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The Royal Post Office is the current seat of the office of the President of Madrid

The President of Madrid is the highest-ranking officer of the Autonomous Community of Madrid and the head of the Executive Branch. The office is currently held by Esperanza Aguirre of the People's Party.

Contents

Origins and election

In the process of the democracy restoration in Spain between 1975–1978, the nationalist and regionalist parties pressed to grant home rule to parts of Spain. Finally, the Constitution stated that any province or group of provinces could form an autonomous community and thus be granted partial home rule. The Autonomous Community of Madrid (Spanish Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid) was created in 1982, and since then regional elections are held every 4 years.

Unlike those of the US states, the citizens of the Autonomous Communities of Spain don't elect a person for presidency of their community: they elect the regional legislature, and that legislature elects the regional President. This system usually assures the government more stability because a candidate needs a majority (that is supposed to be loyal to him/her during the whole term) to be elected, but has a significant drawback: a party can win the election (be the top-voted party) and still be denied the right to form the government (have a majority). This situation, though infrequent in nationwide elections, often happens in local/regional legislatures throughout Spain: the most usual coalition is between the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the United Left (IU).

In Madrid, such a coalition was formed in the 2nd term, in which the incumbent Socialist Joaquín Leguina won the election without a majority[1], once more in the 3rd term, allowing him to remain in office even after having lost the election to the People's Party (PP), and once more in the 6th term, by the PSOE candidate Rafael Simancas. However, this last coalition ultimately failed due to the dissidence of two PSOE Assembly Members, which denounced the pact with IU as being too wide and unrepresentative of the people's will due to the planned power balance. See the 6th term scandal.

List of Presidents of the Autonomous Community of Madrid

Picture President Political Party Assembly term Assembly composition[2]
Madrid (autonomous community) coa.svg Joaquín Leguina PSOE 1st (1983-87) PSOE: 51; AP-PDP-UL: 34; IU: 9
2nd (1987-91) PSOE: 40; AP: 32; CDS: 17; IU:7
3rd (1991-95) PP: 47; PSOE: 41; IU:13
Gallardon campaña.jpg Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón PP 4th (1995-99) PP: 54; PSOE: 32; IU: 17
5th (1999-2003) PP: 55; PSOE: 39; IU: 8
same as caretaker President 6th (May-October 2003) PP: 55; PSOE: 47 (45); IU: 9; Ind: 0 (2)[3]
Esperanza Aguirre en Ripollet (octubre de 2007).jpg Esperanza Aguirre 7th (2003-07) PP: 57; PSOE: 45; IU: 9
8th (2007-11) PP: 67; PSOE: 42; IU: 11

The 6th term scandal

In the May 2003 election, the ruling People's Party switched leadership: incumbent President Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón aimed for the office of Mayor of Madrid, which he successfully obtained with a safe majority, while the regional list was headed by Senator and ex-Minister Esperanza Aguirre. The election was strongly contested and in the end the PP won but fell some 25,000 votes short of a majority, with 55 out of 111 seats. The other two forces in the newly-elected Assembly, the PSOE (47 seats) and IU (9), both leaning left, started negotiations and in the end agreed to a coalition government, which included the election of a favorable President of the Assembly (i.e. Speaker) and Bureau. As part of the deal, Socialists would control the majority of the government, but a disproportionate amount of the budget would be under the responsibility of IU regional ministers. This sparked criticism from some sectors in the Socialist party, but then-leader Rafael Simancas dismissed them as moot, saying "it was time for a government of the left in Madrid".

The defection of two AMs deadlocked the Madrid Assembly throughout the 6th term and prevented the election of Socialist leader Rafael Simancas as President of Madrid

However, when the opening session of the new legislature began and the temporary president[4] called for the election of the Speaker to start, concern spread through the Socialist ranks: two of their AMs[5] were missing, leaving the left-wing coalition with 54 seats against the 55-strong People's Party[6]. On Mr. Simancas' demand, the vote was delayed for 15 minutes but finally the PP forced its start[7]. The result was the election of the PP AM Concepción Dancausa as Speaker and a PP-favorable Bureau (4 members against 2 Socialists and 1 IU).

The scandal swept into the media, making the two "absent" AMs, Eduardo Tamayo and María Teresa Sáez, the most sought-after people in Madrid that day. Suddenly, they granted a TV interview in which they explained their reasons for not showing up: the coalition deal with United Left, they insisted, was not fair to the voters, who had chosen the Socialists over IU more than five to one. Furthermore, they felt their concerns were too quickly dismissed they were raised in the internal party apparatus, which they criticised as being too willing to reach power no matter what the cost. In response, party leader Rafael Simancas, who denied such concerns were actually voiced in party meetings, started the procedure to expel them from the party. He then fired a full round towards the PP, which he accused of bribing the two AMs to prevent a left-wing government in Madrid and "using paychecks to change the election results". The rival party quickly denied all accusations and sued the PSOE for calumnies. The two parties immediately engaged in a political and media dogfight for the whole summer, while the third party in dispute, IU, only mildly criticized the PP and distanced itself from the confrontation.

