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Will Spain's Vox benefit from the rise of the extreme right in Europe?

Santiago Abascal, leader of far-right Vox Party, addresses supporters outside the party headquarters after the announcement of the general election first results, in Madrid.
Santiago Abascal, leader of far-right Vox Party, addresses supporters outside the party headquarters after the announcement of the general election first results, in Madrid. Copyright Andrea Comas/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Andrea Comas/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews
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Spain's far-right party lost more than 600,000 votes in the country's latest general election – but now it has a chance to turn things around this summer.

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This summer's European Parliament elections are a test for the radical right across the continent – but in Spain, the outcome could determine the future of the country's main far-right party, Vox.

Despite the rise of the far right throughout Europe, Vox haemorrhaged 600,000 votes in Spain's last general election, and the country's mainstream right-wingers are trying to keep up the pressure. 

In Madrid, members of Spain's longstanding conservative Popular Party (PP) are conducting a membership drive, calling on voters to join the "Ayuso Team."

The phrase refers to Isabel Díaz Ayuso, one of the PP's most popular leaders and President of the Community of Madrid. She won the presidency in the regional elections in 2019, in a campaign that made her the first conservative leader to curb Vox's rise.

Ayuso has managed to snatch thousands of votes from the far-right party by adopting such narratives as the defence of economic freedom, like Argentina's president, Javier Milei, and the defence of the unity of Spain in the face of regional separatism.

She has also waged a cultural battle against leftist parties, a strategy that caters to Vox's conservative target voters.

Isabel Diaz Ayuso.
Isabel Diaz Ayuso.Andrea Comas/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved

"I am convinced that the Vox voter has the same concerns and tastes as I do," said PP member Luis Monedero. "So if he wants his demands to be carried out, he should cast a strategic vote and really vote for the party that will take them and implement them in the European Parliament."

"President Ayuso has been fighting the battle of ideas from the very beginning, which are not necessarily right-wing ideas," explains PP member Ignacio Dancausa. "People have realised that the left has turned that exclusionary radical feminism into an industry, they have turned that absurd environmentalism into an industry as well."

Andrés Santana, Professor of Political Science at the Autonomous University of Madrid, told Euronews that "Vox will need more than just attracting disenchanted voters. They will have to show that their vote is really more attractive to those voters who once left the PP."

Supporters of far-right Vox party wearing Spanish flags over their shoulders stand outside the party headquarters in Madrid.
Supporters of far-right Vox party wearing Spanish flags over their shoulders stand outside the party headquarters in Madrid.Andrea Comas/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved

However, there is a gap between Ayuso's muscular discourse and the more moderate positions of the PP's national leader, Alberto Núñez Feijoo. The party faces a serious challenge as it tries to attract Vox voters without alienating centre-right voters.

And Vox has not had its last word. For one thing, the recent farmers' protests sweeping across Europe could boost the party in this summer's continent-wide elections.

It withstood the PP's onslaught in recent Basque regional elections – and however successful the PP's efforts to monopolise the mainstream vote, is expected that the party will at least improve on its showing in the 2019 European elections and finally consolidate itself as Spain's third political force.

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