by UnHerd Staff
Monday, 14
February 2022
Chart
11:54

In Spain, the Right-wing edges closer to power

Vox made significant gains in yesterday's regional election
by UnHerd Staff
credit: Getty

Castile and Leon is a huge landlocked region to the north of Madrid. Yesterday its people went to the polls to elect a new Cortes or regional assembly.

The ruling conservative People’s Party (PP) called the election early after falling out with their coalition partners, the liberal Citizens party. But while the latter were almost wiped out, the PP made only modest gains. (See here for full results).

Instead, the balance of power will now be held by the Right-wing populist Vox party. Compared to the last election in 2019, Vox increased its vote share from 5.5% to 17.6%. From winning just one seat three years ago, it now holds 13 out of 81.

That’s still a long way behind the second-placed Socialists who now hold 28 seats (a loss of seven), but Vox is now the most obvious coalition partner for the first-placed People’s Party which has 31 seats (a gain of two). 

The significance for the rest of Spain is clear. Yesterday’s result confirms a pattern seen in the national polls — the conservatives inching forward, the Left dropping back, the centrists collapsing and Right-wing populists poised to make gains. In fact, compared to the polls, Vox somewhat exceeded expectations in Castile and León. 

If this pattern holds until the next general election — which needs to be held no later than December next year — then Spain faces the previously unthinkable: the return of the radical Right to power.

It should be said that Vox is not as far to the Right as General Franco was. Nor is there any credible scenario in which it ends up ruling Spain alone. By far the likeliest path into national office is as a junior coalition partner to the People’s Party. 

Nevertheless, the fact is that there are no no-go areas for populism in Europe. Both Spain and Portugal, once thought to have been immunised by their history of dictatorship, are clearly susceptible. 

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Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
4 months ago

Where did the ‘far-Right’ in the headline come from?

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

EXACTLY what I was about to post!!! Far from what?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Another thing that bothers me is the use of ‘right-wing populist’. In my view there can be no such thing, or at least the words ‘right-wing’ no longer mean what I take them to mean, if ‘populist’ references ‘the will of the people’ (an impossibility).

JP Martin
JP Martin
4 months ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

If you consult your ‘Elite-Pleb dictionary’, you will see that when the people vote left, it is ‘democracy’. When the people vote right, it is ‘populism’.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 months ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

By any measure, Vox is on the far right of the political spectrum; it’s just shorthand.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Words matter. Far from what? Like “hate speech” for anything that the extreme left disagrees with.
UnHerd has the space. Shorthand not needed, not welcome.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“Far” in a political sense, means at the very edge of, as far from the centre as one might go, to Left or Right. Though the argument can be that the spectrum is circular, so the Far Left and the Far Right are in many senses philosophically very close.
I dislike the designations Right and Left for that very reason, and indeed “moderate”. Surely the true divisions are between freedom loving (formerly known in the C19th as “liberal”) and state interventionist? Then there can also be applied to either of those, “radical” and “conservative” which is more about approach. It is much easier to place political groups and persons using this spectrum.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

No it doesn’t. “Far,” as in far, right, means anything the extreme left disagrees with, just as “hate” as in “hate speech” has exactly the same meaning.

mike otter
mike otter
4 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

andale cono

Frederick B
Frederick B
4 months ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

I’m reading the article eleven hours after you posted and “they” must have changed the headline; the word “far” appears nowhere (unless it’s a case of not being able to see for looking!). Perhaps someone is paying attention.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago
Reply to  Frederick B

Excellent point! I missed this until you pointed it out.
Thanks, mate!

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
4 months ago

Ohhh.. save us, the right wing boogeyman is coming. “Vox is not as far to the right as General Franco was”? “Immunized” against the right? So, is Keir Starmer as far to the left as Stalin? It appears even Unherd staff are part of the “history has ended and we’re all now on the left” brigade.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
4 months ago

When the writers use the term “right-wing populists”, do they mean “candidates with whose politics we do not agree”?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

I dislike the term populist, as it is generally used as an insult against any party that challenges the status quo in an attempt to delegitimise them. There’s no denying that Vox are right wing on the political spectrum however

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

This is woke tosh, starting with the headline. Far right? Far from what?
What’s wrong with Spain wanting to put Spanish interests first–helping Spanish people ahead of filthy foreign invaders who make up a significant % of Spain’s population? Does Spain have to be “multi-cultural?” What’s wrong with being Spanish?
This seems a bit like the Sweden Democrats. Some years ago I was in Sweden before an election and there were tents for all the parties–from the Pirate Party to Feminist Initiative (truly nutters–one conversation….”So you think that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD should be able to come and live in Sweden? Sure, why not? Sweden’s a big country, we have room….”), but NO Sweden Democrats, who were polling around maybe 10% at the time–I forget exactly.
Why no Sweden Democrats, why aren’t they here? Well, you know…. No, I don’t really know, please explain.
OK, if they set up a tent, people would attack it, tear it down, drive them away. There would be violence….
Really, I thought Sweden was a free country?
Yes, of course, it’s a free country, but….they’re Sweden Democrats. They’re racist…..

