The Progressive Post

🇪🇸 Spain resists


Deputy spokesperson in Madrid City Hall and a regular panellist on numerous national media outlets

Spain resists the far-right wave that is sweeping Europe. This affirmation is firm as Spain is the only country of the nine most populated in the EU in which a far-right party is not either the first or second strongest in the European elections. Despite the aggressive campaign of the Conservatives and the far right, Spain responded in a pro-European and calm way. The Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) resists with the backing of Pedro Sánchez’s progressive leadership.

Even though 72 per cent of last year’s Spanish laws had their basis in European regulation, Spaniards continue to feel the European Union as a distant institution. This is likely one of the reasons that explain the low electoral participation, less than 50 per cent, considering the vote yesterday as second-order elections. Low-key profiles of the candidates were another crucial factor. Except for the socialist candidate Teresa Ribera, who is probably destined to become the Spanish designee for European Commissioner, and Irene Montero, former Equality minister and a very polarising figure from Podemos, the other candidates were rather less known.

The main opposition party, the People’s Party (PP) faced these elections with a national approach, aiming to turn the European elections into a plebiscite on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. An example was an electoral poster, showing an image of anti-government demonstrations. Most of their speeches, too, were entirely national-focused. Throughout the campaign, the People’s Party did not deliver a single proposal related to the European Union, as they just repeated messages questioning the Socialist government’s legitimacy and asking for snap elections. This behaviour highlights the difficulty Spanish opposition parties have in accepting the results of the past general elections and the right of the Spanish left to govern.

The second most important topic of this campaign was geopolitical, mainly due to Spain, Norway and Ireland’s recognition of the Palestinian state on 25 May and the role the EU should play in the war in Ukraine. The diplomatic crisis with the Argentinian government after President Jabier Milei directly accused Spanish Socialists of being ‘thieves’ was also significant, helping PSOE mobilise left-wing voters.

Meanwhile, the Socialist party had an ambitious programme full of pro-European proposals, aiming for deeper commitments in the fight against climate change, EU integration, cohesion and agriculture funds and the NextGenerationEU portfolio. Also, the Socialist party focused on the importance of democratic EU governance, emphatically asking not to negotiate with ECR and ID parties any top jobs at the European Council. Apart from the lack of proposals from the right wing, it was a tough campaign for the Socialists, impacted by lawfare. The judicial implication of Pedro Sánchez’s wife, Begoña Gomez, in an alleged corruption case with no basis and no proof, was a huge challenge. A significant part of the Spanish people understood this was a collision case between opposition right-wing parties and judges, where, for example, judge Juan Carlos Peinado dismissed the police report stating that there was no proof of any crimes committed, or Madrid regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s head of cabinet, who made the investigations against Gomez public three days before they were made official.

The campaign was also a debate between the idea of continuing to build a stronger Europe together, full of rights, and a far-right dominated European Union that threatens socioeconomic progress and European integration. PSOE started this campaign from a complex standpoint, but as the campaign evolved, the distance between PP and PSOE was significantly reduced. From a 15-percentage point lead in the polls, the PP launched an electoral ad warning about a tie three days before the election, thanks to the outstanding campaign of Teresa Ribera and Prime Minister Sánchez. With the results in our hands, the outcome was somewhat as expected: a very close result between the two main parties, PP (22 MEPs) and PSOE (20). Only nine MEPs out of 61 were elected for the far right.

The only surprise was the success of ‘Se Acabó la Fiesta’ (‘The Party is Over’), which secured three MEPs. This new party is funded by Alvise Pérez, a far-right agitator who became known for spreading misinformation on pseudo-media and social networks, Infowars and his style inspired by the US far-right commentator Tucker Carlson. Alvise’s fake news platform was financed by right-wing regional governments, and its publications were widely shared among VOX and PP supporters. Now that the movement has autonomy, it is seen as a danger by the other right-wing parties.

From this Spanish perspective, Europe saved a match ball, and Spain played a very important role in it. The far right has increased its presence in some countries in a very concerning way, but they should not be crucial in determining the future of Europe. Spain contributes with widely pro-European MEPs, bolstering the S&D group with a delegation of 18, almost equal to the Italian Partito Democratico, and Teresa Ribera as an outstanding climate champion. However, we still face enormous challenges, and from a European perspective, it would not be wise to ignore them. It is crucial for Social Democrats to build a strong response to face this populism, providing solutions that improve the Europeans’ life quality, focusing on important matters: housing, good jobs for everyone and fair salaries. Otherwise, next time, we will not be able to stop the wave, and it could become an unstoppable tsunami.

Photo Credits: Shutterstock/OscarGonzalezFuentes

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