The radical right lands in Spain – European Council on Foreign Relations

The emergence of the populist and radical right-wing Vox party has destabilized the political mainstream in Spain. In an election held in Andalusia – the country’s most populous region – on December 2, the party won 10.97% of the vote and 12 of the 109 seats in the regional parliament. Having won 395,012 votes (against only 18,422 in the previous election), Vox now has its first deputies at national or regional level. This is a remarkable achievement for a party that Santiago Abascal, a former member of Spain’s conservative People’s Party (PP), created just five years ago – and which has the support of the former chief strategist of the White House, Steve Bannon, and his far-right associates. through Europe.

With municipal, regional and European elections in May 2019 approaching, and with general elections likely to be early given the poor performance of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s party in the vote in Andalusia, there is a real possibility that Vox will win. significant influence in town halls, regional parliaments and even the European Parliament. Spain’s mainstream fears that opinion polls, which misread the mood of the electorate and underestimated Vox’s strength in the Andalusian elections, will also fail to gauge support for the party. next year.

The embrace of populism, nationalism and other forms of chauvinism by many Catalans led to the emergence of a mirror image movement on the Spanish right.

The second most important story of the December 2 election is the historic losses suffered by the Socialists and the rise of Ciudadanos, a liberal party that aims to emulate French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche! This change will undoubtedly have national implications. After dominating the Andalusian Parliament for 36 years, the Socialists have lost 14 of the 47 seats they had in the last parliament and are about to enter the opposition. Meanwhile, Ciudadanos, whose number of seats has been increased from 9 to 21, is the kingmaker in the formation of the next regional government.

The Socialists’ losses stem in part from local factors, such as voter fatigue with the status quo and a series of corruption scandals involving the mismanagement of jobs funds. But many observers also blame Prime Minister Sánchez’s clumsy parliamentary coalition with leftist Podemos, as well as Catalan pro-independence parties whose leaders have been jailed for rebellion.

As the Andalusian vote was the first election outside Catalonia after last year’s unconstitutional attempt at secession, voters appear to have rewarded the two parties that have spoken out strongly against Catalan independence – Ciudadanos and Vox – and punished those they considered too soft. -mannered on the matter. Betting on this reading of national sentiment, Pablo Casado and Albert Rivera, leaders of the conservative People’s Party (PP) and Ciudadanos respectively, are urging President Sánchez to call early elections.

Vox’s main message is that the Spanish nation must be saved from Catalan and Basque separatism, immigration, secularism, political decentralization and European integration. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s warm words to Vox following the Andalusian elections testify to the kind of allies Abascal seeks. Although Vox is not an authoritarian far-right party in the style of Greece’s Golden Dawn, it takes positions typical of European populist radicals on religion, immigration, personal liberty and several other issues.

Does this indicate a resurgence of the kind of Spanish nationalism that is generally thought to be dead? It is too early to tell. Yet it seems clear that many Catalans’ embrace of populism, nationalism and other forms of chauvinism has led to the emergence of a mirror image movement on the Spanish right. Of course, similar parties have emerged in other European countries that don’t have Catalan-style issues, so Catalan secessionism may be just one of many factors in Vox’s rise. Nonetheless, politics in Spain will be polarized and emotionally charged for years to come, to the detriment of centrist coalitions.

Due to their poor electoral results after only six months in a parliamentary coalition together, the Socialists and Podemos are unsure whether to call early elections and thus test that their government’s apparent weakness is real. However, if Parliament fails to pass Sánchez’s 2019 budget in the coming weeks, they may not have a choice in the matter.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take a collective position. ECFR publications represent the views of its individual authors only.