Victory and defeat on the right in Spain
For the first time since the Franco dictatorship a far-right party will be represented in the Spanish parliament: the newcomer party Vox, which campaigns for a strong centralised state and the "defence of Spanishness", secured around ten percent of the vote. The People's Party (PP), on the other hand, saw its number of seats halved. What are the causes of the turbulence in Spain's conservative camp?
What happened to the Popular Party?
El País examines the reasons why previously loyal PP voters have switched their allegiance to new parties on the right end of the spectrum:
“First of all the series of corruption cases has damaged the party's image. ... Secondly, the Catalan crisis has allowed the PP's competitors (Ciudadanos in the centre, Vox on the far right) to present themselves as legitimate representatives of the PP voters' preferences on the subject they care about most: the territorial issue. And thirdly, the strong ideologisation of the newly elected party leadership helped erode one of the pillars that was keeping heterogenous social bases together: a 'bland' ideology centred on growth and conservatism, in the most literal sense of the word.”
Voters prefer the original to the copy
With just 16.7 percent of the vote, the PP suffered a crushing defeat. But since it has repeated the same mistake made by so many European conservatives, L'Echo is not surprised:
“In the UK, David Cameron came up with Brexit out of fear of Ukip. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán became a defender of Christianity and the harshest critic of Islam out of fear of being overtaken by Jobbik, and has now become trapped in a grotesque role. In Brussels, during the refugee crisis the EU Commission opted to close and reinforce the borders, cold-bloodedly neglecting its humanitarian values. In the end this clumsy imitation strategy only strengthens the far right. That's the rule, because the most radical voters will always prefer the original to the copy.”
The Irish Examiner analyses Vox's recipe for success:
“The revival of Spanish nationalism has gone hand in hand with a resurgence of traditional Spanish right-wing social conservatism. Vox not only targets Catalan separatists and illegal immigrants, but also women's and LGBT rights. The extreme right is not, in fact, new to politics in democratic Spain. The traditional conservative PP party has always embraced the full spectrum of right-wing sensibilities, from the moderate right through to the extreme right. Many of those who voted for Vox come from the far right of the PP, having become disillusioned with the latter.”
Extremism as pressure relief
The extremist parties fulfil an important function within political systems, Público believes:
“What if the so-called extremisms, both on the left and right of the political spectrum, are not actually an assault on democracy? What if they act more like pressure relief valves in democratic systems, making possible the integration of ever larger numbers of discontented citizens into their dynamic? ... If we look at the votes Vox received, it's hard to imagine that Spain was suddenly invaded by ten percent of dictatorship-loving Franco fans. Because many of them are young people who were born in this millennium.”