June 21, 2019

Vox: A New Far Right in Spain?

Vicente Rubio-Pueyo

For the longest time, Spain seemed like the lucky exception to the new European normalcy: the rise of a new far right consisting of more or less populist forces on the right of the political spectrum. The conservative Partido Popular (PP) covered a broad spectrum of the political field, including its right margin. This changed with the Andalusian elections in December 2018, when the new VOX party entered the regional parliament, playing a pivotal role in flipping the region after 37 years of social-democratic rule (since the establishment of regional autonomy in 1982).

This first success of the new party sent a warning sign to the public as well as to VOX’s competing parties. As a result, the dominant political force of the Spanish right, the PP, under its new chairman Pablo Casado, turned visibly to the right, trying to prevent voters from migrating to VOX. This strategy failed spectacularly in the general election of April 2019. VOX entered the Spanish parliament for the first time with 10.3 percent, while the PP had to cope with a landslide defeat. Since these parliamentary elections, one thing is clear: The xenophobic and misogynous VOX will play a role in Spanish politics in the coming years. It is a force to be reckoned with. And anxious observers are now confronted with a number of questions, which also apply to almost every other country in Europe (and beyond). What is the nature of the emerging and strengthened right-wing parties? What are the foundations of their successes? Why do left forces not succeed, or no longer succeed, in being perceived as the voice of the discontented? How should left forces react to this challenge?

The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office, in cooperation with the Brussels Office, took a closer look at these questions. This study is published as part of the New York Office’s program on a North Atlantic Left Dialog, which explores strategies against the far right. Author Vicente Rubio-Pueyo looks at the genealogy and nature of the Spanish far right, the political and economic background in Spain, and the international political context. In his analysis of VOX’s platform, he critically interrogates the party’s location between populism and neo-liberalism, its discourse, and its visions. He examines VOX’s voter base and, last but not least, discusses possible ways of responding to their rise.

This study contributes in important ways to our knowledge base about the far right. Knowing and understanding parties such as VOX, the reasons for their rise, and the networks behind them is essential for developing strategies against them. The center right, with its attempts at “de-mystifying” the far right or taking their voter base over by moving closer to their political positions, has fatally failed at impeding the rise of the far right. We believe that the left has the potential—as well as the duty—to conduct the kind of sharp critical analyses that allow us to challenge the power of the far right.