‘Out­raged’ may­ors take over in Madrid, Barcelona

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MICHAELA CANCELA-KI­EF­FER

Ac­tivists from the Indig­na­dos ( Out­raged) protest move­ment that grew out of Spain’s eco­nomic cri­sis took power in the coun­try’s two big­gerst cities Satur­day af­ter thrash­ing the rul­ing con­ser­va­tives in lo­cal elec­tions.

For­mer judge Manuela Car­mena, a com­mu­nist in her youth, was sworn in as mayor of Madrid on Satur­day morn­ing, while 41- year- old ac­tivist Ada Co­lau was set to be­come Barcelona’s first fe­male mayor later in the af­ter­noon.

Car­mena ended 24 years of con­ser­va­tive Popular Party rule in the Span­ish cap­i­tal.

“I prom­ise to loy­ally re­spect the du­ties in­volved in be­ing mayor of Madrid,” Car­mena said as she was sworn in, min­utes af­ter the city coun­cil of­fi­cially voted her in as leader of the city of 3 mil­lion.

The coun­cil cham­ber broke into ap­plause, as sup­port­ers cried out the ral­ly­ing call of the Indig­na­dos move­ment: “Yes, it is pos­si­ble!”

Car­mena be­came mayor af­ter her left­ist plat­form, Ahora Madrid, forged an al­liance with the main op­po­si­tion So­cial­ists, some two weeks af­ter thrash­ing the rul­ing Popular Party in lo­cal and re­gional elec­tions in May.

“We are at the ser­vice of the cit­i­zens of Madrid. We want to gov­ern by lis­ten­ing. We want them to call us by our first names,” Car­mena said, just af­ter her victory was an­nounced.

High­light­ing her con­cern with poverty in Spain, where many live pre­car­i­ously even though the worst of the cri­sis is over, Car­mena told the story of a 63- yearold woman named Ju­lia whom she met on the cap­i­tal’s main square, Puerta del Sol, who lives on 300 eu­ros ( US$ 340) a month.

Madrid suf­fers a 16- per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate, while many who have jobs do not earn enough to get through the month.

Car­mena has promised to stamp out cor­rup­tion, de­velop public trans­port, in­crease sub­si­dies for poor fam­i­lies and slash the mayor’s salary by more than half to 45,000 eu­ros ( US$ 51,000).

Many of the new mayor’s sup­port­ers come from the Indig­na­dos protest move­ment that oc­cu­pied Span­ish squares four years ago, de­mand­ing an end to gov­ern­ment spend­ing cuts to health care and ed­u­ca­tion, and to cor­rup­tion.

Car­mena’s plat­form in­cludes neigh­bor­hood as­so­ci­a­tions, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist groups and Spain’s new anti- aus­ter­ity party, Pode­mos, whose strong gains could make them king­mak­ers in what an­a­lysts have de­scribed as a his­toric gen­eral elec­tion in De­cem­ber.

Pode­mos’s pony- tailed leader Pablo Igle­sias was present at the city coun­cil meet­ing, clap­ping for his ally Car­mena when the re­sult was read out.

Two Women at the Helm

Many see the change as a barom­e­ter of the mood on the street ahead of De­cem­ber’s elec­tion.

“Our main ob­jec­tive is to win the gen­eral elec­tion,” Igle­sias beamed as he left the city hall af­ter Satur­day’s vote.

Peo­ple from di­verse back­grounds joined the protest move­ment that brought Car­mena to power, united in their hunger for change in a coun­try ruled by the Popular Party since 2011.

Ide­o­log­i­cally, Ahora Madrid has its roots in an­ar­chist and lib­er­tar­ian move­ments and is in­spired by the Paris Com­mune, a left- wing rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment that briefly ruled Paris in 1871.

Ahora Madrid’s own lit­er­a­ture also men­tions Kabouters, a Dutch an­ar­chist group of the 1970s that oc­cu­pied build­ings, Euro­pean “green” move­ments and var­i­ous re­sis­tance move­ments as in­flu­ences.

It also re­flects the vi­sion of “lib­er­tar­ian mu­nic­i­pal­ism” ad­vo­cated by the late New York ecol­o­gist Mur­ray Bookchin and the strug­gles by Madrid neigh­bor­hood as­so­ci­a­tions against the dic­ta­tor­ship of Fran­cisco Franco.

In her youth, Car­mena her­self was a com­mu­nist and dis­si­dent against Franco’s rule, us­ing her skills as a lawyer to de­fend de­tainees’ rights.

In Satur­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, she won 29 votes of 59 rep­re­sen­ta­tives — nine from the So­cial­ists and 20 from the new Ahora Madrid coun­cilors.

In Barcelona, Co­lau, a mem­ber of the anti- evic­tion move­ment, was elected in the May vote, and her po­si­tion was se­cured when the ERC, a left­wing in­de­pen­dent party, and the So­cial­ists threw their sup­port be­hind her.

The anti- evic­tion ac­tivist is ex­pected to be sworn in at a coun­cil meet­ing in Barcelona that starts at 5: 00 p. m. ( 1500 GMT) on Satur­day.

Co­lau has pledged to fight in­equal­i­ties in the city of 1.6 mil­lion by putting an end to evic­tions, low­er­ing en­ergy prices and bring­ing in a min­i­mum monthly in­come of 600 eu­ros ( US$ 675).

AP

Manuela Car­mena, a 71-year-old re­tired judge, is elected as Madrid’s new mayor af­ter be­ing voted into of­fice by city coun­cilors in Madrid on Satur­day, June 13.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.