Spain’s far-right Vox party saw a surge in support in the country’s general election, winning big after promising to crack down on independence movements and get tough on immigrants.
Vox more than doubled its number of seats to become the third-biggest party in Parliament. The party’s leader, Santiago Abascal, hailed the success as “the greatest political feat seen in Spain.”
“Eleven months ago, we had no representation in any government institution,” he told supporters on Sunday night. “Today we are the third political force in Spain.”
It was the second election in just over six months, after elections in April left the country in a political deadlock. But it failed to deliver a majority to any party, leaving Europe's fifth-largest economy mired in political uncertainty.
The Socialist party, led by acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, hoped a return to the polls would strengthen its position and enable it to form a government. Instead, it lost three seats in the Congress of Deputies, while parties on the right made the most significant gains.
The conservative Popular Party finished second on 87 seats (up from 66), with Vox third with 52 seats, up from 24. The Socialist Party finished with 120 seats.
Abascal said his party had “changed the political landscape” and “begun a political and cultural revolution.” “We have reopened debates and demonstrated to the left that they have no moral superiority,” he said.
Sanchez asked other parties for “generosity” as he attempts to form a government, but he appeared to rule out any cooperation with Vox.
“One way or another, we’ll form a progressive government and unblock the political stalemate,” he said. “We call upon all the political parties, except for those that work against coexistence and foster hatred.”
Just a year ago, Spain had been an anomaly in Europe, as the only major country without a right-wing populist party in Parliament.
Vox’s sudden surge in support appears to be a response to the party’s hard-line stance against secessionist movements, such as the push for independence in Catalonia. The region has been seen violent clashes between secessionist protesters and police in recent weeks, after courts handed heavy jail sentences to the leaders of the failed 2017 independence bid.
Vox has advocated a policy of “recentralization” — rewriting Spain’s constitution to scrap regional autonomy and parliaments. On the campaign trail, Abascal pledged to outlaw separatist parties, send Catalan premier Quim Torra to prison, and provide “the maximum legal protection for the symbols of the nation, especially the flag, the anthem and the crown.”
The anti-Muslim, anti-feminist, and Euroskeptic party also campaigned heavily on immigration issues, including blaming young male asylum-seekers for violence. In a move from Donald Trump’s playbook, Abascal has called for a border wall to be built around Spain’s exclaves in North Africa, Ceuta, and Melilla. In true Trumpian fashion, Abascal claims that Morocco would pay for the wall.
The party, which formed in 2013, also operates a blacklist of media outlets it deems to be critical, banning them from covering rallies or visiting Vox offices.
The party’s rise has caused alarm at home, with Sanchez among many politicians warning that it represented the return of the fascism of Spain’s past.
But Vox’s success has made it the toast of Europe’s populist right, with allies from across the Continent quick to congratulate Abascal on Sunday’s success. Among them were Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, and France’s Marine Le Pen, who expressed her admiration that Abascal’s work was “bearing fruit after only a few years.”
Cover: A supporter of Spain's far-right Vox Party smiles outside the party headquarters after the announcement of the general election first results, in Madrid, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)