Vox Is Unreliable Partner for Spanish Right

Every time the far right gets what it wants, it asks for something more.

Spanish Vox party leader Santiago Abascal gives a speech in Valencia, February 22, 2018
Spanish Vox party leader Santiago Abascal gives a speech in Valencia, February 22, 2018 (Vox España)

Spain’s far-right Vox is turning out to be an unreliable partner for the mainstream parties of the right.

  • In Andalusia, where Vox won legislative seats for the first time in December, the party agreed to support a minority government of the conservative People’s Party and liberal Citizens but then made additional demands, including money for a program about Spanish colonialism and cuts to a fund that provides redress to victims of the Franco dictatorship as well as to groups that help immigrants.
  • In the Madrid regional assembly, Vox has reneged on its support for the People’s Party’s Isabel Díaz Ayuso and is demanding additional concessions to bring the center-right to power.
  • In Murcia, Vox is refusing to support a center-right government unless the party is involved in drafting its policies.

At least they’re up front about it in Murcia. It’s not unreasonable for Vox to demand something in return for its support. Except that every time it gets what it wants, it asks for something more.

The People’s Party and Citizens have themselves to blame. They shifted to the right in an attempt to outflank Vox and ruled out deals with the center-left. That has given Vox, with less than 10 percent support nationally, disproportionate power. It knows the mainstream parties have no alternative.

Citizens

Even the liberal Citizens, who hold opposite views from Vox on everything from climate to the EU to gay and women’s rights, refuse to work with the Socialists. The reason: Socialist Party leader and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said he is willing to talk with the ruling separatist parties in Catalonia (talks the separatists have so far refused) and the Citizens are adamantly opposed to moves toward Catalan independence.

But they aren’t willing to form coalitions with Vox either for fear of losing centrist voters.

I argued here last month that the Citizens need to make up their minds: If their priority is to liberalize Spain, they should team up with the Socialists. If it is to prevent Catalan independence, they should deal with Vox, which is virulently anti-Catalan. Right now they’re trying to have it both ways and they’re losing voters to the left and the right.

People’s Party

The People’s Party, which suffered its worst general election defeat in April, is belatedly appealing to the center after lurching to the right on abortion (against), Catalan nationalism (against), control of Gibraltar (for) and immigration (against). It dismisses Vox as “ultra-right” and the Citizens as a “social democrat party disguised as a liberal group” — yet it’s still willing to work with both.

Support for the People’s Party has nevertheless gone up a few percentage points at the expense of the Citizens and Vox, so maybe the U-turn is working.

The biggest winner from all this remains Sánchez, whose Socialist Party is up from 29 percent in the last election to 30-32 percent in the polls.