Vox has risen towards becoming Spain’s third strongest political party over the past years. This relatively new populist, far-right party not only adopts similar behaviors to Former U.S president Donald Trump, but also encourages certain movements that are weakening the democratic system in Spain. The popularity of these movements act as powerful factors that increase the probability of the emergence of an authoritarian regime in Spain similar to Franco’s dictatorship in the late 30’s.
To this day, the legacy of Dictator Francisco Franco remains a crucial aspect of Spanish politics. Following Franco’s death in 1979, the country has long been considered to be reluctant to far-right populism that has become increasingly prominent across European countries. Moreover, scholar Omar Encarnación writes in The Spanish Exception, “Franco’s penchant for demagoguery, hyper-nationalism, and xenophobia makes any Spanish politician who even gestures toward these themes unacceptable to most voters.” However, with the rise of the Vox party, Spain’s resistance towards far-right politics has rapidly declined over the past years.
During the 2019 general elections, Vox became the third largest party in Spanish politics. It is no secret that Vox belongs to the radical right with nationalism being the driving force behind its campaign. In the economic spectrum, the party adopts a conservative agenda that promotes liberalism, reduced state intervention and cutbacks to social welfare. As mentioned, nativism is the main ideology of Vox, and as a consequence, creates problematic policies that can threaten the nation’s democracy. Their movement advocates for a zero tolerance policy for Catalan separatism, scorns for gender equality and embraces both the “Reconquista” of medieval Spain and the legacy of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.
This past October, Vox party leader Santiago Abascal, spoke to supporters during a rally in Madrid, Spain. In the rally, former US President Donald Trump established his support to this far-right party in a video in which he showed gratitude towards Santiago Abascal for the “great job” they do. He continues: “We have to make sure that we protect our borders and do lots of very good conservative things,” “Spain is a great country and we want to keep it a great country. So congratulations to Vox for so many great messages you get out to the people of Spain and the people of the world.”
Vox anti-immigrant, and homophobic attitudes threatens Spanish democracy and creates polarization amongst its citizens. Vox serves as a clear example of how a far-right political party drives affective polarization and threatens democratic unity. Overall, the party portrays itself as the sole protector of ordinary Spanish people’s interest with the promise of “making Spain great again.” Vox’s use of language is a combination of traditional reactionary tropes from Spanish National Catholicism with contemporary Trumpian elements with the use of phrases such as “Make Spain Great Again” or “Spain First” which make an indirect reference to making Spain go back to a regime similar or equal to Franco’s dictatorship (Rama et al, 2020).
Just like Trump, Vox is a real threat to the democratic system. An inevitable sign of democratic erosion is found when a politician or political party encourages violence, denies the legitimacy of opponents, and rejects the democratic rules of the game. In this context, for example, Vox has provoked confrontations by dehumanizing the rival, who are seen as enemies and a threat to the country’s well-being. Moreover, party leaders have manipulated data to exacerbate the hatred against minorities and migrants. This far-right party is part of the international wave that is creating extreme polarization that feeds social networks and spreads disinformation for the purpose of weakening the democratic system.The realization of this wave of democratic erosion is a good start for citizens to speak up for their rights and liberties. In such times, it is important for citizens to participate in elections, to inform themselves of the emergence of new policies that could impact their human rights and thus quality of life. Most importantly, citizens should pay attention to the quality and source of information they are receiving as social media can easily manipulate one’s point of view.
Divita, David. “Radical-Right Populism in Spain and the Strategy of Chronopolitics: Language in Society.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 20 May 2022, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/language-in-society/article/radicalright-populism-in-spain-and-the-strategy-of-chronopolitics/36C64A0DC2F0CF1D7A700FF957C9D599.
Rama, Jose, et al. “Who Are Vox, and Who Are Their Voters?” EUROPP, 6 Aug. 2020, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2020/07/30/who-are-vox-and-who-are-their-voters/.
Santana, Andrés. “The Radical Right Populist Vox and the End of Spain’s Exceptionalism.” The Loop, 18 June 2021, https://theloop.ecpr.eu/the-radical-right-populist-vox-and-the-end-of-spains-exceptionalism/.