Saturday, July 2

Ayuso’s red belt: from the desire for freedom to the fear of Pablo Iglesias | Elections in Madrid 4M

Freedom has been key. Or the fear of losing her. And the hatred of Pablo Iglesias. Or the fear of a pact with him. The well-known red belt spoke at the polls and the most repeated reasons among his neighbors are those four. A perfect storm for Isabel Díaz Ayuso.

Óscar Zafra, an 18-year-old boy who voted for the first time in his life on Tuesday, considers himself a person “on the left but not on the extremes”. Ideology, left-wing. Family past, center-left. Feeling general, left-wing. In another context, he would have voted to the left because he also lives in Fuenlabrada, a municipality in the south of Madrid that was part of that well-known red belt in which Leganés, Parla, Getafe or Alcorcón are also grouped, today more blue than ever. But Zafra chose the Ayuso ballot and has no regrets. He walks through the Fuenlabrada hospital area with his friend Daniel Cáceres, who for a few months did not go to the polls, and both are clear: it has been thanks to freedom. “Being able to go out, go to bars, meet friends … I don’t know, it’s not that I understand much either, I’m still a kid, but Ayuso is the one who has convinced me the most.” To make his decision, he sat in front of the television and watched the debate of the six candidates on April 21. “It’s what you had to vote for.”

74.99% of the people registered in Fuenlabrada participated in the regional elections and of them 35.95% chose the same as Zafra. The PP caused a real earthquake and went from 10,810 supporters in the 2019 elections to 37,691 in the latter. Two years later, the turnaround has been total in a municipality of almost 200,000 inhabitants. The popular ones have climbed from the fourth to the first position and have banished the PSOE from a privileged position that it had only lost in 2011.

Oscar Zafra, 18 years old (left), with his friend Daniel Cáceres, 17, in Avenida del Hospital de Fuenlabrada
Oscar Zafra, 18 years old (left), with his friend Daniel Cáceres, 17, in Avenida del Hospital de FuenlabradaLuis de Vega

The political scientist from Fuenlabrada Alejandro Solís analyzes the data of his municipality with the advantage of knowing his neighbors. “There is pandemic fatigue. People need to get excited. And the positive campaign of the PP has been important. He has played with freedom, with the idea of ​​returning to the previous thing, it has not been a purely material campaign, but was directed to the idea of ​​recovering our lives. Competing against that is difficult ”, he explains. Sitting in a cafeteria next to his house, he notes that the red belt has become “a myth” and the blocks to the left and the right have long been very even. One of the reasons, he argues, is found in the developmentalism of the city, which “has grown a lot in a short time.” Fuenlabrada therefore lives divided into three parts: the center, a traditional socialist bastion; the neighborhoods that surround it, where Más Madrid has gained ground, and the new urbanizations with gardens and pools. There the right has always had more weight. Now it has swept.

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Among the lifelong people of Fuenlabrada is Jesús García, a 66-year-old retired bricklayer. This longtime PSOE voter – “I have fixed ideas and I’m doing well” – has contributed for 44 years and now has a pension of 1,350 euros per month. That allows him to go down to the bar and spend the morning chatting with other neighbors and with Marcelino Sánchez Mejías, 82, who opened the JF 83 cafeteria that year of the last century on Calle de Castilla la Vieja.

Building on Castilla la Vieja street in Fuenlabrada where the PP has gone from being the fourth force to being the first
Building on Castilla la Vieja street in Fuenlabrada where the PP has gone from being the fourth force to being the firstLuis de Vega

The bar is located on the ground floor of a brick block to which the years have been adding air conditioners and terrace closures. A few dozen meters away, some urbanizations of semi-detached houses with gardens and swimming pools have been built. “The one I’m never going to vote for is Abascal and the ‘coletas,” says García in reference to the resigned candidate from United We Can. To wipe away the penalties, he has several bottles of beer with Juan Flores, a 68-year-old retired military man who prefers red. They are well-matched brothers-in-law. Like brothers.

They both regret the unfulfilled promises of the politicians, the criticism between parties and the fact that they end up forgetting about the people. They share, in a special way, his dislike for Iglesias and believe that he has been key in the socialist debacle. Flores, who prefers not to say who he voted for, believes that “Gabilondo is intelligent and cultured, but very unemployed.” “The girl has pushed and there you have it,” he says, referring to the overtaking from the More Madrid candidate, Mónica García. Of course, neither of them expected the wide margin of victory for Ayuso. In the streets where they live, the popular have doubled the socialists in votes.

