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Spain tilts to the Right in regional elections

Supporters of the People's Party (PP) celebrate on Sunday night. Credit: Getty

May 29, 2023 - 12:30pm

In a curtain-raiser for the forthcoming general election, Spanish voters went to the polls yesterday in 12 of the country’s 17 regions. The country’s Right-wing parties were tipped to do well, but the actual outcome has exceeded expectations. 

The most dramatic result was in Extremadura, a southern region which can be thought of as the ultimate in Spanish flyover country. Though twice the size of Wales, it has less than a third of the population. It is landlocked, drought-stricken and poor. Being dependent on state support, Extremadura has long been a socialist stronghold, but yesterday, for the first time since the restoration of democracy in Spain, Right-of-centre parties won a majority in the regional assembly.

This upset is making headlines in Spain — and is emblematic of the rise of the Right across the southern part of the country, which is the political equivalent of the Red Wall in Northern England.

There is much more going on here than a simple swing of the electoral pendulum. Thanks to multiple disruptions — the Eurozone crisis, the struggle for (and against) Catalan independence, and Covid — Spanish politics has been in flux for a decade. The rise of not one but three populist movements has meant that the establishment parties (the Socialists and conservative People’s Party) have struggled to form stable governments. 

But the chaos is beginning to resolve itself. Especially significant are the divergent fortunes of the three upstart parties. On the Left, Podemos and its allies are now in marked decline. In the centre, Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) has been all but wiped out. However, the far-Right Vox is now firmly established as a key player. In most of yesterday’s regional elections, this hardline nationalist party gained in strength despite the advances made by its closest competitor, the centre-Right People’s Party (PP). Though the PP has made the biggest gains (mainly at the expense of Ciudadanos), it will probably have to rely on Vox to govern in several regions.

Without a sudden reversal in fortune, we can expect a similar outcome in the general election — which has just been called for the 23 July. This would mean the populist Right gaining a share of power in yet another EU country.

Nevertheless, Europe’s leaders are likely to reconcile themselves to a PP-Vox coalition government. After all, they haven’t had too much trouble accepting the rule of Giorgia Meloni in Italy.

With other parties of the far-Right coming ever closer to real political power in countries like Finland, Austria and even France, one has ask if there is no limit to the patience of the EU establishment. Perhaps there isn’t. The experience of dealing with the likes of Viktor OrbĂĄn in Central and Eastern Europe seems to have built up the EU’s tolerance for similar politicians in Western Europe.

Indeed, we’re witnessing an experiment in which the European body politic is injected with ever more potent quantities of a substance that some would call Right-wing populism and others fascism-lite.

Back home in Britain, a lot of people are pretending not to notice. But for how much longer can they ignore what’s going on? Though we’re not there yet, there has to be a point at which the far-Right influence on EU politics becomes unbearable even to the most ardent Remainer. Or is being part of Europe more important to them than liberal democracy?


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago

When I read reports of political developments in Europe and the UK, it seems to me that there is only a “far right,” not a “right.” Rather interesting, that. So, the political divisions are always presented as left, moderate and far right. The bias is obvious and seems to have crept unconsciously into most reporting whether intended or not. My plea: use language correctly! Don’t borrow the biases of your opponents by borrowing their language.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
1 year ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Amen to this. I hear the same (as an American) when I listen to even conservative international media refer to every American politician even moderately right of center as “far right”.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Indeed – e.g. don’t use terms like “gender critical” when you could say “biologically affirming”.
.
Never use the term “cis” as it reduces historical norms to the same level as manufactured genders.
.
Using their language makes you one of their “useful idiots” 
.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Exactly! The woke agenda is greased by euphemism.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Exactly! The woke agenda is greased by euphemism.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Agreed.. and constant scary rattlings referencing fascism.. as if the left.. Marxists.. socialists.. .didn’t slaughter vastly more. Literally more than a hundred million. And in MODERN times.
And they’re at it in the west. I’m a liberal by the way and therefor have to vote conservative now as the far lesser evil.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
1 year ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Amen to this. I hear the same (as an American) when I listen to even conservative international media refer to every American politician even moderately right of center as “far right”.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Indeed – e.g. don’t use terms like “gender critical” when you could say “biologically affirming”.
.
Never use the term “cis” as it reduces historical norms to the same level as manufactured genders.
.
Using their language makes you one of their “useful idiots” 
.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Agreed.. and constant scary rattlings referencing fascism.. as if the left.. Marxists.. socialists.. .didn’t slaughter vastly more. Literally more than a hundred million. And in MODERN times.
And they’re at it in the west. I’m a liberal by the way and therefor have to vote conservative now as the far lesser evil.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago

