The newly-elected mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, both female, have been sworn in on anti-austerity programs. Both intend to cut their own salaries, halt home evictions and end the privatization of city services.
Seventy-one-year-old retired judge Manuela Carmena (photo) has been sworn in as mayor at the Madrid City Council to end 24 years of city rule by the conservative Popular Party (PP). The PP also runs national government under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
At Saturday's Madrid council meeting, she was supported by 29 of the 57 city representatives. She was backed by the 20 members from her own Ahora Madrid (Madrid Now) group and nine from the Socialist party. She is also supported by Spain's new anti-austerity party, Podemos.
"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.
She has promised to stamp out corruption, develop public transport, increase subsidies for poor families and reduce the mayor's salary by more than half to 45,000 euros ($51,000).
The coalition wants to set up a municipal anti-eviction division, create a housing bank of vacant apartments for needy residents and provide cheap quality daycare for working class families.
Many of Mayor Carmena's supporters are involved in the Indignados movement. Four years ago they occupied Spanish city and town squares demanding an end to government spending cuts to healthcare and education, and to corruption.
In Barcelona, anti-eviction activist Ada Colau was sworn in on Saturday as the city's first female mayor. She won a two-thirds majority in the council vote with the support of the ERC left-wing independent party and the Socialists against outgoing conservative mayor Xavier Trias. Colau is also supported by Podemos.
"Thank you very much to civil society for making the impossible become possible," Colau said after being sworn in.
She has promised to fight inequalities in Barcelona by putting an end to evictions, lowering energy prices and bringing in a minimum monthly income of 600 euros.
She has also questioned the financial probity of spending 4 million euros of city money to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix in the city each year. Colau has suggested the money could be better spent on free meals for children in public schools.
Colau wants to reduce her own salary to 2,200 euros a month from the 140,000 euros a year it was for the previous mayor.
'Historic moment for Spanish politics'
Commenting on the elections for Carmena and Colau, Martin Algarra, a communications professor at the University of Navarra, said the votes marked a historic moment in Spanish politics.
"Madrid and Barcelona for the first time are not going be governed by political parties, but by coalitions made up of social movements," he said. "This was a punishment vote to the traditional political establishment in Spain."
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias was present at Carmena's swearing in ceremony in Madrid on Saturday, celebrating her victory. "Our principal objective is to beat the Popular Party in the general elections," he said.
Weak results at the polls for the ruling PP have put pressure on Prime Minister Rajoy to make changes in his party ahead of a likely parliamentary election in November.
jm/bk (AFP, AP)