The city of Parla, south of Madrid, is a traditional left wing stronghold. Vox champions national unity while promising to halt illegal immigration and political corruption. Here that message struck a chord.
On November 10th, Vox, Spain's brash newcomer on the political scene, celebrated its parliamentary-elections breakthrough.
"We are the third largest political force in the country, we have 52 deputies!" Santiago Abascal told his cheering supporters.
The Community of Madrid is a new Vox stronghold
Often described as the latest member of Europe's far right club - Vox came out of the shadows after its success in regional elections in Andalusia, only a year ago. This time some of its best results came in the Community of Madrid.
The city of Parla, south of the capital, is a traditional left wing stronghold. Vox champions national unity while promising to halt illegal immigration and political corruption. Here that message struck a chord.
The local leader of the party is a former far-left trade unionist.
Miguel Aguilera now says 36 years of socialist and communist power in Parla brought the local economy to its knees.
In some neighbourhoods many homes have become squats
Vox won up to 30 percent of the vote in neighborhoods where many homes have been turned into squats.
Repossessed by banks during the financial crisis, the homes have now become prey for organised crime.
“Here you can see the entrance to the garage, which has no door, it was torn off,” says Miguel showing us around a residential area. “The gate is open, and here they even sell the flats. Which means that if you come with enough money, someone lets you in, and opens you the door to an apartment. And all these places here have all been squatted.”
It’s a situation that Vox wants to address - and one of the reasons that people in Parla like Kai Oliver Pohlschneider voted for the party.
A former supporter of the Popular Party, Spain's main conservative party, now he sometimes gives a helping hand to Vox's local team. His own building was recently squatted.
“It's a luxury building, and here we’ve already had a first squatter settling in,” says Kai. “I paid €300 000 for my flat and I came to live here because it's supposed to be one of the best neighborhoods in the city. But now our apartment is losing value.”
“Most squatters are illegal immigrants, immigrants who come here illegally, without work, without papers, needing a place to live in,” says Miguel. “And they end up committing this type of crime. We’re not against immigration! We’re against illegal and uncontrolled immigration.”, adds Miguel Aguilera.
Safety on the streets is a worry for many
Kai and his wife left Madrid a few years ago in search of a better quality of life in Parla, where they’re bringing up their two children. It’s a project they say has been spoiled by growing insecurity.
“Right now people are afraid to go out in the street after ten at night, because it’s become the Bronx,” he says. “All you see at night is crime, drug trafficking and mafias. That's why we started voting for Vox: because we want solutions. We need to use a bit more force.”
“I had never voted before,'' says Parla resident Eva Maria Saura Fernández. “Because I was really disenchanted with the ideas of the other parties and most of all because, most of the time, they didn’t do what they said they’d do.”
Driven by the winds of nationalism
On average, Vox won over more than one in five voters in Madrid.
A result driven by the winds of nationalism - triggered by Catalonia’s claims for independence.
In Salamanca, one of Madrid's most exclusive neighborhoods, there are Vox supporters too.
A member of the Spanish nobility, Blanca Carrillo de Albornoz is an entrepreneur. Disillusioned by the Popular Party, she’s now counting on Vox to defend values she says are under threat.
What won her over was the party's nationalist creed and its willingness to change Spain's system of regional autonomy. She also likes its plans to reform the law on violence against women and that condemning Francoism.
“Here nationalist feelings are non-existent!” says Bianca. “People are ashamed to lift their flag. It’s something I can't understand. Spain must be one nation!
“One of the big problems we have in Spain, is our system of regional autonomies. We’ve got to change it! We can't have 17 different parliaments, 17 different TV channels, 17 of everything. You know why? Because it will simply make us bankrupt!
“The other thing that concerns me is gender ideology. Vox wants equality between men and women. What Vox doesn't want, is that for the same crime, sentences aren’t the same for men and women!
“It really upsets me, that when people know you’re with Vox and voting for Vox, they look at you and call you far-right!
“We’re a democratic party, we are a party with certain values. I am against abortion of course. Such values are not in fashion today. If this is being far-right, then ok, we are far-right because there's no-one to the right of us.”
Young activists seek national renewal
These values are also dear to younger Vox supporters. They were key to the party's success in the last election.
Jaime Fernandez is part of the Vox youth branch team in charge of social networking.
“I found out about Vox on social media,” he says. “And I think it's a very important tool for getting our message out: straight from the source to the reader, without having to go through other people, who might misinterpret what we say.”
For young activists the Nation, family, and tradition, are central to their commitment. But Vox they say, is above all the party of renewal for Spain.
“I believe we represent true freedom,” says student Alvaro Perez. “I would like to see a Spain of freedom, equality, and unity. These are the three things I would like to have, and most of all, prosperity.”
“And also a Spain where the family is central,” adds Jaime. “Because with the model that we have now which burdens families with taxes, by the time I'm 65 or 70, pensions will be a thing of the past.”
“What I want now that Vox has made it politically and is here to stay,” says student Alejandro Gozalo. “Is for it to invest in the Spanish people, to invest in the things we really need.”