Despite the three resounding defeats that Ciudadanos has suffered in less than two years, and a not-so-encouraging outlook according to the latest CIS, which does not give them representation in Congress, Inés Arrimadas believes the resurgence of the party is possible. For this, the leader of Ciudadanos has decided to look at herself in the mirror of the German liberals, seek their advice and apply the same recipes that brought her German counterparts to the Government after having suffered a severe defeat at the polls and disappearing from the Bundestag.
Last week Arrimadas traveled to Berlin, where he had an intense work schedule. He met with the leader of the Free Democratic Party (FPD) and Minister of Finance, Christian Linder, from whom he received his support: "Spain needs a liberal alternative to progress", declared the German. Linder explained the economic measures he is putting into Germany is marching to combat the effects of the war in Ukraine and the pension reform, and encouraged her Spanish colleague not to despair, recalling that "the FPD, in Germany, also went through difficult times, but came back and entered the Government ". Today's Finance Minister predicted that "that same comeback will be seen in Spain with Ciudadanos".
A message that Arrimadas herself never tires of repeating in all her interviews and appearances. If they achieved it, so can their training in Spain, against all the forecasts of the polls.
During that day, Arrimadas also met with the person in charge of the Spanish office in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and liberal deputies in the Bundestag, as well as with the president of the foundation of the German liberals, Karl-Heinz Paqué.
But the photo she is most proud of is the one she got days before with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on his recent visit to Brussels, a photo that her predecessor, Albert Rivera, never got, despite pursuing her for a long time without rest. In her speech before the prime ministers and European liberal leaders, the president of Ciudadanos highlighted the "historical responsibility of the liberal-democratic family in the European institutions" and "the battle that is taking place with extremism." Arrimadas's satisfaction for that snapshot was reflected in a tweet that he posted immediately after. As he proclaimed, the group to which both Ciudadanos and Macron's party, Renew Europe, belong is the "containment dam against populism."
Despite all this effort by Arrimadas to appear strong and encourage his own, both the squalid militancy and the few leaders with some prominence that Citizens have left know that the party is at a critical moment.
The last casualty was that of MEP Luis Garicano, one of the best known and valued faces. It was quite a setback for Arrimadas, despite the fact that the leader has fired him with the best words and has expressed his wish that he be lucky in her new role. The economist, whom Albert Rivera signed in 2015, has resigned from his seat in the European Parliament, where he was head of the Citizens' delegation, and leaves Brussels two years before the end of his term to take up a teaching position at the University from Columbia, New York.
After congratulating him on this "great professional achievement, one more piece of evidence that the Spanish liberal project is made up of talented people and a valuable, recognized and exemplary career outside of politics", the Ciudadanos management added in a statement that they will continue to count with "the support and collaboration" of Garicano, although already "as a member of civil society and affiliated with this party where he will always have his home."
His departure leaves Ciudadanos even more lacking in faces of a certain weight. Long before he resigned – although for different reasons, faced with Rivera – the two teammates who formed the first economic team of the match, Toni Roldán and Francisco de la Torre. In addition, the takeover bid launched by Pablo Casado's PP has done much more damage than they admit with the transfer of cadres to the party led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo today.
A little over a month ago, the severe electoral defeat suffered in Andalusia he also took Juan Marín ahead, who held the only vice-presidency they had left in an autonomous government, after losing their presence in Murcia, Madrid and, later, Castilla y León. In the Courts of this last community Francisco Igea still endures, who managed to be re-elected attorney. He is the only one they keep.
All these successive electoral debacles have left the formation without muscle and practically without a bench less than a year before the double appointment of the municipal and regional elections in May 2023. And with the general elections also scheduled for a few months later. The most palpable example is what happens in Andalusia, where the party is disintegrating after the resignation of Marín as regional coordinator. Since then, no one close to him – neither critics nor sympathetic nor provincial coordinators – has shown the slightest interest in filling the position he has left vacant. The formation that proclaims itself "liberal" has been left unmanaged in the most populous community in the country, where they came to bring together more affiliates –5,697– and where they achieved the best electoral result.
