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How 'Empty Spain' is now a political party

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How 'Empty Spain' is now a political party
A man holds a placard reading "SOS Rural" during a demonstration to protest against the lack of infrastructure in depopulated areas of Spain´s rural interior. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP

The rural depopulation of Spain's 'interior' has long been a socioeconomic and demographic problem, now the España Vaciada movement is making the move into politics and eyeing both regional and national elections in 2023.


The España Vaciada (Empty Spain) movement was born from a desire to combat depopulation in Spain's rural communities and rebalance a national development model that, they say, is unfair and allocates resources asymmetrically around Spain, favouring big cities and forgetting about small towns.

According to Spain's National Institute of Statistics (INE), 22 million Spaniards live in the 100 most populated municipalities in Spain. Incredibly, this means that around half of the total Spanish population is concentrated in 4 percent of the national territory.


According to the latest data available, the population density in Spain is 94 per km2 however, in places blighted by depopulation, such as the Castilla y León region, the index falls to just 26.1 people per km2.

More broadly, the Spanish population has increased significantly since 1975: growing from a country of 34.2 million people to over 47 million in 2022, according to INE data, but this growth has not been evenly spread around the country and millions have left the rural areas for big cities. 

Provinces such as Soria have seen their population plummet by over 23 percent in this period, and towns throughout more rural regions like Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Extremadura and Aragón are the parts of Spain where this depopulation is felt most severely. Over the decades more and more people (particularly young people) have headed to bigger towns and cities in search of better employment prospects.

As a result, a long-running deficit in public funding and infrastructure has slowly choked rural communities and driven up inequalities, says España Vaciada.

'Empty Spain'

España Vaciada originally formed as a protest group in 2019 and was born from localised groups such as Soria Ya! and Teruel Existe, which led a 50,000-person demonstration known as the 'Revolt of Empty Spain' in Madrid in March of that year and also stood in the 2019 elections.

In the 2022 regional elections in Castilla y León, an Empty Spain-Soria Ya platform won three percent of the vote but polled incredibly well in (you guessed it) Soria, winning three of five local representatives. Several localised parties and groups have since popped up around Spain over the years, and are now banding together to form a broader political federation.

READ ALSO: Spain’s far-right Vox party poised to enter Castilla y León government

With 2023 set to be a huge year of politics and elections in Spain, the group officially become a political party in November 2022 and has its eyes set on municipal, regional and even the general election at the end of the year, hoping to gain representatives, voice rural concerns and serve as a disruptor to the normal political process that transcends the traditional left-right divides of Spanish politics.


Political party

Grouping together various regional and municipal groups, the new España Vaciada party will serve as a federation of like-minded local parties hoping to reverse the rural depopulation trend. In a joint statement made at the launch at the end of last year, the newly-formed party explained that it "wants to be the voice of the empty territories in the administrations, providing alternatives and proposals to achieve a change in the development model".

The party's spokesman, Sergio Díez, said at the first conference, held in Teruel, that "all territories of the country are included in this movement with the intention of taking a leap into political action... we are going to embody a union that will federate the different territories and transmit hope to the residents of Empty Spain...[who will] really feel represented in the institutions, that they will not be forgotten and that their voices and requests can reach the different institutions". 

READ ALSO - GUIDE: Elections in Spain in 2023

With municipal and regional elections in May, España Vaciada is now in the process of putting together lists and candidates, hoping to make its mark, and is thought to include Teruel Existe, Soria ¡Ya!, Jaén Merece Más, and Cuenca Ahora under the broader 'Empty Spain' banner, with other groups in Valladolid, Huesca, Zaragoza, Burgos, Palencia, Salamanca, and La Rioja also reportedly interested in joining the federation and adding to the electoral push.

At the party's launch, spokesmen and women were even talking of eventually forming a parliamentary group in the Spanish Congress, something that is perhaps optimistic for this year's election (likely to be at the end of 2023) but suited to its localised cooperative structure.


So, what do they actually want to achieve in the upcoming elections?

What do they stand for?

According to the party's official website: "Our motivation is to correct a development model, erroneous, unfair and asymmetrical, [that has been] implemented in Spain since the mid-1950s". 

This development and funding model, they say, 'extracts' from rural areas and "has been consolidated with the decisions and political strategies of recent decades". 

This has "resulted in the concentration of the population, development, services and opportunities in certain areas of the country while having forgotten and emptied other territories," España Vaciada says.

"People, regions and small and medium-sized cities which have been left behind, [and are] victims of disinterest" that are suffering "serious problems of depopulation, ageing, lack of opportunities, difficulties in accessing basic services," and a "lack of economic dynamism" that "threaten[s] their survival."

The party project, it says, is creating a better country for all in both "the rural environment and cities, which surpasses the model in which some territories are at the service of others. We want a new complementary and cooperative people/city relationship, positive and enriching that offers mutual benefits to the city and the rural environment," the website says.

Looking forward

España Vaciada is now formally registered as a political party and is expected to contest both municipal and regional elections in May. Party leaders talk too of targeting the national election at the end of the year, hoping to disrupt not only the PP and PSOE stronghold on Spanish politics but transcend its traditional left-right divide, putting rural concerns ahead of partisan politics.

Wherever and whichever elections it contests, España Vaciada will be fighting against Spain's slow-burning rural depopulation and aim to recalibrate its territorial imbalances.


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