Vox made significant gains in yesterday's regional election
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.
Spain (Castile and Leon), 95.4% of votes counted:
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) February 13, 2022
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.