The big loser in Spain’s elections on Sunday is the far-right Vox party, a result many attribute to its overly radical ideas, the right-wing Popular Party’s (PP) call for “voto util” and a media campaign against him.
Santiago Abascal’s party achieved only 33 deputies, 19 less than the 52 it achieved in the previous 2019 elections.
Almost all the parties have excuses to celebrate: the PP, led by Alberto Nunez Feijoo, because it won the number of seats and votes; the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), of President Pedro Sanchez, because it lasted much longer than expected and maintains options to be invested again; the leftist coalition Sumar because it almost matched Vox; and the Basque and Catalan nationalists because they continue to be essential for Spain to have a president.
But Vox doesn’t have much to celebrate.
#VIDEO | The Vox candidate, Santiago Abascal, has indicated that it is “very bad news for many Spaniards” that “Pedro Sanchez, even losing the elections, can block an investiture and be invested with the support of communism, coup separatism and terrorism”. pic.twitter.com/UH23pyczx6
– EFE News (@EFEnoticias) July 23, 2023
Visibly upset, the party leader blamed the PP for the “failure of the alternative”, as he was referring to the coalition government he aspired to form.
“Bad news for the Spanish”
For months, polls predicted that, together, PP and Vox would achieve the necessary 176 seats in the Congress of Deputies to come to power.
But Nunez Feijoo’s formation realized that carrying such a government partner could have consequences for him.
So he decided to focus his campaign towards the center to capture more votes and be able to govern alone and appealed to Vox voters to join the PP for the so-called “useful vote”, to prevent Sanchez from maintaining power.
He did so with the argument that his votes would allow him to “govern without extremes” and that it was better to vote for the PP because the electoral system benefits large parties like his when distributing seats in the Congress of Deputies.
His strategy, and some mistakes by Feijoo himself, such as lying about economic data or not explaining well the relationship he had with a well-known drug trafficker in the 1990s, ended migrating part of the conservative vote to progressive parties.
“I see many celebrations in the party headquarters, it seems that they have all won. I congratulate Feijoo as the winner of the elections, who has also done it as he wanted, without depending on Vox,” Abascal said on Sunday after the scrutiny.
“We imagine that he will maintain the offer to the PSOE to see if it allows him to govern. That offer is behind the whitewashing of Pedro Sanchez’s four-year government. In addition, there is very bad news for the Spanish, and that is that Sanchez can block an investiture and can even be invested with the support of communism, coup separatism and terrorism, now with more capacity for blackmail,” he added.
In his statement, Abascal did not make any kind of self-criticism, neither of him nor of his far-right program with some unconstitutional measures, which makes it very difficult to gain support beyond a threshold.
“If you vote for Vox, you vote for Franco”
Spain is a relatively young democracy. In 1975, with the death of General Francisco Francoput an end to almost half a century of dictatorship, so the memory of what it means to live without freedom is very recent.
And Vox is a formation made up to a large extent by open nostalgics of that dark period in the history of Spain. And throw promises that are a return to the pastsuch as the recentralization of the State, the illegalization of the pro-independence parties or “the suppression of the autonomous governments that attempt against the unity of Spain”.
Besides, vows to repeal abortion lawrejects the concept of gender violence and is openly anti-European, anti-immigration and contrary to bilingualism in the regions where Catalan, Basque and Galician are spoken.
“July 23 is, without a doubt, a historic opportunity. If you vote for Vox, you vote for Franco in 2023,” wrote the writer Jordi Amat in the newspaper El Pais.
“Not even in the first democratic elections was a candidacy presented whose program was so clearly connected with Francoist ideology and politics“, he added.
But his failure is also partly attributable to the media campaign against him in Spain, a country with a media ecosystem mostly akin to the more traditional right, represented by the PP. Many of these media campaigned against the socialist Sanchez, with his pacts with Basque and Catalan nationalists and independentistas, and against Vox for its excessively radical program.
“We have seen the media related to the PP appealing in a crude way to the useful vote, harming the sum of the alternative. They have also contributed to the demonization of Vox and therefore, encouraging left-wing voters,” denounced Abascal, a former member of the PP, after the results.
A blow to the European extreme right
The results of the Spanish elections cast a bucket of cold water to the rise of the extreme right in Europewho watched these elections in the fourth largest economy in the European Union with concern.
That promotion, which already took place years ago in Hungary, with the government of Viktor Orban, or in France, with the rise of Marine Le Penrecently had its maximum expression in Italy, with the coming to power of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Fratelli d’Italia party has neo-fascist roots.
But also triggered alarms the coming to power in Sweden of the conservative Ulf Kristersson, with the support of the far-right and anti-immigration party Sweden Democrats.
In Finland, the conservative Petteri Orpo reached a government agreement with the populist Finns Party.
Radical parties have recently achieved unprecedented representation in Germany, Austria or Greece.
Far-right figures such as former US President Donald Trump, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, Argentine presidential candidate Javier Milei or former Chilean presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gave their support to Abascal’s formation.