‘Outraged’ opposition mayors take control of Madrid & Barcelona

People watch Ada Colau's swearing-in ceremony as the new mayor of Barcelona, at Sant Jaume square in Barcelona, Spain, June 13, 2015. (REUTERS/Albert Gea)
Left wing party coalition leaders have been sworn in as mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, assuming control of the Spain’s two largest cities. This is yet another case of parts of Spain showing their opposition to the country’s conservative rule.

In the Spanish capital, a 71-year-old former judge, Manuela Carmena has put an end to the 24 years of conservative mayorship. She defeated her rival, 63-year-old Esperanza Aguirre from the People's Party, in what proved to be a very close race.

The new mayor managed to claim 20 seats in the city chamber during the May 24 vote against Aguirre’s 21. However, Carmena managed to forge an alliance with the main opposition Socialist Party to secure victory. She was officially elected mayor by 29 of the 57 council representatives on Saturday morning.

READ MORE: Spanish local elections: Upstart Podemos, Ciudadanos parties shine, ruling PP fades

Carmena, a former communist and rights activist, promised to improve the living conditions for the poor, who have been struggling since the 208 financial crisis. She also echoed the calls of the massive Indignados (Outraged) protest movement that was formed in 2011 to fight corruption, government spending cuts and evictions.

“We are at the service of the citizens of Madrid. We want to govern by listening. We want them to call us by our first names,” Carmena said after being voted in.

Among her chief promises to the electorate are the development of public transport and increased support for poor families. She has promised to slash her salary by more than half to €45,000 ($51,000).

In Barcelona, 41-year old Ada Colau, an active protest leader, has become the city’s first female mayor. She rose to publicity after helping to organize the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH) movement, in Barcelona in 2009, to defend citizens against evictions caused by the collapse of the Spanish property market.

“Thank you for making possible something that had seemed impossible,” said Colau, representing the Barcelona en Comu party, after being elected mayor.

Her administration will now draft a list of 30 measures aimed at creating jobs and fighting corruption. Along with her colleague in Madrid, Colau announced that she will slash her salary from €140,000, down to €35,000.

READ MORE: Spaniards hold mass rally for leftist Podemos ahead of elections

Both Carmena and Colau secured victory during the May 24 local elections with the support of Pomedos, a new pro-worker and anti-establishment party that emerged last year.

Parties born out of the Indignado protest movement now rule five major Spanish cities: Madrid, Valencia, Zaragoza, Cadiz, and Barcelona.

The latest success of anti-establishment candidates in the two largest Spanish cities shows a major shift in the country’s politics, and erosion of the bipartisan system. The Popular Party and the main opposition Socialist Party together won just over half of the vote on May 24. The rest of the seats at the local elections went to candidates representing smaller populist parties who are demanding change.