Several thousand people rallied in Madrid on Sunday in support of political rising star Isabel Diaz Ayuso, currently riding high in the polls after she helped open up the capital’s bars and restaurants amid pandemic fatigue.
Supporters took to the streets to back the party’s head of the Madrid region after she claimed the national leadership of the main opposition conservative Popular Party tried to get rid of her.
Gathering outside the PP’s headquarters, they waved flags and chanted slogans, calling for the head of the party to resign.
The protest comes as the party is tearing itself apart in an internal battle pitting Madrid regional president Diaz Ayuso against PP leader Pablo Casado.
The crisis within the PP erupted on Thursday when Diaz Ayuso publicly accused the national leadership of resorting to dirty tricks to get rid of her.
She was referring to allegations published in El Mundo and El Confidencial saying the party leadership had paid a private investigator to find out whether her brother pocketed nearly 300,000 euros in commission for face mask contracts awarded by her regional government.
She conceded her brother received a payment of 55,850 euros ($63,000) for securing the delivery of masks from China to Madrid, but insisted it was legal.
Protesters chanted “Casado resign. Ayuso, president!” and “Casado, failure!” while police looked on.
Between 3,000-3,500 people took part in the demonstration, according to the central government’s representative in Madrid
Diaz Ayuso is currently one of Spain’s most popular politician after capitalising on the widespread pandemic fatigue by allowing Madrid’s bars and restaurants a level of freedom to operate not seen anywhere else in the country.
Dubbed “Lady Liberty” by Britain’s Economist magazine, she almost won an absolute majority in last May’s regional elections — a rare feat within Spain’s increasingly fragmented political landscape.
Casado, on the other hand, is haunted by the rise of the far-right Vox and by the seemingly unshakeable stability of Pedro Sanchez’s left-wing coalition government, which only holds a minority in parliament.
It was his idea to call snap elections in Castilla y Leon earlier this month to increase the party’s hold in a region where it has ruled for 35 years. But the plan backfired, leaving the party once again unable to govern alone.