by Carmela Negrete
An openly far-right populist party, VOX, is entering a Spanish regional parliament for the first time.
The regional elections in Andalusia are proving the dangers of an openly anti-Islamic and misogynistic party. VOX is entering the regional parliament of Spain’s most-populous region with 10 percent of the votes and 12 MPs. And, of all places, it’s in a Comunidad Autónoma (as said in Spanish) that has been governed by the social democratic party PSOE for the last 36 years.
Six months after Pedro Sánchez came to power as head of the party and Spain’s prime minister following a vote of no confidence, this election is exposing how weak the possibilities of a left hegemony in the country are. The country is facing a series of regional elections before the EU elections in March and polls are showing that VOX will enter all parliaments on the ballot.
It was a big surprise on Sunday evening: with 395,000 votes VOX became the fifth strongest party in southern Andalusia. The PSOE remained the most-supported party with 27 percent of the vote—yet still lost almost eight points. Andalusia is seen as the stronghold of the rightwing of the PSEO, the regional government mired in corruption scandals. Following the PSOE, the Volkspartei PP that nevertheless lost almost six percent. It’s another punishment from voters following the party’s corruption scandals, that also recently cost Mariano Rajoy his national government.
The third strongest party was Ciudadanos, a right-liberal party, which received 21 percent of the votes, a net increase of 9 percent over the previous election. Adelante Andalucia (AA), the coalition between Podemos, the United Left, and other smaller leftist Andalusian parties, remained in fourth place. AA received only 16 percent of the vote, losing three MPs.
VOX was founded by Santiago Abascal in 2014. The former MP in the PP left the organization in 2012, calling it “the scared right” and came together with other right-wing extremists including the ex-president of the PP in Catalonia, Alejo Vidal-Quadras. VOX was a completely insignificant party right up until the independence movement in Catalonia took off. Nationalist sentiments in Spain have been seething since; while VOX and Ciudanos have translated these into votes.
VOX can’t be classified as a traditional racist party, proven by the Andalusian election. The party appealed directly to the Roma minority, which is mostly settled and adheres to traditional Catholic family values. VOX also doesn’t consider Latin American migrants as a dangerous migrant community, as long as the economy can “use” them. On the other hand, they see Muslim migrants as not part of the country and believe they should be forced out of Spain. VOX doesn’t speak the working-class language of the Front National, rather promoting a liberal economy based on traditional family structures, Catholicism, and patriotism.
Javier Ortega, the general secretary of VOX, explained on election night: “VOX is the party that put all ideological laws on the table, especially the gender ideology laws and those for historical memory.” Ortega thus emphasized two of the most important themes for the party.
VOX wants to abandon the politics of equality and return women to their traditional role of matron of the house. The Andalusian VOX candidate, judge Francisco Serrano, was already suspended from his position two years ago for such ideologically-motivated actions after illegally granting a father custody.
Concerning that of historical memory, VOX promotes an open continuity of the Franco dictatorship. The party speaks of a “Reconquista” and wants to do away with the historical memory law, which honors all victims of war and dictatorship. This was an invention of the “losers,” the Republican forces, that the war had begun according to his view of history.
The PSOE spokesman José Luis Ábalos summarized it as: “An organization that denies the value of constitutional values is entering a regional parliament.” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called upon the public to “protect the constitution.”
Within the PSOE, as within all other parties, VOX’s surprising rise was a surprise. Antonio Maíllo, General Secretary of the Andalucian Communist Party, which also joined Podemos in the Adelante Andalucia coalition, also appeared shocked on TVE [Televisión Española, Spanish broadcasting network].
The General Secretary of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias warned after the results: “Alerta antifascista.” He called for resistance from all democratic forces including women’s movements, workers, pensioners, and students. “This night will go down in history because of an unhindered emergence of an openly post-Francoist party.”
Teresa Rodríguez, candidate for the AA, stated that: “The right-wing extremists are a slight from the lowest against the second-lowest and we refuse to do the bidding of the rulers of this country.”
Forming a government will now be difficult. While at the national level, the PSOE negotiated a common budget with Unidos Podemos, they were unable to cooperate together with Podemos and the United Left at the regional level in Andalucia.
On the other hand, Juanma Moreno, the PP’s candidate, said he would stand for election as president and try to get a majority without the left.
This must include VOX. During the election campaigns, the PP has shied away from discrediting VOX. The liberals of Ciudadanos will also compete for the office of president. Cooperation between the PSOE and the right-wing liberals has not been ruled out.
Additionally, the president of the liberals in the EU Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, congratulated but also warned Ciudadanos. On Twitter, he spoke of the “danger of rightwing extremists,” which is something that “should worry everyone,” stating indirectly that a coalition with VOX wouldn’t be wanted.
Although Ciudadanos appears hesitant, a right-wing government with right-wing extremists seems almost certain for most Spanish commentators. Abroad, VOX has made good friends in the circles of right-wing extremists and xenophobes in recent years. Marine Le Pen congratulated the party on Twitter.2 Le Pen said curiously in an interview with La Sexta, she saw similarities with her party and the Spanish VOX party. There have already been meetings with the AfD as well.
This article first appeared in German in the junge Welt newspaper. Translation for the LINKE Berlin Internationals by Tom McGath