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Useless vote

Next to these blocks, Roberto López, a 56-year-old retiree from Vodafone, parks his car, who hides behind the “lies” and “unfulfilled promises” of the political class and, again, in the “fear” of Iglesias to justify his vote in favor of Ayuso. His first option, Ciudadanos, was considered a “useless vote” and Gabilondo did not trust “because he was going to agree with the other.” And so happy with the result.

To these two fears, that of losing freedom and a government with the former leader of United We Can, a new hope is added, according to the political scientist Solís. This is an emerging figure in the ranks of the PP of Fuenlabrada: Noelia Núñez, councilor and popular president in the municipality, a woman of almost 28 years with just over 13,000 followers on Twitter whom he defines as a “staunch defender of liberalism , of which it defends that the State must not put anything in the lives of the citizens ”. Fresh, attached to the street and to the closest problems of the people, Núñez has chosen an image on the social network with Margaret Thatcher in the background. “Networks allow you to reach a lot of people,” he admits, although he remembers that street work is essential. That is why he has visited the bars of his neighbors, and has uploaded it to Twitter. He has gone to shops, and the same. The language and image of new technologies, at the service of a cause: connecting with the feelings of the voters.

“Ayuso’s virtue has been seeing that people want to work. The left has not known how to understand that ”, analyzes the policy, which was on the popular lists at number 48 and which, therefore, will enter the Assembly. “But I’m not leaving Fuenlabrada, which is my priority. I want to win the mayoralty in 2023 ”.

Posters of the PSOE in Parla Este, where the PP has gone from being the fourth force to being the first after the May 4 elections.
Posters of the PSOE in Parla Este, where the PP has gone from being the fourth force to being the first after the May 4 elections.Luis de Vega

That feeling of triumph on the popular side contrasts with the surprise of some neighbors, who have yet to digest what has happened. Just 10 kilometers away, in Parla, the arguments are repeated. “I don’t understand anything,” says David Jiménez, 45, a Mercadona worker. “We have problems with institutes that do not build and that have been promising for years, with health centers, with everything. Those are the things that matter ”, he gets angry.

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The city of Parla has a population of about 130,000 inhabitants and has experienced growth over the last decades linked to the real estate boom, which has blurred the difference between the blocks. Daniel Vicente Guisado, political scientist and resident of Parla, assures that “at street level people are still very left-wing”, but polarization “mobilizes both sides.” He understands that the Socialists “have narrowed their space” because the strategy of attracting voters from Cs and Más Madrid has not gone well and he estimates that between 5% and 10% of the Socialists have supported Ayuso.

This is not the case with Almudena Rodríguez, a 40-year-old physiotherapist, and her husband, Daniel Guzmán, a 34-year-old civil guard, who suggest that their option has been the right wing and that they have not changed blocks. They say, yes, that in their environment they know people who have done it. Some have even made the leap from Podemos to PP or Vox. “It’s because of the caste and revolving doors. Both criticize it and then have done the same. People are fed up, ”she assures, who is grateful that Ayuso has allowed her to continue with her business.

Rafael Navarro in front of his bar in La Laguna (Parla), where the PP has gone from being the fourth force to being the first
Rafael Navarro in front of his bar in La Laguna (Parla), where the PP has gone from being the fourth force to being the firstLuis de Vega

The defense for the opening of businesses is repeated from one place to another. It’s not just about the bar. It is also for the one that supplies the bar. “She will be very crazy, but she has defended us,” explains Rafael Navarro, 49 years old. He is glad to have been able to open his establishment in Parla, Rafa’s Bar, where he says that a few days ago members of the PSOE and Vox ate sharing a terrace. The establishment is located in the La Laguna area, where the PP has clearly won, being until now the fourth force. Navarro, a former voter of Ciudadanos “and of other political options” clings to the management of the PP. And he does it not only for his place, but also for “the fishmongers, greengrocers, butchers or the Coca-Cola dealer …”. He says that he knows representatives of all the political forces in Parla and that he gets along well with all of them, but he only charges against “the man with the pigtail, who in seven years has already guaranteed himself a salary for life, something that I as a freelancer I can never have ”. That was not freedom.

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