In the recent years while witnessing the worrying rise of extreme nationalism all across Europe I, as a Spaniard, couldn’t help but feel a slightly selfish sense of relief, completely sure that this trend wouldn’t reach my home country. As a nation, we had decades of darkness and suffering under Franco’s dictatorship and I assumed all the cruelty of that regime was enough to make Spain immune to the advances of the extreme right. I was wrong. Vox, an ultra-conservative Spanish nationalist party, took 11 per cent of the vote in last December’s Andalusian elections. The 12 seats were the key to form a right coalition government with the right People’s Party (PP) and centre Ciudadanos that has ended 36 years of socialist rule in Spain’s most southern region.
It is the first time the extreme right has played any role in the formation of a Spanish government, regional or national, since Franco’s death in 1975. It would be wrong to believe that Vox is a result of the nostalgia for the old dictator. Their manifesto is simple and sounds familiar to other parts of Europe. It revolves around sovereignty, national identity and very conservative Catholic values. The party, created in 2013, is led by a former Basque parliament member, Santiago Abascal who in recent interviews has shared his enthusiasm and admiration for Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ stance and his will to control its borders and protect its identity and economy. Abascal is very adamant to distance himself from any similarities with Franco’s vision but he has certainly exploited the notion of defending Spain and its unity against the independent forces in Catalonia. The issue is still unresolved by the main parties and people’s disappointment in politics keeps growing. For those whose views on the Catalan secession are filled up with resent and hatred, Vox is rapidly becoming the answer as the defenders of the homeland and its promise to defend its unity whatever the cost might be.
Vox is a direct result of the main parties incompetence to make a stand against corruption within its members, combined with their failure to get any further in the reshaping of a country that needs to change, in order to accommodate the increasing needs of its different regions. Vox is not the answer to Spain’s problems. As much as they and their newfound voters constantly repeat the same old “we are neither extremist nor dangerous”, one only has to look at their social policies to realise how dangerous they are indeed. The party is against same-sex marriage and abortion and has launched vicious attacks on migrants and the Muslim community. They want undocumented migrants to be denied medical help in Spain and have also spoken of putting up a wall in the Spanish enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa as Trump wants to do with the Mexico border. In a Vox rally in Madrid, last October Santiago Abascal said: “The living Spain has awoken, thank God. Spain does not rise up randomly. A nation reacts when it has historical inertia, when there is blood coursing through its veins, and when it is aggravated, as Spain is being aggravated now.” Language from a time that should be confined to history. Whether Vox will keep rising remains to be seen. As it stands now it does look very likely they will be again a key in future regional elections across Spain. It has proven to be a useful tool for the Popular Party to gain power, but it is a fire, with Spain’s history, that shouldn’t be played with.