(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Activists from the Indignados (Outraged) protest movement that grew out of Spain's economic crisis took power in the country's two biggest cities yesterday after ruling conservatives suffered major losses in May's local elections.
Former judge Manuela Carmena, a communist in her youth, was sworn in as mayor of Madrid yesterday morning, while 41-year-old anti-eviction activist Ada Colau became Barcelona's first female mayor in the afternoon.
Supporters shouted "Yes, it is possible!" € the rallying cry of the Indignados protest movement that swept the country in 2011 € as the two women were voted into office.
In the Spanish capital, Carmena ended 24 years of conservative Popular Party rule.
"I promise to loyally respect the duties involved in being mayor of Madrid," she said as she was sworn in, minutes after the city council officially voted her in as leader of the city of 3mn.
Carmena became mayor after her leftist platform, Ahora Madrid, forged an alliance with the main opposition Socialists after the governing Popular Party suffered heavy setbacks in local and regional elections on May 24.
"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.
Highlighting her concern with poverty in Spain, where many live precariously even though the worst of the crisis is over, Carmena pledged to help people like a 63-year-old woman named Julia she met on the capital's main square, Puerta del Sol, who lives on ‚¬300 ($340) a month.
Madrid suffers a 16% unemployment rate, while many who have jobs do not earn enough to get through the month.
Carmena has promised to stamp out corruption, develop public transport, increase subsidies for poor families and slash the mayor's annual salary by more than half to ‚¬45,000 ($51,000).
Many of the new mayor's supporters come from the Indignados movement that occupied Spanish squares four years ago, demanding an end to government spending cuts to healthcare and education, and to corruption.
Carmena's platform includes neighbourhood associations, environmentalist groups and Spain's new anti-austerity party, Podemos, whose strong gains will now be put to the test.
Podemos's pony-tailed leader Pablo Iglesias was present at the city council meeting, clapping for his ally Carmena when the result was read out.
"Our main objective is to win the general election," he beamed defiantly after the vote.
People from diverse backgrounds joined the protest movement that brought Carmena and Colau to power, united in their hunger for change in a country ruled by the Popular Party since 2011.
Ideologically, Ahora Madrid has its roots in anarchist and libertarian movements and is inspired by the Paris Commune, a left-wing revolutionary government that briefly ruled Paris in 1871.
Ahora Madrid's own literature also mentions the Kabouters, a Dutch anarchist group of the 1970s that occupied buildings, European "green" movements and various resistance movements as influences.
It also reflects the vision of "libertarian municipalism" advocated by the late New York ecologist Murray Bookchin and the struggles by Madrid neighbourhood associations against the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
In her youth, Carmena herself was a communist and dissident against Franco's rule, using her skills as a lawyer to defend detainees' rights.
At yesterday's council meeting, she was supported by 29 of the 59 representatives € nine from the Socialists and 20 from the new Ahora Madrid councillors.
In Barcelona, Colau, a committed member of the anti-eviction movement, won an easy, two-thirds majority in the council vote yesterday against outgoing conservative mayor Xavier Trias.
"Thank you very much to civil society for making the impossible become possible," Colau said after being sworn in.
While her position was secured when the ERC, a left-wing independent party, and the Socialists threw their support behind her, she must now forge alliances to rule with a stable majority.
Colau has pledged to fight inequalities in the city of 1.6mn by putting an end to evictions, lowering energy prices and bringing in a minimum monthly income of ‚¬600 ($675).
Like Carmena, Colau wants to reduce her salary to ‚¬2,200 a month, from the ‚¬140,000 a year her predecessor was paid.
Legal Disclaimer: MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.