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I don’t believe the article did say there was anything wrong with the Spanish electorate moving to the right, merely that it’s newsworthy due to them historically being averse to doing so after the Franco dictatorship.
The rest of your comment appears to be an unrelated rant

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Fair play. I tried. Unrelated? Rant? Really? I didn’t think it was that bad!

Tom Gallagher
Tom Gallagher
4 months ago

When Vox first registered on electoral radar back in April 2019 I submitted a piece to Unherd which recognised that terms like ‘hard’ right’, radical populist or post-Franco did not do justice to Vox. Unherd hummed and hawed, requiring major alterations which i duly complied with. When on the day I thought my article might appear, instead there were pieces by Gerry Hassan and Paul Mason https://unherd.com/2019/04/is-there-a-future-for-english-nationalism/
whose radicalism is less debatable than Vox’s.
When I made an ironic comment on twitter, I was promptly told by by Sally Chatterton never to come near Unherd again. I’ve defied her by taking out a subscription in 2020 (which is great value for money). I’ve never felt the need to submit anyting since, finding outlets for books and articles elsewhere. Today, though, the pearl-clutching about Vox was more than a touch amusing.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom Gallagher

Excellent insight. It seems you came a bit late to the party and other commentators who didn’t scroll all the way down have missed this.
Sad.

Tom Gallagher
Tom Gallagher
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Unherd would do itself an enormous favour if it commissioned a piece from a Spaniard well able to take the pulse of what is probably the most dynamic conservative party Europe has seen for quite some time. I would daringly nominate Herman Tertsch, a veteran journalist of many international conflicts who sits for the Vox party in the European parliament (and is therefore easily contactable). He is urbane and knowledgable (he was a moving force at El Pais newspaper for may years until his exposure to the horrors of the war in Bosnia and EU inaction, caused him to move rightwards). His English is impeccable. (There are similar people of his ilk in Vox).

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
4 months ago

I lived and worked in Spain during the period of political turmoil after the 2008 financial crisis that gave rise to the Podemos and Ciudadanos (Citizens Party) movements. The Vox party followed a little after, but I think the roots lie in the same turmoil. Although only able to vote in local elections (only Spanish citizens allowed to vote in a general election – quite rightly) I did follow the political events of the time.
At election time, there were some extreme candidates running – the Falange on the far right (which admittedly seemed to be one man and his dog) and the Communists on the far left (a few more people, though they probably shot the dog for wrongthink). But there were lots of parties like Podemos, Ciudadanos and Vox, that were representing people disenfranchised with the mainstream parties like PSOE and PP. I got the impression that Vox was just a movement that wanted the mainstream conservative party, the PP, to be just a little bit more … conservative. Just as Podemos wanted PSOE to be more socialist. Vox were not by any means far right. The last paragraph in the article above seems to imply that Spain would be vulnerable to dictatorship – that is absolute nonsense. The Spanish that I knew were acutely aware of history and want no return to the Franco era. Vox would get no support if the people thought that would be a risk.
The thing I would take away from the chart presented in the article is that there are more parties commanding significant levels of support than the old two party system of PSOE vs PP. Single party majorities seem to be a thing of the past – coalition governments will be the norm – whether PSOE and Podemos or PP and Ciudadamos or Vox. It’s a question about forming stable governments in a proportional representation system (versus first past the post) more than it is about the rise of the far right. 

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 months ago

What you say about the fringe or minor parties is indeed correct, it is the effect of proportional representation voting systems where it is relatively easy to get a seat or two in a parliament – as per France where the right is divided and the left splintered. In such systems even the dog could probably get elected and not have to kowtow to right or left any more!
I’m not sure I entirely agree with you that the concept of dictatorship is completely dead though. If intolerance spreads then there is always the danger that the fringe parties do garner support and an ability to frustrate government ends with the strong man appearing to sort it out. Mussolini, for instance. And others, even now on the stage.
First past the post voting systems do at least force the politicians into coalitions within political parties, if they are to have any hope of power

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
4 months ago

Who exactly are these ‘UnHerd Staff’ who penned this Quislington * bilge?
Anonymity is no way to behave in such circumstances.

(* Again thank you Fraser Bailey.)

Last edited 4 months ago by SULPICIA LEPIDINA
Norman Powers
Norman Powers
4 months ago

Are we sure VOX is a right wing party? I just downloaded their manifesto and ran it through Google Translate. Their “agenda for Spain” has the following 20 (!) key points, in this order:

  1. Equality among Spaniards
  2. Unity of Spain
  3. Employment and living wages
  4. Education in freedom
  5. Access to housing
  6. Produced in Spain
  7. Health
  8. Social protection of the Spanish
  9. Taxation for prosperity
  10. Security and defence
  11. Immigration and national identity.
  12. Green Spain
  13. Reindustrialization and energy sovereignty
  14. Depoliticization of justice
  15. European Union
  16. Iberosphere
  17. Rural Spain
  18. Freedom of expression
  19. Family perspective
  20. Human dignity

