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Why the far-right party Vox is set to become one of Spain’s largest political parties

Santiago Abascal, leader of right-wing party Vox, addresses the supporters after the polls closed for the general elections, in Madrid, 28 April 2019. Source: AAP

Far-right party Vox has made big gains in Spain's latest election, and is predicted to win 53 seats in a hung parliament.

Far-right Vox is projected to become the third-largest party in Spain’s parliament after Sunday’s national election.

It made its debut in parliament as recently as April, marking the first time a far-right party won more than one seat since the country’s return to democracy in the 1970s.

An opinion poll published shortly after mainland voting ended pegged Vox at 56-59 seats in the 350-seat house, up from 24 in the previous election in April. The actual results could still be different as such early surveys are not always accurate, though most other recent ones had projected a similar outcome.

Newcomer rising fast

Founded in 2013 by former members of the mainstream conservative People’s Party, Vox is anti-muslim, nationalist, anti-feminist, Eurosceptical, socially conservative, economically liberal, and staunchly pro-Spanish unity.

It got its first foothold in office last December, winning 12 parliamentary seats in a regional election in Andalusia.

Vox is aligned with the broader populist movement that has also risen swiftly in other European countries, notably Italy, Austria, Germany, Denmark and France.

President of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal celebrate with party members following the general elections, 10 November 2019.
President of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal celebrate with party members following the general elections, 10 November 2019.
AAP

Catalonia and beyond

One of Vox’s founding aims was “recentralisation”: rewriting the constitution to abolish regional autonomy and parliaments - a theme that has struck a chord with many after a failed independence bid by Catalonia in 2017 and unrest in the northeastern region triggered by the sentencing to jail terms of separatist leaders last month.

Positioning itself as vehemently anti-secessionist, it has berated the caretaker Socialist government for making deals with separatists to win their backing in parliament over the past year, and for failing to maintain order in Catalonia.

France and Spanish 'rebirth'

Vox has also capitalised on its opposition to the recent exhumation of Fascist leader Francisco Franco - whose legacy still divides opinion in the country 44 years after his death.

Vox’s rhetoric plays with notions of a Spanish “rebirth”, with party leader Santiago Abascal referencing founders of fascist ideology, and Francoist sympathisers have joined the party’s ranks.

President of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal (L) and Secretary-General of Vox, Javier Ortega Smith (R), flash the V-sign as they greet supporters.
President of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal (L) and Secretary-General of Vox, Javier Ortega Smith (R), flash the V-sign as they greet supporters.
AAP

Pacts with moderate right

Following April’s election, Vox struck pacts with the People’s Party and centre-right Ciudadanos to govern major municipalities including Madrid or Murcia, loosely based on their first regional pact in Andalusia. According to a poll, Vox got more votes in Murcia than any other party.

Vox successfully lobbied to remove the former Madrid mayor’s signature programme - a low-emissions zone in the exceptionally polluted capital - from the governing agreement.

Economically, Vox’s manifesto has been ultra-liberal: halving the highest income tax rate to 15 per cent, reducing corporate tax, and abolishing wealth and inheritance taxes. It also proposes to partially privatize Spain’s pension system.

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