If anything, the Spanish elections held on the 28th of April were an arraignment of the Christian right; notably the Partido Popular (PP) in Spain and the Centre Right across Europe. The title of the article hence, is in reference not to the state of the latter but rather the reinstatement of a socialist system in a European nation that was the least ambitious in transitioning from autocratic rule to people’s representation at large; much to its own advantage.
The title, very precariously so, is also reminiscent very subtly of Europe’s past at either ends of the World War II. For Spain did not just come full circle for the Left wing that saw its contemporary rise to relevance in post war Europe, but did to for the ultra-Right wing represented in Spain by VOX. The article also intends for the reader to understand the Spanish election not just in its own national capacity but also its effect on the coming elections for the European Parliament at the end of this month.
Rallying election campaigns from the fringes of political thought is evidently the method of success across Europe and the United States (US).
The Spanish elections, in context of the far Right in Europe, have drawn attention to the VOX and the 24 seats in Parliament it won as a result of a record turnout as 75.8% of the population took to the polls on Sunday. VOX’s performance carries hope for the far Right forward to the European parliament elections as following Spain, the latter is represented in 23 of the 28 European Union (EU) member states. However in a sequence of events, as much in line with contemporary European electoral politics as the rise in populism, the Left, in the guise of PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) lead by the incumbent Pedro Sanchez won enough to drone out the VOX, but not enough to form an outright majority. PSOE won a total of 123 seats, 28.7% of the total vote.
Rallying election campaigns from the fringes of political thought is evidently the method of success across Europe and the United States (US). The far Right deployed similar tactics to those that won their counterparts in Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK) stakes in the legislative process. It is a pattern that is becoming all too familiar. Not too dissimilar in approach but rather in narrative, is the PSOE which campaigned representing the Left. The conflict lines in Spain however were and will continue to be different to those in the aforementioned countries. Spain continues to battle secessionist movements, currently the most sensitive to conflict being that in Catalonia. The polarization that has ensued following the referendum in Catalonia in 2017, deemed illegitimate by the central authorities, sets apart both the Left and Right in Spain from their contemporaries in Europe.
Indeed the VOX campaigned for stricter immigration laws but did so in a nationalistic context, more primordial in nature. Speaking ardently against Catalonian nationalism, it rallied most of it votes not only around keeping immigrants out, but keeping Spain’s autonomous regions; 17 of them in total, hinged to the Central authorities. The effect of such robust campaigning was such that it forced PSOE to play it cards not on its own terms.
Speaking ardently against Catalonian nationalism, it rallied most of it votes not only around keeping immigrants out, but keeping Spain’s autonomous regions; 17 of them in total, hinged to the Central authorities.
The socialists have come out in support of a united Spain but have been careful in their approach to do so for in a governing position, which the PSOE was always more likely to find itself in than VOX, the conflict over Catalonia has the potential to undermine PSOE’s liberal agenda. The party has however made vocal its precedence for negotiations between all conflicting parties. It can however, take comfort that for now a considerable percentage of the country has backed its stance on secession in the elections.
VOX’s economic stance is not as ‘resume-worthy’ as is its political mandate. The party has called for a 21% tax rate with certain exemptions attached and a consequent but rather drastic decrease in public spending. It has cited a decreased tax rate as reason for an increase in income and pensions all around. In the spirit of all things centralized, it has also called for a decrease in regional spending and the complete abrogation of the Senate in a bid to reduce public expenditure.
The PSOE, most certainly poised to regain control of the Parliament following a coalition that has yet to be decided on, has a lot more to deal with. In addition to calls for secession for the autonomous regions in Spain, the party will have to counter unemployment and budget imbalances that were borne out of a dysfunctional majority, post Mariano Rajoy’s resignation. The socialists might have broken the traditional Centre Right dominance in Spain, as the latter face electoral threats all across Europe, but like all incoming governments on the continent will have to tend to a polarized society. It will also need to decide on a coalition partner to beef up seats for a majority. The Left winged Unidas Podemos is PSOE’s best bet to close in on a parliamentary majority, only if as Podemos’s leader Pablo Iglesias has made clear, a compromise allowing his party more control is reached. An alliance with the Right for PSOE is both unlikely and unadvisable for the Right in Spain has fractured into a disintegrated PP, VOX, and Ciudadanos which has already ruled out an alliance.
For now, all eyes are cast upon elections for the European Parliament. VOX has already become a cause for concern for many in the European Parliament.
For now, all eyes are cast upon elections for the European Parliament. VOX has already become a cause for concern for many in the European Parliament. There have been resounding anti-VOX calls in European chambers which might just turn out to be counterproductive if nationalism in general is not met head on. While VOX’s stance on social issues do merit a debate, the issue the party used to garner 10% of the total vote is one that has been part of Spanish history after World War II; which is the role of autonomous regions in the effective governance of the country as a whole. Not addressing the issues integral to Central European woes will only exacerbate matters further. As European leaders point fingers at nationalist leaders and parties, they only alienate the people in society who support populism, even more. The PSOE however has afforded them more room to breathe and work on a plausible policy narrative that caters to those that did not vote for them.
is an M-Phil graduate of International Relations with minors in political economy from National Defense University. His areas of research include Foreign and Domestic European Affairs. He is currently working as a Research Associate at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.