Daily Management Review

Far-right and Catalonia: New elections in Spain


This spring, Spain is likely to get a pan-European fad: the ultra-right will get into the country's parliament thanks to the Catalan party. Although symbolic, it can be revenge of the Catalans for trying to imprison supporters of the independence of autonomy.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced holding of early elections this Friday. Thus, he ended the government’s attempt to get the budget approved for the 2019th year. The main financial document has long been heatedly debated. There are too many opinions in the parliament and the country, for which taxpayers' funds should be let in. This time, the Prime Minister found himself in a particularly difficult situation. According to the results of the 2016 elections, Spain received the most fragmented parliament in its history, where no one has a solid majority, or even a chance to form this majority.

The consequence of this was that the office of the formal winner of the elections, the People’s Party, fell after the very first serious corruption scandal. Sanchez became Prime Minister. And his Spanish Socialist Workers Party, which took second place in the elections, controls only 84 mandates out of 350. Therefore, one cannot do without allies. And Sanchez found them in the face of the Democratic European Catalan Party and the Left Republicans of Catalonia. To ensure their loyalty, Prime Minister and his team relied on money. Catalonia received the largest allocations from all autonomous regions in the draft budget. The calculation turned out to be erroneous. Catalans needed not money, but attention.

Simply put, Sanchez, instead of promising to overthrow Catalonia with money, should not forget about the old idea of the socialists - a constitutional reform that would transform Spain into a federal state. He could also loudly declare his disagreement with the process over the initiators of the referendum on the independence of autonomy, which was held in October 2017. However, nothing was done. Needless to say, the trial of the team of Carles Puigdemont (the former head of the Catalan government himself is hiding from Spanish justice abroad) did not begin at the right time for the head of the Spanish government. Bottom line: the socialists who returned power last year after a six-year hiatus are losing it and are unlikely to gain again.

According to polls, the new government is likely to be center-right, and the People’s Party will set the tone in the new parliament. And another surprise is expected for many Spaniards.

Of course, a lot that can change until April 28 (elections are scheduled for this date). In the meantime, sociologists forecast that the far-right Vox party will take the parliament, that is, will be able to play an important role in formation of the government. Such a forecast is supported by Vox’s confident performance in the Andalusian local elections in December last year (by the way, according to the draft budget, the region is the second of all autonomies is the recipient of public funds, after Catalonia).

As usual, such cases often appeal to the shadows of the past, for Spain forever damned and forgotten. The Republicans definitely won many years after the Civil War. Now everything that is connected, albeit very indirectly, with the legacy of the caudillo Franco in Spain, is perceived negatively. However, the genuine ideological "relatives" of the Vox are not Franks, but the right wing of the People's Party, from whose ranks the members of Vox have actually emerged. They can be compared with right-wing populist organizations, such as Alternative for Germany or the British Independence Party. These forces were able to gain certain popularity due to the fatigue of local voters from the "traditional" parties, which are often difficult to distinguish from each other. The ultra-right ones rose criticizing them and using conservative rhetoric. 

Such parties, if they come to power, are usually expected to do some terrible things. Practice shows, however, that the fears associated with the ultra, greatly exaggerated. If right-wing populists succeed in elections, the positive part of their agenda is to some extent borrowed by “systemic” parties. And they themselves noticeably change the rhetoric and, in general, no fateful events occur in the country. The democratic systems of modern Europe are inert, they are able to “digest” any troublemaker, no matter how radical it may seem. It is unlikely that Vox will be an exception.

source: lemonde.fr