The general secretary of Ciudadanos, Marina Bravo, and the secretary of Organization, Borja González, have taken charge of the Andalusian structure while the few municipal groups of the party that are left standing face the same identity crisis and lack of organic skeleton that has ended up destroying the party that has co-governed this region for the last four years. In Sanlúcar de Barrameda, birthplace of Marín, the party has entered a self-destructive spiral which has led him to break the government pact he had with the PSOE for three years.
At the moment, the highest institutional position they hold is the Deputy Mayor's Office of Madrid, held by Begoña Villacís. And it has been precisely to her that Arrimadas has entrusted the coordination of the announced "refoundation" of Ciudadanos together with the Malaga deputy Guillermo Díaz, one of the people most faithful to the national leader and to whom he has entrusted him to preside over the foundation of the Spanish Liberals.
In a recent interview with elDiario.es, the deputy mayor explained that the project they are designing seeks to "re-excite" and boost the party: "It's not about putting sheet metal and paintIt has nothing to do with the brand or the name or the color or the logo or anything like that". "Whoever thinks that it is a change of logo is radically mistaken. This is about making an apology for centrist liberal radicalism", about "being braver than we have been until now and saying things that only a party like Ciudadanos can allow itself to say clearly". Some comments on which he did not want to give more details , claiming that the team working on the refoundation has a "confidentiality commitment".
Villacís, in addition, advanced his willingness to present himself as a candidate for Mayor of Madrid, where he has just celebrated three years of coalition government with the PP of José Luis Martínez-Almeida. "Hard and difficult" and not exempt from "tensions", as she has confessed. "I have thought that the best way to defend the liberal project is to defend the city of Madrid, defend our work in the Government of the city of Madrid. That is my place," he assured, reaffirming that it has not crossed his mind opt for the leadership of Ciudadanos.
But the possibility that Arrimadas takes a step back is not ruled out by anyone. In fact, the leader of Ciudadanos is dropping some insinuations in that sense these days. Last Tuesday he acknowledged in an interview on TVE that he has been "tempted" to leave everything and return to his profession: "Leave it and go to normal work is a temptation that often crosses one's mind, and more in the situation in which I have been personally, with two children in 21 months, being the president of the party". But she immediately stated that she felt "strong" and "supported" by her colleagues, so her bet is to continue trying that Ciudadanos is a “decisive party”.
Last week, however, when asked in another interview on Antena 3 if she would be willing to leave the match in the hands of Villacís, she pointed out that it will be the militants who, within the framework of the refoundation process, say "who has to be the team director", highlighting not only the figure of the deputy mayor, but also that of her spokesman in Congress, Edmundo Bal, as "assets for the party".
The first challenge that Arrimadas faces is to find candidates for that double municipal and regional electoral appointment in the spring of 2023. However, the leader does not see this task as difficult and faces it as an "opportunity" to show "that there is a network that supports liberalism in Spain, which can be endured in some very important town halls and places in Spain”. Moreover, she is convinced that this double date will be the beginning of a "better" electoral cycle for Ciudadanos. For this reason, she has said, "the party is going to rely on mayors and municipal teams that are doing very well."
Last weekend, the self-styled Refoundation Team shared a "day of participation, exchange of ideas and work" with "dozens of municipal officials from all over Spain". "These sessions - they explain in the party - are part of the process that we have undertaken to listen to all the affiliates, positions, sympathizers and, ultimately, the people who believe that this political space is not only essential but also has a lot to say about the future of Spain". And the previous week, deputy María Muñoz and MEP Adrián Vázquez did the same with a group of "technicians and professionals" to listen to their contributions.
"My personal commitment and that of my team lasts until that refoundation is made," the Liberal leader said before the Executive of her party a few days after the electoral debacle in Andalusia. the clock ticks.