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The rise of Spain's far right hits politics


The radical right is solidifying its foothold in Spain. The far-right Vox party is poised to hold political power for the first time. It'd be in just one region of Spain and not on a national level. Nevertheless, Vox's rise has upended the country's ruling conservative party, and it has people wondering what it portends for the country's general election next year.

To help explain is Maria Ramirez, deputy managing editor of elDiario.es, an online Spanish newspaper. Welcome.

MARIA RAMIREZ: Thanks for having me.

NADWORNY: So tell us about Vox. What do they stand for?

RAMIREZ: Well, Vox is a party - more conservative than the mainstream conservative party in Spain. And they are mainly more radical on issues like immigration and gender equality, asking for more restrictions on immigration. And they are very much against any law that tries to push more gender equality or fights against domestic violence against women. That has been a very prominent issue in Spain. They are very aggressive towards journalists of any kind of mainstream media, and they are really going to places in Spain with a little bit of a show. So they they are a bit theatrical sometimes.

NADWORNY: This is a relatively new party, and it hasn't been around that long, just since 2013. Where did it come from? What's the history of the party?

RAMIREZ: Yes. For many years, Spain and Portugal were the Iberian Peninsula exception. In Europe, there weren't any far-right parties. And probably it's because of history, because extreme right dictatorships dominated both countries until the '70s. But in 2013, it was in the aftermath of the financial crisis. That was also very, very hard for Spain. And in the aftermath of the consultation in Catalonia regarding independence - that was also a very polarizing issue in Spain.

NADWORNY: And so Vox winning a dozen seats in a regional election in this more conservative area - you know, Spain is divided up into 17 regions. What does it mean? How big of a deal is it to win these seats? Does that mean there's going to be a coalition government?

RAMIREZ: It's actually a big deal because of this possibility that they may enter government for the first time. The first time that they fire a far-right party is in government in the history of democracy in Spain.

NADWORNY: How do you see this fitting into other populist movements in Europe? I mean, it sounds also familiar for folks here in the U.S., reminiscent of Trump-style populism.

RAMIREZ: Yeah, definitely. There was Make Spain Great Again and this kind of messaging. And they've been very aggressive on social networks, and they were also spreading misinformation. In terms of other movements in Europe, I would say they are definitely similar to Le Pen's movement in France, particularly because of the anti-immigrant messaging. Two thirds of the voters of this party are men and particularly men who are upset about some of the equality laws (unintelligible) in Spain, some of the feminism. And that's - that may be a peculiarity of this party, different than than other cases in Europe.

NADWORNY: How much does what happens in the Castile y Leone region foreshadow what could happen in Spain in the general election coming up in 2023?

RAMIREZ: Definitely everyone in Spain is looking very closely at what happens there, because if the conservatives are ready to just make Vox part of the government, the case of Castile y Leone maybe having a coalition of these two parties could be a precedent for Spain.

NADWORNY: That's Maria Ramirez, deputy managing editor of elDiario.es. Thank you so much for being with us.

RAMIREZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.