Phew, that’s a lot of stuff. But looking over the list, a lot of it isn’t obviously even right wing at all, let alone far right. In fact a lot of it is left wing!
They want to incentivize (i.e. subsidize) companies that bring production back to Spain if they’d relocated it abroad. They want foreign goods to be strictly subjected to local regulations. They want “a new National Hydrological Plan that will be designed and applied under the principles of solidarity and the common good”. Central planning for solidarity and the common good?! Since when is that sort of talk right wing, let alone far right? This is a classical left wing policy approach. They dislike “large multinationals and franchises that evade their tax obligations”. They want a “National Health Program that includes the single health card, comprehensive management of waiting lists and a portfolio of national services”. They want to increase spending on “health, education, dependency, pensions and infrastructures”. Their “equality amongst Spaniards” paragraphs on the first pages is actually a classical left wing take on equality – they reject gender quotas and want men and women to be equal before the law. And so on.
From flicking through the rest, I suspect the idea VOX is “far right” comes from the following aspects:

  • They like Spain and they like it being one country with clear borders. Modern leftists usually want to replace countries and parliaments with international forms of “expert” government like the EU, the WHO, the UN etc. I’m not sure it’s meaningful to try and slot Vox into British or American political categories here – is campaigning for a unified Spain a form of nationalism, or is it against Catalonian nationalism? Maybe the question doesn’t make sense. Their campaign against Catalonian independence is pretty authoritarian though – they want to make flag burning punished much more harshly, etc.
  • They dislike green laws that (in their view) destroy local jobs whilst ignoring the way poor countries create most emissions.
  • They dislike globalism and mass immigration.
  • They dislike woke ideology.
  • They want to cut taxes (but also in other parts of the document, increase spending … so nothing new there then).
  • But not on American tech firms, who should be taxed much more heavily for “harvesting” data.
  • They want to “guarantee police presence on all streets and neighbourhoods in Spain making it impossible to create ghettos”. Modern leftism dislikes police.

Overall this manifesto is a real mishmash. I can’t spend all day reading it, but so far I saw absolutely nothing that could be considered extreme in any way. I wouldn’t even describe it as ideologically coherent. These policies are bog standard bread-and-butter policies of the sort that politicians around the world have gone back and forth on for centuries. They want to cut taxes but increase social spending, they want to reward local firms whilst punishing foreign firms, they dislike independence campaigns and foreigners telling them what to do. If anything this reads like the manifesto of disillusioned leftists who have been left behind by the transition from classical economics-oriented leftism towards the modern left that’s focused on culture, free immigration etc. What’s new here?

Last edited 4 months ago by Norman Powers
R Wright
R Wright
4 months ago

The way this frames it makes it sound like Franco’s takeover wasn’t the best thing that happened to Spain in the 20th century. I completely disagree.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
4 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Franco’s takeover might have been the best thing at the time (or the least worst option), but I’d say the peaceful transition to democracy after 40 years of dictatorship was even more important.

mike otter
mike otter
4 months ago

! Los encinos y dice que lluve! Este periodista tambien.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 months ago

The “Far Right”, which is neither liberal or conservative, nor indeed radical, and has many similarities with the “Far Left” seems to from time to time get to a point around 12 to 15% of the polls, and gets no further. Then it drops back and vanishes; it has happened in almost every European democracy. It presumably represents an informal coalition between leftists who have become disillusioned and angry people (mostly young unemployed men) who want the state to do things but don’t like foreigners and do like a bit of discipline (applied to others preferably).
More seriously, it would be a disaster for the Spanish conservatives to ally themselves with Vox. At heart the PP are democrats and cautious modernisers, moderates who support liberty, a party exactly right for Spain if only they could stamp out the corruption which has bedevilled them. Vox have none of their instincts. They are bad people and do not deserve any support.
The Socialists are in many ways to blame for this mess; bad government, greed, incompetence, and the urge to distract from their record by endless harking back to the Civil War. They have released the bad stuff again, which is pretty unforgiveable.

AC Harper
AC Harper
4 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

You could make a very reasonable argument that many people are not so much attracted by the ‘Right’ as increasingly repelled by the ‘Left’. Where else would they go?
It seems to be in the nature of Leftist parties to stretch for more and more progressive policies, perhaps beyond the point of general acceptability, and then the Overton Window snaps back.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Agreed, I think that is what is happening to some extent. But those that are on the “Far” which-ever-side-it-may-be tend to be the young who are at society’s margins. And they tend to be male.

Last edited 4 months ago by JR Stoker
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
4 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

those that are on the “Far” which-ever-side-it-may-be tend to be the young who are at society’s margins. And they tend to be male.

Perhaps, but if so, unsurprising. Young men, particularly those with little inclination toward academia or IT, are feeling trapped and restless in our over-regulated and effeminate Western societies with their narrow world views and limited forms of expression. It also doesn’t help that they find themselves in competition with women who are constantly being pushed forward while men are taught to keep silent unless what they say is in support of female, homosexual, or immigrant causes.
Young men with no prospects will eventually join political movements that empower them regardless of whether they are left or right.