When I read reports of political developments in Europe and the UK, it seems to me that there is only a “far right,” not a “right.” Rather interesting, that. So, the political divisions are always presented as left, moderate and far right. The bias is obvious and seems to have crept unconsciously into most reporting whether intended or not. My plea: use language correctly! Don’t borrow the biases of your opponents by borrowing their language.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

If you squint at the news through a different lens you could argue that the true political situation is not a ’tilt to the Right’ but a ’tilt away from the Left’.
The ’tilt away’ is more upsetting for the Left as their natural response will be to move themselves further Left… and this is exactly the wrong thing to do – but there are too many apparatchiks to willingly ease back on the scope of the Administrative State.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

If you squint at the news through a different lens you could argue that the true political situation is not a ’tilt to the Right’ but a ’tilt away from the Left’.
The ’tilt away’ is more upsetting for the Left as their natural response will be to move themselves further Left… and this is exactly the wrong thing to do – but there are too many apparatchiks to willingly ease back on the scope of the Administrative State.

barbara neil
barbara neil
1 year ago

I beg to differ. The current social democrat/communist government has been dismantling the country and its relatively young democracy since they (since then proven to be) fraudulently assumed power. These elections are an understandable NO to neo-communistic, woke, terrorist friendly , and increasingly authoritarian policies the government has been implementing. I would suggest that Spain is finally ridding itself of the populists who were in power and can only hope that this resistance carries through to the generals. (I’ve lived in Spain for 40 years)

barbara neil
barbara neil
1 year ago

I beg to differ. The current social democrat/communist government has been dismantling the country and its relatively young democracy since they (since then proven to be) fraudulently assumed power. These elections are an understandable NO to neo-communistic, woke, terrorist friendly , and increasingly authoritarian policies the government has been implementing. I would suggest that Spain is finally ridding itself of the populists who were in power and can only hope that this resistance carries through to the generals. (I’ve lived in Spain for 40 years)

Susanne Schwameis
Susanne Schwameis
1 year ago

“With other parties of the far-Right coming ever closer to real political power in countries like Finland, Austria and even France, one has ask if there is no limit to the patience of the EU establishment. Perhaps there isn’t.” // Rather to the contrary, I believe, the discontent with the EU, its policies, the divorced state of politicians from the real.world problems of ordinary citizens is driving people to vote populist right wing parties. This can be clearly witnessed in Austria (where I’m from), where the FPÖ party drastically experienced a surge due to the authoritarian-like covid policies (one of the most stringent in the western world) where now people who have NEVER voted for this party nor thought they’d ever vote for it are now voting them as the only choice remaining against the “elites” of the left and centre-right parties. Add to the discontent over Covid and the many lies and misinfo propagated by the establishment parties, pharma and social media, people are more distrustful than ever which is only helped by the ongoing high inflation, freedom of speech infringments, over-regulation etc coming from the EU and governments.
It’s rather that the populus has exhibited vast amounts of patience with the political apparatus – at home and the EU – and is now so discontent that it’s turning out in troves to vote for these parties because political leaders today are so divorced from the lived reality of people and what they want that many feel like they do not have any other choice (than non-voting – which doesn’t really change anything)

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

Spot on – as you suggest above, I also suspect that “member states” may well find their domestic voters becoming increasingly reactionary in response to a continuing stream of EU elitist diktats – and power grabs.
It would be ironic if the non-EU countries in Europe end up being the least “populist”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

Spot on – as you suggest above, I also suspect that “member states” may well find their domestic voters becoming increasingly reactionary in response to a continuing stream of EU elitist diktats – and power grabs.
It would be ironic if the non-EU countries in Europe end up being the least “populist”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Susanne Schwameis
Susanne Schwameis
1 year ago

