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ELECTION

Vox: the meteroric rise of Spain’s far right party

With its hard line against Catalan separatism, immigration and feminism, far-right party Vox was the big winner of Spain's repeat general election on Sunday, surging into third place.

Vox: the meteroric rise of Spain's far right party
VOX leader Santiago Abascal (C) celebrates results at party HQ in Madrid. Photo: AFP

The party won 52 seats — more than doubling the 24 it took during its April parliamentary debut in the most significant showing by a far-right faction since Spain's return to democracy following dictator Francisco Franco's death in 1975.


Vox won 52 seats in Spain's parliament and took the biggest share of the vote in Murcia

Founded by PP members

Vox, meaning “voice” in Latin, was launched in 2014 by Santiago Abascal and several other disgruntled members of the hardline fringe of the rightwing conservative Popular Party (PP).

At the time, Abascal blasted then PP premier Mariano Rajoy for not repealing measures passed by a previous Socialist government such as same-sex marriage legislation or the law of historical memory seeking to recognise those who suffered under Franco's dictatorship.   

And last month, Abascal denounced the Socialist government for exhuming Franco's remains from a grandiose mausoleum and moving them to a more discreet burial site, calling it the “profanation” of a grave.

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Santiago Abascal has become the poster boy for the resurgent far right. Photo: AFP

Rapid rise

Vox struggled to gain traction at first, attracting only a smattering of voters but it December 2018 it burst on the scene, winning 10 percent of the vote in a regional election in Andalusia, Spain's most populous region.

The party then joined forces with the PP and business-friendly Ciudadanos to oust the Socialists from power in the southern region where they had ruled since 1982.

In April's election, Vox went on to win 2.6 million votes and on Sunday that rose to more than 3.5 million votes, becoming the party that won the most votes in the southeastern region of Murcia and in Spain's North African
enclave of Ceuta.   

In his victory speech, Abascal claimed the party's rise was the “most meteoric and rapid in Spanish democracy”.

Catalonia and immigration

Analysts say it was Vox's hard line on Catalan separatism that was responsible for its success.

He ramped up his rhetoric in October after Spain's top court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders over a failed 2017 independence bid, triggering days of often violent protest that saw demonstrators fighting running battles
with police.   

Even before that, Vox had played an active role in the separatists' trial by using a peculiarity of the Spanish legal system that allowed the party act as co-accuser — or “people's prosecutor”.

The party wants separatist parties banned, the region's autonomy to be suspended and its president Quim Torra arrested.

It also wants the deportation of all illegal immigrants as well as those in Spain legally who have committed a crime; it has also lobbied to repeal a pioneering law on gender violence that established special courts for victims, and defends bullfighting.

The party's deputy, Javier Ortega-Smith, has been accused of anti-Semitism for criticisms of financier George Soros, a Hungarian Jew who emigrated to the United States after World War II and who has long been involved with groups promoting a liberal democratic agenda and open borders.

Alliances

Before its surge in Sunday's election, Vox had done worse than predicted by opinion polls in European, regional and local elections in May.   

But just as in Andalusia, its support has helped the PP and Ciudadanos to govern in the Madrid and Murcia regions.

Hailed by far right allies across Europe.

Vox's surge drew praise from fellow extremist leaders in Europe, with Italy's far-right leader Matteo Salvini lauding its “great advance” while Marine Le Pen of France's National Rally described its electoral success as “spectacular”.

 

 

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HEALTH

Spain ‘suspends lower house of parliament’ after far-right MP tests positive for coronavirus

Spain's lower house of parliament was reportedly suspended on Tuesday after an MP from the far-right Vox party tested positive for the coronavirus.

Spain 'suspends lower house of parliament' after far-right MP tests positive for coronavirus
Ortega Smith (L) with party leader Santiago Abascal in Madrid on election night. Photo: AFP

Javier Ortega Smith, the secretary general of the far right party Vox is among those who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Spain two days after he attended a crowded rally in Madrid, the party confirmed on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Ortega attended Vox’s annual rally with thousands of supporters held in Vistalegre where he greeted dozens of party supporters with hugs and kisses, according to footage distributed by the party.

In a statement tweeted by Vox leader Santiago Abascal, the party apologised for holding the event, a move which it admitted now was “a mistake”.

“We understood that it would have been irresponsible to generate panic by suspending a public event while the rest of the country continued to operate as normal,” read the statement.

“That was a mistake for which we apologize,” it continued before laying the blame at the door of the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for not calling off public demonstrations held across Spain for International Woman’s Day on March 8th.

 “We trusted that this government would at least put the health of Spaniards ahead of its propaganda agenda,” the statement continued.

Ortega is the first of Spain’s lawmakers to be diagnosed with the virus which has so far struck more than 1.200 people and caused at least 30 deaths.

Vox said that they would now insist that all its 52 MPs would be working from home.

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