The recent elections in Andalusia, the most populated region of Spain, caused a shock to the system. The socialists, with only 33 of the 109 seats, were ousted from government, while the far-right party, Vox, received nearly 11% of the vote, winning 12 seats. As a result, the right-wing parties Vox, Ciudadanos (Cs) and El Partido Popular (PP) hold 59 seats, a majority of 9 over other parties. Although the PP and Cs will form the governing coalition, Vox’s backing will be crucial to pass legislation – the first time they have been able to influence policy anywhere in Spain.
In a country with such a dark past concerning fascism and extreme right-wing politics, how has this sudden change come about?
Vox was founded in 2014 and is led by Santiago Abascal, who started his political career in the PP. Although leaders and supporters deny the ‘far right’ tag, their ideology includes antifeminism (with the aim of repealing the gender violence law), a pro-life stance on abortion, and opposition to same-sex marriage and clinics offering gender change for the trans community. Above all, Vox is seen as anti-Islam and anti-immigration, with its leaders wanting to strengthen control over Spain’s borders, deport illegal immigrants and shut down fundamentalist mosques.
Until these elections, the party was not considered a serious player in the Spanish political landscape. It now has a foothold, with its vow to ‘hacer España grande otra vez’. Vox calls itself an ‘extreme necessity’ that is growing in support through being ‘in step with what Spaniards think’. These familiar-sounding slogans bear large similarities with those of the radical nationalist Donald Trump.
One of the driving forces for Vox’s growing support in Andalusia is the increase in illegal immigration. Over 53,000 African migrants entered Spain last year, with most arriving via Andalusia. Increasing immigration can cause tension and fear: Vox responds to this by vowing to ‘look after our own people’ and promising greater security at the border.
Many also feel that recent governments have not satisfied hopes for a post-Franco society. Corruption scandals have tarnished the reputation of both main parties and caused many to turn away from them. The high rates of unemployment in the region and uncertain economic prospects also fuel a desire for change among voters.
However, the biggest factor in Vox’s increased support is the issue of Catalan independence. Vox fiercely opposed the referendum and has promoted prosecution of politicians and ministers involved in the 2017 push for independence. Vox supports constitutional change to make Spain a unitary state, as it was under Franco. The party portrays the current Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, leader of the federalist PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), as someone who governs the country thanks to ‘the enemies of Spain’, and says that his separatist values are against the interests of the people.
The movement towards right-wing parties is a worldwide trend, Trump in America being the most obvious example. The anti-immigration cause has also grown in, for example, Germany, Sweden, Greece and Italy. That said, the Andalusian election result may not actually be due to Spain turning to the right. Instead, Vox’s stand-out position on Catalonia and immigration may have attracted voters who focus most on those issues. The Catalan question may also have deterred left-wing voters from supporting the PSOE. The outrage and protest that occurred in Andalusia after the elections prove that a majority of its people strongly oppose the rise in Vox.
There is definitely cause to be wary about the surprising growth of the party. Their influence in Andalusia will give them national exposure ad allow them to promote their extreme positions. However, how much they will really be able to change in Spanish politics remains uncertain: once the most polarising issues are dealt with, perhaps the party will lose its unique foothold of support.
by Naomi Hudis, a y12 student at St Paul’s Girls’ School