Stratfor has long identified the rise of nationalist political parties as one of the main threats to Europe's federalist project. Spain remained largely unaffected by this phenomenon over the last decade as it took hold in the European Union. However, a regional election in Andalusia suggests Spain's far-right is catching up to its counterparts in France, Italy and Germany.
Spain has managed to remain immune to the rise of nationalist parties across Europe for decades. However, that immunity came to an end Dec. 2, when the anti-immigration Vox party secured a spot in a Spanish regional parliament for the first time by winning almost 11 percent of the vote. Having earned 12 seats in Andalusia's regional parliament, Vox will now be the fifth-largest party in the lawmaking body behind the center-left Socialist Party with 33 seats, the center-right Popular Party with 26 seats, the centrist Ciudadanos party with 21 seats and the left-wing Forward Andalusia with 17 seats. Considering how fragmented the new Andalusian parliament is, Vox could play kingmaker in appointing the next regional government. Moreover, the election in Spain's most populous region was widely seen as a preview of the next general election, which could happen well before the current government's term ends in 2020.
Vox's success in the Andalusian election was primarily the result of rising Catalan separatism and increasing immigration. Vox is highly critical of Catalan nationalism and wants Spain to shift away from its system of autonomous regions and toward a centralized state. To that end, Vox wants the central government to regain full control over policy on education, healthcare and policing, which are currently directed by regional governments. Moreover, Vox has promised to reduce immigration, increase deportations of irregular migrants and crack down on the nongovernmental organizations that help people reach Spain by sea. According to the United Nations, Spain is currently the main entry point for migrants coming to the European Union by sea, with almost 60,000 arrivals since January.
Vox is also critical of the European Union's federalist project and defends a more intergovernmental structure that protects the sovereignty of member states. In addition, Vox has criticized the Schengen Agreement that eliminates border controls within Europe. However, Vox is somewhat different from like-minded parties such as France's National Rally (formerly the National Front) or the Dutch Party of Freedom because criticizing the Eurozone and threatening to leave the European Union are not priority policy issues for the domestically-focused Spanish party. Still, should Vox's popularity increase, it will probably need to take more definitive positions on these issues.
Why It Matters
Vox's electoral success has made it impossible for the center-left forces of the Socialist Party and Forward Andalusia or the center-right Popular Party and Ciudadanos to reach a majority. Because of this, Vox will be a key player in appointing the next Andalusian government. And after Spain holds elections for the European Parliament in May, Vox could appoint representatives to the body for the first time ever. Vox could also gain more power if Spain's minority government chooses to hold early elections in 2019.
Opinion polls put Vox's popularity at between two and four percent at the national level, which is low compared to mainstream parties. Still, political fragmentation could give Vox a seat in Madrid for the first time ever. And if the party continues to rise, its successes will pressure the country's other political parties — particularly those in the center and center-right — to take harder stances on issues such as Catalonia and immigration. Germany, France and Italy — the Eurozone's three largest economies — already have strong Euroskeptic parties, and Vox's potential consolidation in Spain could cause the bloc's fourth-largest economy to move away from its traditional support of Continental integration and toward skepticism of EU federalism.