June 15, 2015 / 5:31 PM / 4 years ago

Madrid leftist quits as scrutiny of new parties rises

Guillermo Zapata, former Madrid councillor of Ahora Madrid (Now Madrid) party, gestures during a news conference at the town hall in Madrid, Spain, June 15, 2015. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - A member of Madrid’s new leftist city council resigned on Monday amid a storm over offensive jokes he once posted on Twitter about the Holocaust and the victims of terrorism.

Guillermo Zapata’s departure underscored the increased media and public scrutiny of Spain’s newer parties ahead of a national election, due around November, in which they are expected to shatter the decades-long domination of politics by the conservative People’s Party (PP) and the Socialists.

Zapata, who had been set to become culture councillor, apologised for jokes he had posted on Twitter in 2011 and said he was not anti-Semitic, adding that his comments had been made in the context of a debate about the limits of humour.

The controversy in Madrid, which has hogged headlines since the city council changed hands only two days ago, follows key breakthroughs by new leftist parties in recent municipal polls.

Parties taking their first shot at office are now under pressure to deliver the “cleaner” brand of politics they promised voters angered by corruption scandals, though the stakes for their more established political rivals are high too.

Zapata had been set to serve under new mayor Manuela Carmena, a former judge. Her leftist platform, which ended 24 years of PP rule in the capital when it took office, was backed by anti-austerity party Podemos (‘We Can’).

Reporting by Sarah White and Carlos Ruano; Editing by Gareth Jones

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