntas Podemos slate, voter turnout skyrocketed in the final stretch — leaving party leaders at a loss to explain whether the vote turnout reflected a rejection or a sign of support for Espinar from the Podemos Madrid party bases.

Lending credence to the latter is the fact that national party leaders including Pablo Iglesias, who supports the Juntas Podemos slate, attempted to portray media reports on the Espinar apartment as part of a campaign by Spanish business and media elites to discredit the more militant line espoused by Iglesias and Espinar.

At stake in the Madrid election is leadership of Podemos in the Madrid community, a traditional bastion of left-wing activism and considered key to Podemos prospects in any national election. Also in the air is an indication of which way Podemos militants are leaning in terms of the national party’s direction, following a disastrous showing in the 26th June second-round general election, in which Podemos in alliance with the farther-left Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left) coalition lost a million votes over the two parties’ last previous showing at the polls six months earlier.

► Read More in Spanish at El Diario and El Periódico …

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