Right-wing extremism in Spain: An approaching breakthrough?

Spain is one of the few European countries which in recent decades hasn’t experienced the emergence of a successful “new extreme right” party into its political system. However, Spanish society and its party system are experiencing a series of rapid changes that could be opening a political space for these kinds of parties.

In the last ten years, immigration has become a major social issue and part of the population expresses strong opposition to the presence of foreigners. At the same time, the erosion of mainstream political parties has been extremely intense in the last five years. In this context, a new extreme right political party – Platform for Catalonia (PxC) – has had increasingly good electoral results and has received great media attention. The party almost entered the Catalan parliament in 2010 and achieved a major success in the 2011 local elections. In this sense, there is a widespread belief that the party has very good chances of entering the Catalan parliament at elections to be held in 2014.

The importance of Platform for Catalonia must be understood not only in relation to its growing electoral strength, but also because it represents a rupture with – and a renovation of – the Spanish extreme right. The party avoids identifying itself with Franco’s legacy and with the ultranationalist discourses that are related to it. Also, in a very similar way to the ‘new’ extreme right in Europe, the party has dropped a “racialist” discourse on immigration and highlighted its opposition to the “Islamic cultural invasion”. At the same time, the party has embraced an anti-establishment discourse that does not openly question “liberal democracy”. Similar to the British National Party (BNP), the party has developed an electoral strategy that is based on strong local campaigns. This is allowing the PxC to gain votes and political power in certain municipalities and, progressively, extend its presence and electoral appeal to other areas.

Platform for Catalonia is increasingly having a broader impact on the whole Spanish political landscape. On one hand, other extreme right parties are trying to adopt its “innovative” political offer and electoral strategy. On the other hand, it has recently created a state-wide political party – Platform for Liberty – that is rapidly reaching other Spanish regions. It must also be mentioned that the party has been able to introduce itself into the European network of successful extreme right parties. Besides having contacts with parties such as the BNP and Italian Lega Nord, it has a stable and institutional collaboration with the Flemish Vlaams Belang and the Austrian Freedom Party. These two parties are assessing PxC on its electoral strategies and have been said to have funded part of its electoral campaigns. According to party sources, the main objective of this collaboration would be the possibility that PxC presents a state-wide list of candidates at the fast-approaching 2014 European elections. In this sense, the Catalan and European elections in 2014 will be a decisive moment in the evolution of the extreme right in Spain.

Aitor Hernandez-Carr

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