In public, the Government conveys the image that the crisis in Madrid is in the process of being resolved thanks to the state of alarm. But privately, several ministers and members of the Executive consulted assume that the internal debate and concern is growing because the political problem that the Government has in Madrid has only just begun.The capital, and especially its president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, with his right hand, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, who was a key man of Aznarism, are, in the interpretation of several ministers, a political time bomb that can explode at any time. And the Government does not have good instruments to control it. Neither legal – Spain is a quasi federal state – nor political.
In La Moncloa they are much more confident, they believe that the Government has many formulas to regulate such a situation and, above all, they are convinced that Ayuso has been completely wrong and will notice the wear and tear, which is already detected in some recent surveys. But other members of the Executive have many more doubts and believe that Ayuso may be able to drag the Executive into an image of widespread discredit of politics that several polls are also beginning to detect.
The Government has closed ranks completely in the face of the need to take control of the pandemic in its European epicenter and save lives, but that does not imply that there are no doubts about how to face the long political battle that the Madrid Government poses. The horizon of a possible electoral advance, which Ayuso could rush to reinforce his position in front of Ciudadanos, is in the minds of many. But the majority of the members of the Government consulted believe that in the end it will not reach that much because it is too risky a maneuver for the PP, which maintained the Community by a very narrow margin, one seat.
The Government has now achieved two weeks of margin, which lasts the state of alarm. Salvador Illa, the Minister of Health, has transferred to the other ministers that he is convinced that the figures will drop enough in this time not to need an extension. But what if that doesn’t happen? The scenario of a new ordeal in Congress to pass it is a bad dream for everyone after the agonizing search for votes in May. A true parliamentary hell that the Executive will avoid. In fact, La Moncloa is already looking for formulas through the 1986 law to avoid this extension. Although the problem always reaches the same place: if Madrid does not collaborate, and it is already assumed that it will not, nothing is certain.
The crisis in Madrid has been managed by very few people, as is customary in the Sánchez government . At the critical moment, when it was decided to apply the state of alarm to Ayuso’s resistance to retaking the measures that the High Court of Justice of Madrid had overthrown, the president, who had just landed from Algeria, was with those closest to him: Vice President Carmen Calvo, Illa himself, Iván Redondo, his Chief of Staff, and Félix Bolaños, Secretary General of the Presidency. By phone, he notified Pablo Iglesias, leader of United We Can, the other leg of the coalition. Few more shared that momentous decision.
Almost the entire crisis has been carried out like this, from La Moncloa, at full speed, without much internal debate. However, in the Council of Ministers that approved it, on Friday, there was a deep debate, especially legal but also political, although within the closing of ranks that dominates the internal environment of the coalition Executive during the pandemic. It was going to be a formal meeting, without the president, and it finally lasted two hours. Several ministers fear that Ayuso will use the state of alarm to avoid his responsibility and blame the Executive for everything that happens. Including the economic crisis that is looming in Madrid.
After an intense legal debate, finally, the Government has chosen to leave the authority in a very diffuse way in Article 4 of the decree: “For the purposes of the state of alarm, the competent authority will be the Government.” Not the Minister of Health, not four ministers, as in the heart of the pandemic. And above all he decided to leave the Madrid competitions intact. That is what worries several members of the Executive: that the pandemic is still in Ayuso’s hands – the trackers, the tests, the monitoring, the key decisions – and they cannot do anything to improve management. And yet Madrid will say that they are intervened and everything is the responsibility of the Government.
In some sectors of the Executive there are doubts about the initial decision to get so close to Ayuso , with the famous photograph of the 24 flags in the Puerta del Sol. They believe that the president and her guru Rodríguez have been allowed to drag the President and Minister Illa, now the target of the opposition. Ayuso is not Merkel. And it was treated as if it were. It was better to protect the president and not allow them to lower him into that mud, ”says a minister. “We have been a bit naive. It was clear that they were going to mess it up like this. And we made it easy for them. It could have acted before ”, finishes another.
However, others believe that it was imperative to try an agreement. The photo of the flags, they explain, came after the vice president of Madrid, Ignacio Aguado, asked La Moncloa for an agreement. Those who defend the strategy followed believe that it has become very clear who wanted a pact and who boycotted it.
The underlying problem is that the crisis has not disappeared. Neither health nor politics. Madrid continues to be the mother of all conflicts. And the risk that Ayuso will aggravate it even more with an electoral call “against Sánchez” worries some sectors. “We run the risk of helping her become the heroine of the right, she is seeking to occupy the space of Vox”, analyzes a member of the Executive.
Others are much less restless. They believe that it is impossible for Pablo Casado to allow Ayuso to go to elections because they would be elections “against Citizens” – the main injured party – and would put at risk not only the Government of Madrid, the jewel in the crown, but all those who depend on the party by Inés Arrimadas when we have the information. Too much at stake even for people as unpredictable as Ayuso and Rodríguez.