“With other parties of the far-Right coming ever closer to real political power in countries like Finland, Austria and even France, one has ask if there is no limit to the patience of the EU establishment. Perhaps there isn’t.” // Rather to the contrary, I believe, the discontent with the EU, its policies, the divorced state of politicians from the real.world problems of ordinary citizens is driving people to vote populist right wing parties. This can be clearly witnessed in Austria (where I’m from), where the FPÖ party drastically experienced a surge due to the authoritarian-like covid policies (one of the most stringent in the western world) where now people who have NEVER voted for this party nor thought they’d ever vote for it are now voting them as the only choice remaining against the “elites” of the left and centre-right parties. Add to the discontent over Covid and the many lies and misinfo propagated by the establishment parties, pharma and social media, people are more distrustful than ever which is only helped by the ongoing high inflation, freedom of speech infringments, over-regulation etc coming from the EU and governments.
It’s rather that the populus has exhibited vast amounts of patience with the political apparatus – at home and the EU – and is now so discontent that it’s turning out in troves to vote for these parties because political leaders today are so divorced from the lived reality of people and what they want that many feel like they do not have any other choice (than non-voting – which doesn’t really change anything)

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

Back home in Blighty I notice that anyone speaking on behalf of the Labour party recently will always be plugging this message: “Thirteen years of this Tory government and just look at the state of the country”. In other words don’t think too much about the latest iteration of the socialist dream Sir Keir’s furtive Lefties hope to inflict on the country – just focus on the need for a change.
As for the ‘far’ right taking hold in Britain – even the Tories look more soft-left than right these days.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Soft left? They are National Socialist left!

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

What are you – a twelve year old?

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

What are you – a twelve year old?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Soft left? They are National Socialist left!

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

Back home in Blighty I notice that anyone speaking on behalf of the Labour party recently will always be plugging this message: “Thirteen years of this Tory government and just look at the state of the country”. In other words don’t think too much about the latest iteration of the socialist dream Sir Keir’s furtive Lefties hope to inflict on the country – just focus on the need for a change.
As for the ‘far’ right taking hold in Britain – even the Tories look more soft-left than right these days.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Why should the EU institutions care? It’s not as if voters have much influence on what the EU does.

Susanne Schwameis
Susanne Schwameis
1 year ago

Sadly true.

Susanne Schwameis
Susanne Schwameis
1 year ago

Sadly true.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Why should the EU institutions care? It’s not as if voters have much influence on what the EU does.

Will K
Will K
1 year ago

To those on the ‘far right’, those in the middle are extremists. To those in the middle, everyone is an extremist.

Will K
Will K
1 year ago

To those on the ‘far right’, those in the middle are extremists. To those in the middle, everyone is an extremist.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

I’d suggest that one of the main consequences of their U.K. referendum loss is that a large subset of Remainers will never be able to view the EU negatively (or objectively) ever again.
It will also be interesting to see whether the “member states” of the EU project evolve in a similar political direction to the non-EU countries of Europe.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

I’d suggest that one of the main consequences of their U.K. referendum loss is that a large subset of Remainers will never be able to view the EU negatively (or objectively) ever again.
It will also be interesting to see whether the “member states” of the EU project evolve in a similar political direction to the non-EU countries of Europe.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Josh Allan
Josh Allan
1 year ago

‘Back home in Britain, a lot of people are pretending not to notice.’
The mainstream media in the UK has never cared about what’s going on in Europe. I think it’s a not insignificant part of why Leave won.

Josh Allan
Josh Allan
1 year ago

‘Back home in Britain, a lot of people are pretending not to notice.’
The mainstream media in the UK has never cared about what’s going on in Europe. I think it’s a not insignificant part of why Leave won.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago

As a classical liberal who used to be able to vote liberal or left back when the left was still liberal, or human, I now see the left, faux “liberals” and in the US the Dems, to be the violent enemies of mankind that they are.
Sick psychos. Literally insane. What insanity actually means. As Dr Jerry Satinover reminds us in “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth”, it is the culture and its thinkers who decide what the word “good” means. what mental health is.
We employ technicians, or medical “experts” to do our bidding, not to tell us about life and what we are to value.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Boire

If you are a “classical Liberal” you are now Conservative. Sorry about that. Just listen to US President John F. Kennedy’ speeches from 60+ years ago to realize that.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Boire

If you are a “classical Liberal” you are now Conservative. Sorry about that. Just listen to US President John F. Kennedy’ speeches from 60+ years ago to realize that.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago

As a classical liberal who used to be able to vote liberal or left back when the left was still liberal, or human, I now see the left, faux “liberals” and in the US the Dems, to be the violent enemies of mankind that they are.
Sick psychos. Literally insane. What insanity actually means. As Dr Jerry Satinover reminds us in “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth”, it is the culture and its thinkers who decide what the word “good” means. what mental health is.
We employ technicians, or medical “experts” to do our bidding, not to tell us about life and what we are to value.