Spain has become the latest European country to experience the far-right surge which has been sweeping through the continent over the past two years.
On Sunday, far-right party Vox won 12 seats in the regional elections for Andalucia, in the south of the country. It is the first time since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 that a far-right party has won seats in Spanish elections.
Spain, Andalusia regional elections (99% counted)
PSOE-S&D: 28.0% (-7.4)
PP-EPP: 20.8% (-5.9)
Cs-ALDE: 18.3% (+9)
AA-LEFT: 16.2% (-5.6)
VOX-ECR/ENF: 11% (+10.5)
PACMA-LEFT: 1.9% (+1.1)
AxSi-*: 0.6% (+0.6)
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) December 2, 2018
Vox is a hardline far-right party which, among other things, calls for the expulsion of all illegal immigrants, the closure of “fundamentalist mosques,” and for Spain to adopt a pro-life position on abortion. As if to further cement its nationalist credentials, the first point on Vox’s mainfesto calls for the suspension of Catalan autonomy — which Franco carried out brutally during his 35-year reign, exiling and executing thousands of Catalan activists.
One of the broader points within the Vox manifesto is the party’s desire to completely limit any sort of regional independence, whether by suspending regional police forces and political councils or by giving “maximum judicial protection to the symbols of the nation.”
This has historically been a strong point of contention in Spain, as many regions are fiercely proud of their own political and historical independence. The most infamous example of this is the extremist group ETA, which waged a 50-year campaign for the independence of the Basque Country in northern Spain before the group announced its dissolution earlier this year.
Vox’s victory was further compounded by the fact that Spain’s ruling socialist party (PSOE) had a miserable regional election, winning just 33 of the 109 seats in a region that was supposed to be its heartland, which in turn potentially positions Vox as political kingmakers in Andalucia.
Far-right French leader Marine Le Pen congratulated the party following its victory over the weekend. “My warm congratulations to our friends from @vox_es,” she tweeted. “Tonight in Spain we achieved a very significant result for a young and dynamic movement.”
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) December 2, 2018
The results closely echoed those in regional elections in the German state of Bavaria this past October. There, the Christian Social Union (CSU), a party allied with Chancellor Angela Merkel, suffered its worse election performance in more than six decades — despite Bavaria being a traditional stronghold. Meanwhile, the far-right profited, with Alternative for Germany (AfD) winning seats on the Bavarian parliament for the first time.
The last 10 years have seen Spain muddle through a serious of crises which have shaken the public’s faith in the political establishment. After the 2008 recession and subsequent Eurozone crisis, Spain suffered a major economic blow, with unemployment peaking at 26 percent, a figure that nearly doubled for young people. The crisis led to the formation of new anti-establishment political parties such as Podemos.
Two recent events have likely changed the country’s political dynamic and added to the appeal of the far-right.
First, the center-right Partido Popular (PP) was embroiled in a massive corruption scandal which saw the ousting of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in June. Vox pounced on voters’ disillusionment with PP’s corruption in order to siphon off voters from them.
“The scandals you see accumulating in the major political parties…has created in Spain discouragement and indignation,” Vox officials wrote under the “Reason for Being” section of the party’s website. “We think it’s necessary to create a response from the citizens.”
Fears over immigration have also helped propel Vox’s popularity. This year has seen a record number of migrants arrive to Spain (although overall arrivals to Europe have decreased significantly), after Italy and Greece began cracking down. Vox has in turn echoed other far-right parties in Europe in its manifesto, claiming immigrants are involved with crime and refuse to assimilate in Spanish society.
For now at least, Andalucia’s good will towards immigrants remains.
“We’ve had more arrivals than ever this year, about 2,500 so far,” Miguel Molina, mayor of the Andalucian town of Barbate, told The Guardian in August. “There’s an increase on other years but the people of Barbate are, as ever, showing their solidarity with these people who’ve made long journeys, some of which have lasted years.”