Spain rocked by far-right win
THE f irst success of a far-right part y i n a reg iona l elect ion si nce Spa i n’s return to democracy in 1975 has shaken nationa l politics ahead of a busy electora l season.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists were set to lose control of southern Andalusia, which it has governed for over three decades, after Vox took a surprise 12 seats in a regional election on Sunday. That handed a majority to right-wing parties in Spain’s most populous region.
It was Sanchez’s first electoral test since taking office in June after winning a vote of no-confidence against the conservative Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy over a corruption scandal.
Top-selling daily El Pais ca lled t he resu lts a n “ea r t hqua ke” which has cha nge d t he “nat iona l pol it ic a l panorama”.
On Monday evening, hundreds protested against the emergence of Vox in several cities in Andalusia, including Seville and Malaga, videos posted online by Internet users and Spanish media showed.
The vote kicks off a series of polls with municipal, regional and European elections slated for May, and an early general election widely expected next year.
Vox, which takes a hard line against illega l immigration and Catalan separatism, is t he f irst fa r-right part y to win representation in a regiona l parlia ment in Spa in since t he count r y returned to democracy follow ing the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
With its 12 lawmakers, Vox could now play a kingmaker role in the formation of a governing coalition in Andalusia.
“We’ve got the message from citizens,” tweeted Andalusia’s Socialist president Susana Diaz, who faces an uphill struggle to remain as regional leader.
“Now it’s about . . . stopping the government of Andalusia from depending on an extremist, sexist, homophobic and racist part y,” she said, adding she would negot iate wit h pol it ica l groupings.
Sanchez, who heads a minority national government that has struggled to garner opposition party support to pass its draft 2019 budget, vowed to defend democracy.
“The results in Andalusia strengthen our commitment to defend the constitution and democracy from fear,” he said in a Twitter message on Monday, his first reaction to the poll results.
Fernando Vallespin, a politica l scientist at the Autonomous Universit y of Madrid, said Spain had “ceased to be t he exception in Europe”, where fa r-right part ies have a lready made ga i ns i n count r ies l i ke Ita ly where they now govern.
But unlike other European nations, where the rise of far-right parties has been fuelled by anti-immigrant and anti-EU platforms, Vox owes its gains largely to its fierce defence of Spanish unity, he said.
The election in Andalusia was the first outside Catalonia since last year’s failed independence push and it “has had the effect that many feared”, said Va l lespi n : t he rev iv a l of ex t reme Spanish nationa lism.
Vox has ca l led for i ndependence pa r t ies to be ba nned a nd wants to centralise power by putting an end to regiona l governments.
‘Reconquering starts in Andalusia’
The centre-right Ciudadanos, which also takes a tough stance against Catalan separatism, saw its representation rise by 12 seats to 21 in Andalusia’s 109seat parliament.
Vox, which was formed in 2013, hopes to build on its win in the upcoming elections and analysts said it had room to grow.
“The Reconquista [reconquering] starts in Andalusian lands and will extend across all of Spain,” the party said in a Twitter message on Sunday night. That was a reference to a long series of medieval wars waged to recapture territory from the Muslims who occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula in the early 8th century.
“This part y will sta rt to quick ly rise in t he polls at t he nationa l level, and have t he capacit y to set t he agenda,” said Pablo Simon, a politica l science pr ofe s s or at Mad r id’s Ca r los I I I universit y.
Vox will “without a doubt” win seats in next year’s local and European elections and could win 5-6 seats in the next national election, he said.
Sanchez could now call snap polls “to try to mobilise left-wing voters with the fear of the far right”, but this risks giving rise to a conservative government at the national level made up of the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox, Simon said.
“It is a complicated situation and I don’t know what is the best option to resolve this dilemma,” he added.