The situation in the Assembly was no better, as the two PSOE AMs continued not to attend: even though the conservatives held a theoretical majority with 55 seats out of 109 and could push some decisions through, neither it nor the rival coalition could command the absolute majority of 56 seats required for the election of the President of Madrid. The People's Party was rumored to be planning an investiture vote for its candidate Esperanza Aguirre, who called for the dissolution of the Assembly and fresh elections. The proposal was not moot, since the law governing the election of the regional President requires an absolute majority in the first vote, but only a plurality in a second poll, making the left-wing coalition unable to block the election of its arch-rival. Furthermore, the PP requested the legal services of the House to determine whether the "majority" would actually be defined to be 55 seats, since the two socialist AMs had never been sworn into their seats.

In response, the two AMs notified the Speaker they would finally enter the Assembly at its next meeting, which created an even more awkward situation: there was no viable majority, since the Socialist party had expelled them, denounced them as "traitors" and refused to accept their votes in an investiture session. Then, Assembly Speaker, PP AM Concepción Dancausa announced that she would be forced to call new elections if no candidate could heed the confidence of the House. In a bid to delay the new elections until after the summer, Socialist leader Rafael Simancas, who had pushed for a parliamentary investigation of the events, requested a vote for his investiture to be scheduled. He claimed not to intend to be elected, even though Tamayo and Sáez had offered their support should the pact with IU be modified.

During the summer, a parliamentary committee was formed and put to work investigating the causes of the "betrayal". The left-wing coalition was cornered in the choice of committee members, since there was no way they could have a majority: either they followed the letter of the Assembly rules and allotted at least a member to each parliamentary group (thus again leaving the majority in the hands of Tamayo and Sáez) or accepted the PP proposal by which the House denied the two AMs representation in the committee on the grounds that they were the actual object of investigation (thus giving the majority to the conservatives). The latter choice was finally implemented[8] and, after a month of 12-hour sessions in which many prominent politicians and businessmen from both sides were summoned and vast amounts of vitriol were served by both mainstream parties, the committee passed a report concluding Tamayo and Sáez were not bribed by PP and placing full blame on the PSOE. The report, however, was defeated in the full House vote, in which the two AMs (who could not then be barred from participating) joined the left-wing coalition in their "no" vote even though they kept defending their innocence.

PP leader Esperanza Aguirre (left) was the ultimate winner of the political struggle, her party winning an outright majority in the fresh elections. She succeeded party colleague Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón (right) in the regional presidency

Fresh elections were held on October 26, 2003, with the Socialists centering its campaign on the "stolen elections". Tamayo and Sáez created a new political party called New Socialism, gathering about 6,000 votes and no seats. The new result, with a slightly reduced turnout, was a majority for the PP, which ironically gained two seats (up to 57) from the PSOE (down to 45), while IU raised its voter share and fell just short of getting one more seat (but finally repeated its previous result of 9). The scrutiny information from the caretaker government of Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón drew heavy fire from the left, since the first districts reporting were mostly left-wing, with the result that the initial reports (at about 20% of the votes counted) showed the Socialists leading with 52 seats to 49 PP and 10 IU. As more results arrived, the PP slowly recovered, but even at 80% counted the majority was undecided (55-46-10), and it wasn't until 96% of the votes had been counted that the PP achieved its 56th seat[9] and the majority in the Assembly. About a month later, PP leader Esperanza Aguirre won the investiture vote and was sworn in as the 3rd President of the Autonomous Community of Madrid.

References

  1. ^ In fact, even the PSOE-IU coalition was in the minority (47 seats) against the centre-right parties PP and CDS (49), which could not reach an agreement to rule. Once they did, a situation similar to the 6th term scandal arose, depriving those parties of the majority and allowing President Leguina to continue his minority government.
  2. ^ Majority party in bold, government coalition partners in italics
  3. ^ See 6th term scandal
  4. ^ In the Spanish system, a newly elected legislature is presided over by the "Age Bureau", made up of the eldest member as Speaker and the youngest as Secretary. This setup lasts until the new Assembly chooses its Speaker, a moment in which he or she takes possession and oversees the rest of the Bureau election.
  5. ^ Assembly Member
  6. ^ Unlike the pair tradition in Westminster-based systems, parliamentary sessions in Spain are very contested, and so a party will use any opportunity it has to outnumber its opponents
  7. ^ Legislature members are not forced to attend sessions and they cannot be summoned through a Call of the house. However, when a vote is about to start, a bell rings throughout the building and the gates are closed until it ends.
  8. ^ The committee finally had 16 members: 8 PP, 6 PSOE and 2 IU, but the chairman (from the PP) held a casting vote, thus effectively giving that party the majority.
  9. ^ The Madrid Assembly is elected on a single constituency of more than a hundred members, and seats are allocated with the D'Hondt proportional representation method. Thus, seats are not "won" in a one-by-one basis: the data given refers to the moment in which, the PP having won a 56th seat, it became mathematically impossible for the other parties to capture it.
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