The rise of Vox
Up until Sunday, Spain had a rather impressive claim to fame about its recent past, when compared with other countries in Europe. This was that since democracy was restored in 1978 – after nearly 40 years of dictatorship – no party of the far-right had managed to win seats in any parliament – either regional or national.
People might point to fact that the Partido Popular (PP) was founded by a former minister in Franco’s government, Manuel Fraga – but, even though the PP may have had some very right-wing members in its ranks – it has tried to position itself on the ‘centreright’ of politics and not on the extremes. So it came as a shock to many when the neo-fascist party Vox won 12 seats in the Andalucía parliament during the regional election at the weekend, with the party now holding the balance of power – sitting in the position of kingmakers.
Many readers will not have heard of Vox. So who are they and where did they come from?
A small insight into their mind-set was revealed during an interview shown on the Sexta channel on Monday night with a prominent member who will become a deputy in the Andalucía parliament. One of the questions posed to him was this: “Was Franco a dictator?”
He answered by laughing, and not answering. But the question came back at him four or five times, so finally he had to give a reply which was: “No, he wasn’t.”
It will not surprise people that Franco is still revered by some sections of the population in Spain. After all, he and his henchmen won the civil war and ruled Spain for nearly 40 years. However, anyone who is tempted to feel nostalgic about the dictator (as some British people still do) should read Paul Preston’s book ‘The Spanish Holocaust’ in which the historian reveals how the Franco regime set out to systematically purge and destroy any opposition which did not share their view of a Catholic, nationalist, fascist country.
Vox, as a fascist party, are ‘children of Franco’ but at the same time they are a modern party of the extreme right which is not just based on nostalgia.
Like other similar parties in Europe they are xenophobic. They are very much ‘Spain for the Spanish’. They have not advocated the mass deportation of non-Spaniards but are in favour of strict controls and immediate repatriation for illegal immigrants and the building of very large walls in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to keep Africans out (remember ‘I will build a great wall…..and make Mexico pay for it’.)
Vox’s president Santiago Abascal (photo below) has linked delinquency with immigration, although failed to provide any figures to back it up. He has said that immigrants are receiving hand-outs from the state at the expense of native Spaniards.
Vox are not very keen on the advances made in gender equality in Spain. During his ‘victory’ speech on Sunday night, Sr Abascal (who incidentally is divorced) spoke about how his party will work for the forgotten/put upon half of the population, ie, men. Vox want to throw out recent legislation covering domestic violence which affords greater protection to victims and seeks to eliminate this scourge from Spanish society. Sr Abascal has also said that ‘feminism oppresses men’ and domestic violence legislation ‘criminalises’ men.
He is also against abortion and wants to see it banned.
Vox are homophobic. They would repeal gay marriage laws and make it a ‘union between a man and a woman’.
And while there are certain sections of the population which your average Vox member dislikes, there is one particular collective they dislike more than any other – the Muslims. Sr Abascal set out their position with this statement: “Spain has been built against Islam, via the Reconquest.”
As a fiercely nationalistic party there is also another ‘historic’ flag-waving issue which is guaranteed to stir the blood of any ‘right-thinking’ Spaniard and, therefore, the Vox party. That is of course Gibraltar – the small but highly-strategic piece of land which forms part of the landmass of Spain, but belongs to another country. If Vox manage to manoeuvre themselves into a position of influence in a national election it’s a safe bet that there will trouble over Gibraltar.
Another centre-piece of Vox thinking which has won them much of their support is their anti-regional stance. With a lot of anger in certain sections of Spain directed towards Catalan nationalism, the Vox mantra of the state taking back control of frontline services such as education, health, the courts, etc has struck a chord with some voters.
In some ways it may seem that Vox are fighting the civil war once again – and it would be difficult to argue with that on many fronts.
So who are Vox voters? Unsurprisingly they are predominantly male. It would be hard to class voters in Spain as being ‘white males’ due to the fact that the Moors spent more than 700 years in the country and many Spaniards have North African blood and features. However, these are the people who Vox are aiming at – men who think of themselves as white males. Political commentators estimated on Monday that as many as seven out of 10 of Vox voters in Andalucía were the unfairer sex.
It is tempting to see Vox as a flash in pan (or something else you see in your pan). But with the huge amount of publicity they have gained in Spain in the last week, it is probable that they will be with us for a while yet. With national elections likely within the next 12 months (as the Socialist party, PSOE, is unable at present to pass its budget), it is safe to say that Vox will now be a fifth force in Spanish politics (along with the PSOE, PP, Podemos and Ciudadanos), further muddying the waters when it comes to electing a government.
In Andalucía Vox predominately took votes from the PP. On a national level it is hard to see how the PP can win an election with the competition now presented by the hard right of Vox and ‘soft’ right of Ciudadanos. Vox are certainly presenting an additional headache for the PP, with important voices in the party already warning against new leader Pablo Casado’s policy of courting Vox voters with nods to the far right. These ‘voices’ have signalled that it would be very difficult for the PP to come out on top in a national election if they have no appeal to voters in the ‘centre’.
Vox have certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons and will cause a huge amount of soul searching, debate and confrontation in Spain in the coming months.
They are not pretty, they don’t smell very nice – but sadly they have arrived.