The right and the extreme right at the gates of power in Spain

Spain’s legislative elections, the most important since the advent of democracy in that country, ended on Sunday evening, with polls over the past few days all predicting a right-wing victory that could see the far-right return to power for the first time since the end of Francoism.

The polling stations closed their doors at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. Montreal time) on the peninsula, with voting operations expected to last another hour on the Canary archipelago, at which time the first partial results will be known.

According to a poll made public by public television TVE, the Popular Party (PP, right) of Alberto Núñez Feijóo would win the election with between 145 and 150 seats, far from the absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies (176 out of 350) which would allow him to govern alone.

Three other polls carried out in recent days – the publication of which had been banned since Monday, but which AFP was able to consult – all gave the winning PP more or less largely, but without an absolute majority.

According to some of these polls, however, he would be able to achieve it by allying himself with Vox, a far-right party whose positions are close to those of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Turnout, which had jumped 2.5 points at midday, was down sharply at 6 p.m. (noon, Montreal time) at 53.12% against 56.85% during the last legislative elections of 2019, voters having rather mobilized in the morning due to the intense heat.

“Repercussions” across Europe

Mr Feijóo said after voting that he hoped Spain would “enter into a new era”.

This election is “very important […] for the world and for Europe”, estimated, for his part, the outgoing Prime Minister, the socialist Pedro Sánchez, in power for five years. The polls of the last few days credit the Socialist Party with 110 to 120 seats.

The poll is attracting unusual interest abroad due to the possible rise to power of an alliance between the mainstream right and the ultra-nationalist, ultra-conservative and europhobic Vox party, which rejects the existence of gender violence, criticizes “climate fanaticism” and is openly anti-LGBT and anti-abortion.

Such a scenario would mark the return to power of the far right in Spain for the first time since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975, almost half a century ago.

With the 2024 European elections approaching, the swing to the right of the fourth largest economy in the euro zone, after that of Italy last year, would constitute a stinging setback for the European left, all the more symbolic since Spain currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

In a column published Sunday in the French daily Le Monde, the former British Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown estimated that an entry of Vox into the government – synonymous, according to him, with “capitulation of the Spanish conservatives in the face of the extreme right” – would have “repercussions on the whole continent”.

If the PP wins without an absolute majority of seats, its only potential partner will be Vox, a party born in 2013 from a split in the PP, with which it already governs in three of the 17 regions of the country.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal has warned that the price of his support will be participation in government.

“Not ideal”

Mr. Feijóo, who described the PP as “a reformist centre-right party”, remained vague about his intentions until the end, admitting however on Friday that a coalition government with Vox “is not ideal”.

Given beaten after the rout of the left in local elections in May, which had convinced him to call this early poll, Mr. Sánchez, 51, has made Vox a scarecrow in order to play on the fear of the far right.

Denouncing “the tandem formed by the extreme right and the extreme right” and playing the European card, he considered that a PP / Vox coalition government “would not only be a setback for Spain” in terms of rights, “but also a serious setback for the European project”.

For him, the only alternative is to maintain in power the current left-wing coalition, set up in 2020, between his socialist party and the radical left, represented by the Communist Minister of Labor Yolanda Díaz.

“For people of my generation, these are the most important elections […] It’s the next decade that is at stake, ”warned Ms. Díaz on Sunday, whose Sumar formation brings together around fifteen parties.

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