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POLITICS

CONFIRMED: Spain’s far right enters regional government for first time

Spain's Vox party on Thursday entered a regional government as part of a coalition agreement with the right-wing Popular Party (PP), the first time in Spain's democratic history that the far right will govern in a region.

CONFIRMED: Spain's far right enters regional government for first time
Leader of far-right Vox party in Castilla y Leon, Juan Garcia Gallardo, will become the region's vicepresident. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

The country’s highly decentralised system gives Spain’s 17 regions broad powers, meaning Vox’s entry into the regional government of Castilla y León, just north of Madrid, will give it a major impact on policy.

Vox said it would hold the second-highest position in the government of Castilla y León, where it came third in last month’s regional election.

Although the PP came first, it did not achieve an absolute majority, winning only 31 of the regional assembly’s 81 seats.

That left it vulnerable to pressure from Vox — which won 13 seats in a huge increase from the 2019 election where it secured just one.

“We have reached an agreement with Vox… that will allow us to establish a stable and solid government,” tweeted the region’s outgoing PP leader Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, who will be reinstated thanks to the deal.

Vox leader in the region Juan García-Gallardo will be Castilla y León vicepresident, the parties have agreed. 

READ ALSO: How the crisis in Spain’s centre-right party is opening the door to the far right

The ruling Socialist party immediately attacked the opposition PP over the deal, denouncing it as “a pact of shame”.

Founded in 2014, Vox started as a marginal force in Spanish politics before causing a major upset in late 2018 when it entered a regional parliament for the first time, winning seats in the assembly of Andalusia in the south.

Following national elections nearly a year later, it became the third-largest force in Spanish politics with 52 seats in the 350-seat parliament, mirroring gains elsewhere in Europe for the far right.

The regional governments of both Andalusia and the Madrid area are PP-led but supported from the outside by Vox in exchange for political concessions.

READ MORE: Why elections in little-known Castilla y León really matter for Spain’s future

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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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