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POLITICS

Spain’s far-right Vox sworn into regional government

Spain's far-right Vox party Tuesday was sworn in as part of a regional coalition government for the first time, with the prime minister calling it "very bad news" for democracy.

Spain's far-right Vox sworn into regional government
Castilla y León regional president Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (R) is congratulated for his re-election by the leader in Castilla y Leon of far-right party Vox, Juan García Gallardo (L) during a parliamentary debate to vote the new Castilla y Leon regional chief at the regional president in Valladolid. - Spain's far-right Vox party on April 19th 2022 was sworn in as part of a regional coalition government for the first time, with the prime minister calling it "very bad news" for democracy. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

Vox is now in power with the conservative Popular Party in the central Castilla y León region just north of Madrid.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the coalition was “very bad news”.

Vox is seeking to repeal a law on gender-based violence, opposes gay marriage and wants to centralise Spain by eliminating the 17 powerful regional governments.

The government will pay “close attention” to the policies of the new regional administration, especially with respect to the “rights and freedoms of Spaniards”, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said Tuesday.

This is the first time a far-right party is sharing power in Spain since the return of democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

The move comes ahead of a regional vote expected in Andalusia, Spain’s most populous region, and national elections due at the end of 2023 in which polls suggest Vox is poised to make further gains.

Vox won 13 seats in a snap regional election in Castilla y León in February, up from just one.

The Popular Party came first but fell short of an absolute majority in the 81-seat assembly and joined forces with Vox to remain in power in the rural region north of Madrid.

As he was sworn in for another term as regional president, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco vowed to govern “for all” and said he was “very proud” of the agreement with Vox.

Founded in 2014, Vox started as a marginal force before causing a major upset in late 2018 when it entered the regional parliament of the southern Andalusia region.

The Popular Party tops opinion polls since it appointed a moderate new leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo on April 2nd but it would need the support of Vox to govern.

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NATO

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali's Foreign Minister said Saturday he had spoken with his Spanish counterpart after a row over comments the Spaniard made about the possibility of a NATO operation in the African country.

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop wrote in a tweet that he had spoken by phone with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares about the comments, which were made in a radio interview.

“He denied the remarks and expressed his attachment to friendly relations and cooperation with Mali,” wrote Diop.

Spain moved to calm the row Saturday, a day after a day the military regime in Bamako had summoned their ambassador for an explanation.

“Spain did not ask during the NATO summit or at any other time for an intervention, mission or any action by the Alliance in Mali,” said a statement from Spain’s embassy.

The row blew up over remarks by Albares in an interview Thursday with Spain’s RNE radio. Asked if a NATO mission in Mali could be ruled out, Albares said: “No, we can’t rule it out.”

“It hasn’t been on the table at the talks in Madrid because this is a summit that is laying out, so to speak, the framework for NATO action.”

“If it were necessary and if there was to be a threat to our security, of course it would be done,” he added.

Albares was speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit as it drew to a close in Madrid. Diop had told state broadcaster ORTM on Friday that Bamako had summoned the Spanish ambassador to lodge a strong protest over the remarks.

READ ALSO: Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

“These remarks are unacceptable, unfriendly, serious,” said Diop, because “they tend to encourage an aggression against an independent and sovereign country”.

“We have asked for explanations, a clarification of this position from the Spanish government,” he added.

At the Madrid summit, Spain pushed hard to prioritise the topic of the threat to NATO’s southern flank caused by the unrest in the Sahel — the vast territory stretching across the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert, incorporating countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Jihadist attacks there are pushing increasing numbers of people to flee north towards Europe, with Spain one of the main points of entry there.

READ ALSO: Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

At the summit, NATO acknowledged the alliance’s strategic interest in the Middle East, north Africa and the Sahel.

Mali has since 2012 been rocked by jihadist insurgencies. Violence began in the north and then spread to the centre and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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