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Analysis: After the elections in Andalusia, expect a lot more Vox in Spanish politics

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Analysis: After the elections in Andalusia, expect a lot more Vox in Spanish politics
Photos: AFP
09:20 CET+01:00
In national terms, what happened on Sunday night was the normalisation of the far right in Spain.
The Socialist Party (PSOE) lost 402,000 votes on Sunday night, its worst ever result in Andalusia. The Popular Party (PP) and Podemos (Adelante Andalucía) were not far behind, shedding 316,000 and 283,000 votes respectively. 

Nineteen percent of the vote shifted. 24 seats. And all of that regional political power went to two other parties: Ciudadanos and Vox, which each gained 12 seats. Vox was the biggest shock to the system of the night: “Andalusian earthquake” (El País), “the worst punishment in socialist history”, “unprecedented severity” (El Mundo), “a historic defeat” (ABC). 

Three weeks ago, zero seats was the most likely outcome for them. During the two-week election campaign, suggestions of one or two, maybe four seats were to be found in some polls.

Then on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ABC published not an exit poll but at least something that was a decent size (4,800 phone calls) that had run up to November 30, the last day of the campaign proper.

That suggested 10 seats for Vox and caused gasps and breaking news. But nobody had suggested twelve were on the cards for Santiago Abascal and his team. In numbers of votes, compared to 2015, Vox did better by 2,000%.

“Some laughed at us”, he said on Monday morning: “but we never threw in the towel”. He added that Vox is “a tool at the service of Spain”, congratulating himself on frightening the “communist chavists” out of Andalusia.

The left-wing hysterics began immediately, the starting gun fired on Sunday night by Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who declared an “anti-fascist alert” and called on an assortment of groups—including feminists, workers, mortgage protestors, students, LGBT and pensioners—“to mobilise” against the extreme right “to defend freedoms and social justice”, as well as “fraternity and ultimately, democracy”.

On Monday evening, groups of “anti-fascists” were marching on the streets of Seville, Granada and Málaga, chanting "fascists out of our areas", "Seville will be tomb of fascists" or "Fascists out, fascists out".

Vox posted one video of stones being thrown at one of the marches. Mr. Abascal said he would hold Mr. Iglesias responsible for violence against his members. Mr. Iglesias said on the radio on Monday morning that he wants to see left-wing and regional nationalist parties join together in an “anti-fascist front”, a “democratic alternative”, and that he hoped “Esquerra and PdeCAT take note of what is happening, it affects Catalan citizens a lot”.

The current First Minister of Catalonia, Quim Torra, tweeted late on Sunday night that “tonight, more than ever, freedom or freedom”, and the previous one, Carles Puigdemont, tweeted, from Belgium, that Vox was “the maddest version” of Spanish nationalism of all, after “the recipes of Aznar, Zapatero, Rajoy, Sánchez, the IBEX [35] and Felipe VI”.

There will now likely be weeks of arguing and posturing over who gets to be the new First Minister of Andalusia.

The incumbent, Susana Díaz (PSOE) is not giving up without a fight, at least not yet, and has announced she wants to “talk to constitutionalist forces” (the PP and Ciudadanos) about options, presumably for staying on.

PSOE HQ in Madrid was making noises about her being booted out. Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said on Sunday that they would be “kicking the socialists out” of regional government and that it should be his man, Juan Marin, who is appointed as the next leader, with the support of the PSOE and the PP.

Popular Party leader Pablo Casado appeared not have noticed the loss of 316,000 votes (“we’re doing great!”) and said clearly his man (who is really Mariano Rajoy’s man), Juanma Moreno, is the chap for the job, and that other parties should support him.

Will we end up with a Ciudadanos led establishment coalition or a PP led right-wing coalition with Vox participating in some way as well?

Twelve seats is enough to demand a regional ministerial appointment, or perhaps they could stay out of the executive and support from the regional parliament during votes. Mr. Abascal has already said “we will never be an obstacle to an alternative majority in Andalusia against socialist corruption”. A Ciudadanos-PSOE-PP deal would add up to 80 seats, while the PP-Ciudadanos-Vox option reaches 59 seats, both overall majorities.

The political shockwaves from Sunday night will be felt all around the country right through 2019 to the local, regional and European elections in May. Spain now has its own alt-right or national populist party, and moves into five-party politics territory. Not that the four-party politics that came out of the 2015 elections was getting the country anywhere fast or better, but room for one more, it seems.

In national terms, what happened on Sunday night was the normalisation of Vox: Spaniards in other regions will now see it as a less extreme option they might want to vote for too.

Watch out for the next batch of national polls over the next couple of weeks, and expect Vox to do very well in them. Vox will also get much more media attention, because of its victory, because of its new institutional power, because of the coalition negotiations that will drag on and because the trial of Catalan separatists will begin at the Supreme Court in the New Year, and Vox is party to the trial acting as a private prosecution.

Catalonia, along with immigration and Franco, are the issues that have driven the vote towards Vox, and none of the three issues is going away anytime soon.

It cannot be chance that the two parties who gained all the seats in Andalusia are also the two parties who have taken the hardest line against Catalan separatists over the past twelve months.

Remember that this ballot (apart from the regional elections in Catalonia) was also the first big chance Spaniards anywhere else in Spain had to express their views on what has happened in the country since 2015 or 2016, including the Catalan crisis.

Digging Franco up from the Valley of the Fallen is an “urgent” priority for the socialist government. Get ready for a lot more Vox.

Matthew Bennett is the creator of The Spain Report. You can read more of his writing on Patreon, and follow him on Twitter. Don't miss his podcast series with weekly in-depth analysis on Spain.

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