Ciudadanos has been adding defeat after defeat at the polls after the November 2019 general elections in which it went from 57 deputies —which it had achieved a few months earlier, in April— to only 10 in Congress. The collapse forced the departure of Albert Rivera and his replacement by Inés Arrimadas, who is now engaged in a fratricidal war with her parliamentary spokesman, Edmundo Bal, for control of the party, which will be decided between two contending candidacies in the extraordinary General Assembly set for mid- of month.
Bermejo, the critic of Ciudadanos since Rivera’s time, finds a place in Edmundo Bal’s list
But the falls in the elections, in addition, have been a severe economic setback for the party that some polls came to place in Moncloa at its best moments. In the last four years, Ciudadanos has stopped receiving significant income from institutional subsidies, which has forced it to tighten its belt, lay off personnel, and close more than half of the provincial headquarters that had been inaugurated since 2015. when the party began its state journey, managing to expand in record time throughout Spain.
In the last two years everything has gotten worse. Ciudadanos has lost its representation in two of the autonomies in which it previously governed: Madrid and Andalusia. And, in two others –Catalonia and Castilla y León–, their presence has become almost testimonial. All this has had an impact on the economic situation of the party. At present, as confirmed by sources from the formation, they have had no choice but to close at least 28 provincial headquarters and it is not ruled out that they have to close more.
The budget destined to sustain these premises went from just over the 1.5 million that they invested in 2021 to less than one million (931,825 euros) in 2022, that is, 40.96% less. However, the party still keeps open some of the headquarters of the main provincial capitals, including Madrid, an imposing building of 2,500 square meters and six floors located on Calle Alcalá, next to the Plaza de Toros de las Ventas , whose rent means 35,000 euros per month. At the moment, sources from the management assure that they can withstand the pull and will be able to maintain it until the end of the legislature, since they have paid the rent to its owner, the Caser Insurer, thanks to the remnant that they accumulated during the years of fat cows . They also insist that they have no debts with the banks.
The bump in the regional elections of Catalonia, in February 2021, was the first major defeat suffered by the party under the mandate of Arrimadas. There they went from 36 deputies to maintaining only six and from being the first parliamentary force to staying almost in the tail van of Parliament. That forced them to move the Barcelona headquarters from the historic Balmes street to the Ronda de Sant Pau, in the somewhat cheaper Eixample area of the city. The headquarters of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Tarragona and Lleida were closed and they only maintain the new one in Barcelona and Girona, which is also in danger.
Precisely these last two years under the baton of the leader from Jerez have been especially painful, the hardest. After Catalonia came the disaster in Madrid, where they disappeared from the regional Assembly, which considerably reduced their income and also made them close some premises in important municipalities in the region, such as Alcalá de Henares and San Sebastián de los Reyes.
The next defeat was suffered in Castilla y León, where they only have one attorney, Francisco Igea. That has also led to the closure of the Salamanca headquarters. Only those of Valladolid and León remain open. In Zamora, Burgos, Palencia –where they govern in coalition with the PP–, Segovia and Soria did not have proper headquarters.
The disaster of Andalusia and the fright of Marín
The latest disaster was centered in Andalusia. They also disappeared from Parliament, as happened to them in Madrid. Arrimadas, to his regret, has also seen how the former leader of the party in that community, Juan Marín, who swore and swore that he would remain faithful to Ciudadanos, has ended up in the arms of the PP, as have some of his advisers from the Government of Juan Manuel Moreno. The organic disaster there has been so brutal that of the eight provincial headquarters that the party had, only two remain open: those of Seville and Cádiz. The rest have been closed, like the one in Jerez de la Frontera, one of the most emblematic as it is the land of Arrimadas and where Marín has lived, who is from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, one of the municipalities in which Ciudadanos closed a government coalition with the PSOE. The agreement, however, ended up being blown up after three of the five councilors that the party had left their membership but not their minutes.
In Castilla La Mancha, only the one in Albacete is open, where they maintain the mayor’s office. the headquarters of Toledo, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Guadalajara have been closed. In Extremadura, only the one from Mérida (Badajoz) remains, despite having seven regional deputies. But the party now governs the City Council of the province thanks to the alternation pact that it closed in 2019 with the PP. Among the venues that are still open are Santander, Oviedo, Gijón, La Rioja, Murcia –despite the failure of the motion of censure– and Pamplona. It has recently closed the emblematic headquarters in Valenciawhich together with those of Castellón and Alicante – where the party now meets in a fast food establishment – have not withstood the crisis of the party.
Aragon: the party divided and broken
One that is holding up for the moment is that of Zaragoza, where Ciudadanos governs the city council in coalition with the PP. On the other hand, the headquarters of the other two Aragonese provinces have been closed: Huesca and Teruel. There, at the regional level, those of Arrimadas have 12 seats, but the group is at odds and broken.
The situation in the rest of Spain is not very rosy either. In the Basque Country, despite the alliance that they closed with the PP to go on joint lists, the party’s situation is one of absolute weakness after one of its only two deputies moved to the ranks of the conservative formation. Although no elections are in sight there at the moment, they have decided to close the headquarters of San Sebastián and Vitoria, keeping only the one in Bilbao open.
In Galicia, where it is not time to go to the polls in May either, there is no longer any provincial headquarters since the party lacks parliamentary representation and cannot raise its head. And, on the islands, the outlook is not good either: in the Canary Islands, where they have not been able to overcome their internal crises, the only important headquarters open is Tenerife. And, in the Balearic Islands, that of Palma de Mallorca.
In the party they downplay these closures and affirm that now the affiliates “demand that there be more acts with them in the street” and if necessary, the offices of the municipal or regional groups are used. In addition, they highlight that many meetings are held online, thus facilitating meetings between party members and avoiding travel. “We continue to hold meetings with affiliates in all the provinces, as is being seen during the re-foundation process,” add the same sources.
The other aspect of the decline suffered by the party is the plummeting of its census of affiliates, who also helped to fatten the accounts of the formation with their monthly fees (10 euros). Ciudadanos boasted of having reached close to 34,000 members in the peak years of formation. Then, in 2019, they lowered the number to about 26,000 militants. And now they don’t even reach 10,000. In 2022, the party stopped entering more than one million euros in membership fees alone. The accounts suffered a notable drop that year in relation to those of 2021. In their budgets for that year, in total, Ciudadanos assumed a loss of almost three million euros and 27% less revenue than the previous year.