Spain rocked by far-right win

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

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.

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