The last offer comes in the Yellow Cab, a restaurant in Alcobendas (Madrid) with American airs. There, among yellow neon lights and stylized sidewalks, the leader of Cs in the municipality, Aitor Retolaza, and that of the PP, Ramón Cubián, meet for a coffee. His city, one of the most vibrant in the Community of Madrid, is experiencing a critical moment: summer is dawning and the time has come for the PSOE to comply with the pact to govern in 2019 and cede the mayoralty to Cs, after two years of government. The PP sees an opportunity. And according to Retolaza, in that appointment an offer and a political threat are made explicit for the third time: or he renounces the baton, betrays Cs and the PSOE, and allows the conservative formation to come to power in exchange for occupying the vice mayor’s office for six years (the two of the legislature that remain, and the four of the next), or he abides by the consequences.
“You know the offer to come with us.” If not, I’m going to make a very tough opposition to you—, says Cubián, according to the representative of Cs.
“Is it a threat?” Retolaza replies.
“It’s not a threat, it’s a reality,” Cubián would have said, according to this version.
Everything is uncovered last Thursday, during the Alcobendas City Council plenary session. There, wounded by the criticism of the PP, Retolaza denounces in public and in parliament that the conservative formation guaranteed him to occupy the vice mayor of the city for six years if he supported a motion of censure of the popular to seize power. An accusation that the PP rejects and denies, despite the forcefulness of the councilor’s intervention.
“Surely it is not as good as you told me five months ago, nor as bad as now you want to indicate,” Retolaza starts his speech, which is directed towards Cubián, with all the councilors of the Alcobendas City Council as witnesses. “Five months ago, it should be very good, since you offered all my colleagues a position, and even I was offered the vice mayor’s office if I went with you,” he continues on the weeks prior to his arrival at the Consistory, in compliance with the pact with the PSOE. “Now I’m bad and before you wanted me as vice mayor?” He asks. And he ends: “He also told me: ‘What do you prefer to be? Two years mayor, or six vice mayor? ‘ You raised it with me, am I that bad? He offered me six years! Not two! He offered me six! I believe that it is a lack of respect towards their companions and towards the neighbors, because there is a law of transfuguismo that should not be skipped ”.
That’s right? Did things happen this way? Did the two politicians see each other three times, receiving each other in their respective homes since the beginning of this year and finishing off the meetings in that restaurant at the beginning of summer? Did Cubián offer Retolaza, 39, to be his deputy mayor for six years, with more than 70,000 euros gross salary for each of them?
A colloquial conversation
“No. Not at all ”, answers the representative of the PP in a telephone conversation with this newspaper. “That is a misrepresentation of reality. No formal offer was made. In those three conversations we talked about many things, not about a specific issue, ”says Cubián. “In a colloquial conversation [se mencionó que] if Cs has no future, if you prefer to work with the PP from the basic political coincidence [que a su juicio tienen los dos partidos]That undoubtedly opens prospects for the future (…) If you want a future beyond two years, you have to work with the PP ”, he develops.
The conversations not only portray the tense atmosphere that has presided over the political life of this Madrid City Council of 118,000 inhabitants for months. They also summarize a telluric movement that affects the whole of Spanish politics.
With the hook of the bad electoral prospects of Ciudadanos, which all polls show, the PP is trying to absorb its positions as a first step to attract its voters, thus closing one of the waterways open to its electorate – the other is Vox’s.
To successfully complete that assault, the conservative formation has signed Fran Hervías, the man who designed the national expansion of Cs in 2015, devouring kilometers with his car throughout the peninsula. It also has the star of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who swallowed up her former government partner in the 4-M elections. Consequently, Cs is an organization that fights for its survival, and that in Madrid has trusted everything to the loyalty of its positions and to the complicities that Begoña Villacís, vice mayor of the capital of Spain, is capable of generating.
“We knew that the PP had tried to touch all our Alcobendas councilors, but not exactly what was offered to them,” sums up a collaborator from the Madrid referent of Ciudadanos. “The PP is touching the people of Cs.”
Within that great game of chess, Alcobendas offers the PP the opportunity to deliver a key blow, without even having to wait for the municipal and regional elections of 2023 to arrive.
Everything happens in summer. Control of the city, one of the most powerful in the Community of Madrid, is at stake. In June, the deadline for the PSOE to cede power to Cs is fulfilled, in compliance with the government pact signed by the two formations after the 2019 elections. And turbulent episodes begin to be experienced, more typical of a series of Netflix, kind Borgen o Baron Black, than from a Madrid municipality.
First, Miguel Ángel Arranz, the Cs politician destined to occupy the mayor’s office, is demoted without prior notice or official explanation. Then, the PSOE, which has the mayor in the person of Rafael Sánchez Acera, remains silent while the tension grows and it is not clear if it will comply with its part of the pact. Finally, the PP maneuvers to regain the mayor’s office, according to Retolaza.
The offer is tempting. Faced with the poor electoral prospects of Cs, Retolaza could choose between being mayor for two years, and perhaps staying without public salary after the next elections, or living this term and the next in full as deputy mayor, for a total of six guaranteed years as a councilor.
“I do not care,” says Retolaza about the possibility that he will run out of minutes in the next elections due to the crisis in his party. “I come from the private sector,” he recalls. “I have not come to politics to stay,” he says. And he ends: “If I don’t enter [en el Ayuntamiento] In 2023, I will go back to the private part. I’d rather work well, keep my word, than look for an armchair. I don’t care about the chair ”.
Subscribe here to our daily newsletter about Madrid.