the ‘to be or not to be’ of the party that one day dreamed of Moncloa

In the Catholic religion, extreme unction is the sacrament that consists of the anointing with sacred oil made by the priest to the faithful who are in imminent danger of dying. In the current Spanish political landscape, Ciudadanos is a weakened patient agonizingly awaiting his end. This May 28, his particular extreme rites could come with the holding of municipal and regional elections. Four years ago, the formation led by Albert Rivera at the time became the great phenomenon of the elections by being the third force, becoming a ‘key’ to the government in regions such as Madrid, Castilla y León, Murcia and being decisive for the mayoralty of the capital. An enormous success for a party in pain of propulsion that came to dream of Moncloa and that, to this day, walks among ashes.

Since Rivera’s fall into hell in the November 2019 general elections (the party went from 57 to 10 seats in Congress), its territorial power has been reduced to practically insignificance. A decline without brakes that has led the formation to present 800 municipal lists this year, half of those that were in 2019, and with hardly any known names on them.

Albert RiveraEduardo Parra / Europa Press

A setback in representation that started two years ago, in March 2021, when Ciudadanos filed an unsuccessful motion of no confidence against the president of Murcia Fernando López Miras after three disputed parties became defectors and did not follow the party’s instructions to drop the government of which they were a part.

This provoked the reaction of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who did not trust Ignacio Aguado and called elections out of fear that the same move would take place in the Community of Madrid. The PP leader ended up winning, close to an absolute majority and Ciudadanos was left out of the Assembly with Edmundo Bal as a candidate.

Last year elections were held in Castilla y León and Andalusia with also disastrous consequences. In the first, Igea remained the sole representative of the formation in the regional parliament and in Andalusia he was completely left out after having occupied, in the previous legislature, up to 21 seats and having assumed the vice-presidency.

The loss of regional power has been reflected even in the Senate, where it has gone from having its own parliamentary group to see how several of its senators resigned from the party or directly lost their seats by regional designation. Currently, it only maintains one senator, Miguel Sánchez López, who has been forced to agree with the Revilla and Teruel Existe party in order to form his own group.

At the local level, Ciudadanos has managed to keep the coalition governments in Madrid, Zaragoza, Malaga or Santander until the end of the legislature. But the polls are tremendously dramatic for the formation. According to the latest CIS and the different polls, Ciudadanos disappeared from practically all the regional parliaments (there is a minimal possibility of getting a seat in Aragon) and it would not be relevant in any of the fifteen main cities either. Only in Madrid, with Begoña Villacís as a candidate, does the ‘orange’ party aspire to have representation and even be decisive for four more years of Martínez-Almeida as mayor.

Patricia Guasp.EFE

And while the ship is making water, deputies, ex-deputies and orange leaders have slammed the party. To date, more than two hundred charges have said goodbye to the initials and have decided to join the PP or have abandoned politics. Little or nothing remains of the ‘riverista’ Ciudadanos who dreamed of reaching the national government after the great results in the general elections of April 2019. The first to leave were the founder Francesc de Carreras, the deputy in Congress Toni Roldán and the MEP Javier Nart, critical of Albert Rivera’s decision to veto any pact with Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE. Of the 37 positions that made up the National Executive Committee of Citizens in 2017, only a dozen remain within the party and active.

The regeneration carried out in January of this year, through a primary that pitted the ‘government’ list headed by Patricia Guasp against the alternative represented by Edmundo Bal, has not generated a positive reaction either. Rather the opposite: it staged an internal division between the two party souls and a hemorrhage unable to heal. In the CIS of January, Ciudadanos had a vote estimate of 2.9% and, four months later, six tenths less (2.3%).

The bad omens have plunged the majority of candidates and supporters of the party into pessimism. “We know that we are on the way to the slaughterhouse. Today, voting for Ciudadanos is an act of faith. It will not be worth anything, but you have to be faithful to yourself until the end,” he told El HuffPost an ‘orange’ voter who will bet on Villacís for mayor of Madrid (he does not confirm that he will do the same with Aruca Gómez, the candidate for the Assembly).

Within the party, some resist the challenge however they can. “We are in the worst possible scenario and we are aware that everything is at stake in these elections,” says an important leader of the party. According to this source, spirits in the party are very low despite the fact that they want to fight throughout the campaign. “It’s hard to ask for a vote when you know people don’t even care about you,” she adds.

The electoral poster of Anna Grau, in the streets of BarcelonaEuropa Press via Getty Images

The ‘ex’ of Ciudadanos also lament the drift of the formation and their current situation. Sergio García, former secretary of the Organization of Citizens in Asturias, decided last April to resign from the party after nine years of intense political work. “Many colleagues and I have been warning the party organs for many months that it was not going the right way,” said the still regional deputy in a telephone conversation with El HuffPost. In his opinion, the ‘capital penalty’ of Ciudadanos is to have been a “crutch of sanchismo” for the approval of the different states of alarm during the pandemic or of laws such as the “only yes is yes” or animal welfare. “It is a guideline that emanates from the national leadership since the march of Albert Rivera,” he adds.

For García, the first mistake that Arrimadas made after taking over from his predecessor was “surrounding himself with leaders who were not at all clear about the strategy to follow.” “That is why the Spanish have placed us outside the institutions. We did not know how to correct this drift despite the fact that some colleagues and I said that we had to give the affiliates a voice. That did not happen until January, with the Extraordinary Congress, although not even that has served to mark a new road map or to change the structures”, he laments.

For this reason, for the former Secretary of Organization, the Ciudadanos project as it is known “is game over“. “When the electorate shows you the exit door, you can leave honestly as Rivera did or cling to a project that is a living dead”, he says.

Source: HuffPost Spain for Athena2 by

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