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POLITICS

Europe’s far-right and nationalist leaders to meet in Spain on Friday

Hungary and Poland's leaders and France's Marine Le Pen will be in Madrid on Friday for a gathering of nationalist and far-right leaders, Spain's Vox party leader Santigo Abascal said on Wednesday.

far right leaders meet in spain
Poland's Mateusz Morawiecki, Spain's Santiago Abascal, France's Marine Le Pen and Hungary's Viktor Orban will all be present at the Madrid summit. Photos: Attila KISBENEDEK, OSCAR DEL POZO, STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP

The meeting comes two months after a similar gathering in Warsaw in December, with the follow-up organised by the far-right Vox, which is the third-largest party in Spain’s parliament.

“The aim is to continue the work begun at the Warsaw Summit: to defend Europe against external and internal threats by promoting an alternative to the globalist trend which threatens the European Union by attacking the sovereignty of nations,” said Vox leader Santiago Abascal.

Among delegates attending the two-day summit which begins on Friday are Hungarian premier Viktor Orban, his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, far-right leader Le Pen, a candidate in France’s upcoming presidential election, as well as far-right leaders from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and The Netherlands.

In July, Le Pen, Orban, Abascal, Italy’s Matteo Salvini and a dozen others signed a joint declaration announcing plans for a “grand alliance” in the European Parliament whose aim was to “reform Europe”.

Salvini, leader of Italy’s anti-immigration League, was notably absent from the Warsaw gathering and will also not be attending the Madrid talks.

In December, the parties discussed joint votes on sovereignty and immigration issues in the European Parliament but stopped short of striking a formal alliance.

The right-wing and pro-sovereignty parties fall into two distinct groups within the European Parliament: the Identity and Democracy Group, to which Le Pen’s National Rally and Salvini’s League belong, while the other is the European Conservatives and Reformists Group which groups Vox and Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party among others.

Last March, Orban’s Fidesz left the centre-right European People’s Party, the biggest group in the European Parliament, and is looking for a new home.

Both Poland and Hungary have been locked in a dispute with Brussels over their perceived backsliding on EU democratic norms, and are fighting a mechanism linking payment of EU funds to the rule of law.

Last year, both filed complaints with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over the mechanism with a ruling expected on February 16.

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SPANISH POLITICS

What the PP’s landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain’s ruling Socialists

A resounding win by Spain's conservative Popular Party in a weekend regional election in Andalusia appears to have boosted its chances in national elections next year and weakened Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

What the PP's landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain's ruling Socialists

The Popular Party (PP) secured 58 seats in Sunday’s election in Spain’s most populous region — three more than the 55 needed for an absolute majority. That constitutes its best-ever result in the longstanding Socialist stronghold.

The Socialists won 30 seats, their worst-ever result in Andalusia. It governed there without interruption between 1982 and 2018, when it was ousted from power by a coalition between the PP and centre-right Ciudadanos.

This was the Socialists’ third consecutive regional election loss to the PP after votes in Madrid in May 2021 and Castilla y Leon in February.

Sanchez’s government has been struggling to deal with the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation worldwide, especially through increasing energy prices.

Socialist party officials argued the results of a regional election “can’t be extrapolated” nationally.

But in an editorial, centre-left daily El Pais said no one can deny the gulf in the election scores obtained between the two parties in two of Spain’s most populated regions — Andalusia and Madrid.

This was “more than just a stumble”, it argued.

“This may be a symptom of a change in the political cycle” at the national level, it added. The conservative daily ABC took a similar line.

‘Worn down’

Pablo Simon, political science professor at the Carlos III University, said this “new cycle” in which “the right is stronger” began when the PP won a landslide in a regional election in Madrid in May 2021.

It could culminate with the PP coming out on top in the next national election expected at the end of 2023, he added.

But Cristina Monge, a political scientist at the University of Zaragoza, took a more cautious line.

“The government is worn down after four difficult years due to the pandemic” and the war in Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation, she said.

She refused to “draw a parallel” between Andalusia and Spain, arguing “there is still a lot of time” before the next national election.

Sanchez come to power in June 2018 after former PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy was voted out of office in a no-confidence motion triggered by a long-running corruption scandal.

The PP then suffered its worst-ever results in the next general election in 2019, which the Socialists won.

Sunday’s election was the first since veteran politician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, a moderate, took over as leader of the PP from Pablo Casado following a period of internal party turbulence.

Partido Popular (PP) candidate for the Andalusian regional election Juanma Moreno greets supporters during a meeting following the Andalusian regional elections, in Seville on June 19, 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

‘Packing his bags’

“People are fed up with Sanchez,” the PP’s popular regional leader of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said Monday.

“If national elections had been held yesterday, the result would have been the same and today he would be packing his bags,” she added.

Up until now, the far-right Vox party had supported the PP in Andalusia but from outside government.

This time around however, it had said its support would be conditional on getting a share of the government of the southern region.

But the PP’s commanding victory in Andalusia means that is now moot: it no longer has to rely on far-right party Vox to govern.

At the national level, it could be a different story however, said Pablo Simon.

A PP government nationally that did not rely on Vox would be “impossible” due to the fragmentation of parliament, which has several regional and separatist parties.

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