A sad boost for Spain’s racists


THE body of Spain’s ruthless fascist dictator Francisco Franco was moved last month from the huge mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen where it has lain since 1975 to a humble family plot 50 kilometers away. Yet did the ghost of the man who had ruled his country with rod of iron for 35 years somehow leach from his coffin?

The general election this week, Spain’s fourth in as many years, saw the far right Vox party add a million new votes to its three million at April’s election. This makes it the third largest party in the Cortes, the parliament, doubling its seats from 24 to 52.

It is clear that Vox has become stronger thanks to its outright opposition to the independence demands from the Catalans. It has presented itself as a highly conservative party embracing family values while rejecting liberal fads over sexuality and political correctness. So far, so good. But far less acceptable is the underlying racist message that Vox has been busy peddling. It has capitalized shamelessly on concerns at the arrival of some 4.5 million migrants. As elsewhere in Europe, not all these arrivals from across the Mediterranean, have behaved with the respect and gratitude that should be expected towards a country that has given them shelter. But a relatively few examples of criminal activity have been seized on by the racists in Vox and blown out of all proportion.

The party has deliberately set out to create a climate of fear among ordinary decent voters, so that it can then present itself as one political group prepared to act and do something about a migrant issue. This, though difficult, is not the deadly problem Vox pretends. So will voters push back when they realize the wickedness of the jinn that they have released or does Vox genuinely reflect a rising corpus of intolerance and racism that could be gripping the country?

In June 2018, it seemed that Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new political star was going to blaze a trail in terms of blatant racist policies. It would be good to think that Italian voters who backed Salvini’s Northern League are now hanging their heads in shame. Unfortunately Salvini lost power this September not at the ballot box but because of the political miscalculation that no other coalition could be formed after he fell out with his own coalition partners, the Five Star League.

It must be that Vox, like France’s National Rally (formerly National Front), Germany’s Alternative for Germany and other racist parties in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Hungary, drew deplorable inspiration from Salvini’s disgusting treatment of Italy’s desperate migrant arrivals. But the eclipse of this rabble-rouser may demonstrate that these hate-filled politicians are likely to enjoy only a brief time in the sun.

Spain once again has a hung parliament. The socialists are still the largest party but they will need to find coalition partners. An alliance with Vox is out of the question. The center-right Populist party, from whose supporters it seems many fresh Vox votes came, is no more likely to do a deal. Thus Spain seems doomed to further political instability, not least because it can be certain that xenophobic Vox legislators will do all that they can to hijack the issue of illegal migrants.