Spain: Right-wing Popular Party wins Madrid's regional vote

Defiance in the face of a pandemic - voters in Madrid usher in a lockdown rebel in regional elections.

Video Transcript

ANDREW CHAPPELLE: Rewarded for her defiance, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, leader of the right-wing popular party, has won Madrid's regional election. The PP has been in charge of Spain's wealthiest region for 26 years.

INTERPRETER: Today is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Spain. Because today for Madrid, from this starting point, we'll regain our pride.

ANDREW CHAPPELLE: Ayuso defied the left-wing national government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and consistently resisted pressure to impose COVID-19 lockdowns.

INTERPRETER: She has been brave. When we had to face the pandemic, she didn't hide like others did. She made a stand. She defended those who were sick, but also the people that had to go to work and earn money. In the end, we have to go on living.

INTERPRETER: I think we need to enjoy life and not close ourselves in our homes, like the socialists want us to. So the Popular Party need to win. And long live Ayuso.

ANDREW CHAPPELLE: She campaigned on a simple slogan, freedom, which appealed to those with COVID fatigue.

PABLO CALDERON MARTINEZ: Simple messages tend to the very well of the electorate. She managed to do what the popular party traditionally did, which is to take pretty much anybody from the center-right, towards a more fringe in the right wing. And she is managing to appeal to all that sector of the electorate really.

ANDREW CHAPPELLE: After a resounding defeat, the leader of the left-wing Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, says he's quitting politics altogether. He resigned as deputy prime minister to stand in the Madrid election. The capital has some of the loosest restrictions in Europe. Bars and restaurants have remained open, despite infection rates far above the national average. Madrid has the highest percentage of occupied ICU beds in the country, nearly 45%.

Three years after a corruption scandal brought down the last popular party-led government, it remains the second largest party after the ruling socialists. Tuesday's victory is likely to boost the party at a national level and influence lockdown rebels far beyond Madrid. Andrew Chappelle, Al Jazeera.