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VOX: 10 things you need to know about Spain's far-right party

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VOX: 10 things you need to know about Spain's far-right party
Supporters of far-right party Vox wave Spain's national flags and flares as they gather during an anti-government protest in Madrid. Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP.

With the far-right party looming over the upcoming Spanish elections, you're going to be hearing a lot about Vox if you live in Spain. Here are ten key points you should know to better understand this divisive party.


On July 23rd, Spaniards will head to the polls to decide the future of the country. For many, this is a Sanchismo o fascismo election (the politics of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez or fascism).

READ ALSO: What a Vox government could mean for foreigners in Spain

Vox, Spain's far-right party, has been generating a lot of attention in recent weeks. Not only due to their extremist stances on topics as varied as immigration and Islam to LGBT flags and gun control, but because following Spain's local and regional elections in May, the far-right party entered into local and regional governments across the country.

The polls suggest this is also the likely outcome at the national level. Most polling companies put the PP ahead of Sánchez's Socialists (PSOE) but without an overall majority, meaning they will need to turn rightward and rely on the support of Vox to govern. This, in a country that many thought was immune to far-right politics due to its recent dictatorial history.

READ ALSO: Far right takes share of power in third region in Spain

But what is Vox? How was the party formed? What are its policies and what controversies define the far-right movement?



Vox's creation

Vox was founded in 2013 after a split from the Partido Popular (PP) by former members who felt the centre-right party was no longer conservative enough, particularly on the issue of regional autonomy and parts of Spain with separatist movements such as Catalonia and the Basque Country. High unemployment rates at the time, as well as ongoing corruption scandals, also played a role in the split, and created a general sense of disenchantment with Spain's two traditional parties that Vox hoped to capitalise on.

The 2017 Catalan crisis put Vox on the map

Vox ran in elections in 2015 and 2016 but performed very poorly, winning less than 0.5 percent of the vote. After Catalonian secessionists declared independence in 2017, however, Vox membership grew by 20 percent in a little over a month and gave the party the early momentum it needed to win a foothold in Spanish politics, first winning seats in regional elections in Andalusia in 2018 and then shocking the country by going on to win 15 percent of the vote and 52 seats in the second general election of November 2019.

Supporters of Spanish far-right Vox party make fascist salutes during a rally in Barcelona amid a counter demonstration organised by pro-Catalan independence supporters on December 6, 2020. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Vox is Spain's first far-right party since Franco

Once firmly established as a political force in 2019, it became clear that the idea that Spain was immune to far-right politics had been wrong. Though the PP was always a very broad church and at times home to some rather right-wing politics over the years, Vox's policies, and in particular, some of its followers, made it known that this was the first genuinely, unashamedly far-right movement in Spain since the days of the Franco regime.


It has openly fascist leaders

When terms like fascist, communist and Nazi are regularly thrown around as political insults, words can lose their meaning. But when it comes to Vox, the word fascist certainly seems appropriate for some of their members. Take, for example, Vox's newly elected Minister of Culture in Valencia, a former bullfighter named Vicente Barrera, who posted on social media that "right-wing politicians should cure themselves of the anti-Franco complex" and that "the political class of Francoism was brilliant and surely the most educated and prepared we have had in centuries."

It's currently Spain’s third main party

Following its breakthrough onto the national political scene in 2019, Vox has solidified itself as Spain's third political party after PSOE and PP. Following the electoral death of Unidas Podemos (a far-left party that also emerged in the 2010s as a challenge to Spain's traditional two party system), Vox's position as political kingmakers is now a firmly held one.


Abascal is their leader

Vox is led by Santiago Abascal, a Bilbao born politician who descends from a long line of right-wing politicians. He has the air of a quintessential Spanish macho: stocky with a pointy conquistador beard, usually dresses in military green, likes horse-riding and bullfighting, supports Real Madrid, the whole nationalist package. His father was a PP politician, and his grandfather a pro-Franco mayor during the dictatorship. Due to their political careers, the Abascal family was threatened by Basque separatist terror group ETA and Abascal himself has a pistol licence.

Spanish far right leader of Vox party Santiago Abascal gestures as he delivers a speech during an electoral meeting in June. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)


Buddies in Europe

Vox also has representatives in the European Parliament, where it is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party group along with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's far-right Brothers of Italy. Abascal has previously declared himself a fan of Italy's Matteo Salvini, Hungary's Viktor Orban and France's Marine Le Pen. 

Plenty of controversies

The list of Vox controversies over the years is long and varied, whether it be openly homophobic, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, or sexist comments, or the Franco apologism and nostalgia for dictatorship. If we take the recent election results alone there are a few: the Vox candidate for regional president in Valencia was jailed in 2002 for gender violence, in one village the first thing the newly elected Vox government did was remove all LGBT flags from public buildings, and in Madrid Vox put up a huge banner showing symbols representing feminism, communism and the Catalan independence flag among others being thrown in the trash.

Vox's controversial 'Decide what matters' banner has now been taken down after a court ruling. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Their policies in a nutshell

Vox is a nationalist, Catholic, socially conservative, law and order party that is anti-immigration, anti-Islam, anti-regionalist, anti-gay marriage, and anti-feminist. Abascal has pledged to 'reconquer' Spain, expel all illegal immigrants, build a wall between Ceuta and Melilla (Spain's North African territories) and Morocco, and prevent schools from teaching children about LGBT.

Vox in government?

If the recent local and regional elections and pre-election polls are anything to go by, it seems likely that Vox could be the junior coalition partner in a national government by the end of the summer. 


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