Madrileños flock to the polls

Citizens queue to vote in the election of a new regional assembly in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Photo: AP

The residents of Madrid voted en masse on Tuesday in an election to the regional assembly that tests the strength of the resistance to the quarantine measures and the division between the parties of the left and the right.

Right-wing regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso called an early election to broaden her power base after dissolving her center-right coalition. He has been noted for his criticism of the national government for its handling of the pandemic and its resistance to the strictest measures to control contagion.

Long lines with respect to social distancing were formed in the voting centers installed in schools, sports facilities and even a bullring despite fears due to a high rate of infections.

More than 28% of the 5 million registered voters had voted by noon, 2% more than in an election in 2019.

The authorities have imposed strict measures to prevent the transmission of the disease, such as the use of the double mask, different entry and exit paths and plastic screens for electoral employees.

Seniors were encouraged to vote for a two-hour period mid-morning, and the last hour before polls close is reserved for people quarantined due to COVID-19.

Díaz Ayuso has gained support among voters who in recent elections were drawn to the far-right populism of Vox, a newly created party that could have a decisive weight in Tuesday's election.

The Madrid region is the engine of the Spanish economy and the country's main transport hub. It has 14% of the 47 million inhabitants of Spain, but registers almost 20% of the 3,5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and the 78.000 deaths.

The only incident until noon was a brief, half-naked protest by the women's rights group Femen, who raised signs with the legend "It's not patriotism, it's fascism" in front of the place where the main Vox candidate voted.

The elections close at 8 pm (1800 GMT) and the results are expected a few hours later.



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