Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Spain’s EU vote tainted by national topics amid warnings of far-right surge

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The European campaign in Spain has been driven by sensitive national issues: Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s ruling Socialists warn of the dangerous rise of the Spanish far-right, while opposition Partido Popular (EPP) attacks what it calls the Socialists’ “surrender” to the Catalan separatists.

According to a 2023 Eurobarometer, 83% of Spanish citizens feel “very European” and want more powers to the EU – 11 percentage points above the European average – but debates ahead of June’s EU elections hardly mention major European issues such as migration, agriculture, or security and peace.

Instead, they have been dominated by national topics.

Spain has seen extreme political polarisation between the two main blocs: The left wing, with Sánchez’s PSOE and its junior partner, the progressive platform Sumar, and the right-wing camp with the PP, and the far-right VOX, who govern together in several regions and city councils, though not always in perfect harmony. 

The EU, a launching pad for the PP to return to power 

The main campaign messages of the PP and its lead candidate, Dolors Montserrat, are trying to take advantage of the European elections as a launching pad for the party ahead of the next general election.

The right-wing party hopes that Sánchez will not be able to complete his term in office (which ends in 2027) and that early elections can be called if the Catalan separatists withdraw their vital support in parliament.

The PP and VOX are focusing a large part of their European campaign on attacking the controversial amnesty law passed on Thursday (30 May) by the Spanish parliament, which they consider unconstitutional.

In this context, the PP has launched a political offensive in Brussels against the law, for which it has the full support of Manfred Weber, the head of their European political family, the European People’s Party. 

Fresh poll data seem to endorse that strategy.

Most studies – except one – predict a PP victory, with between 22 and 23 seats (33.5% of the vote), followed by the PSOE, on 20-21 seats (31%), VOX with between five and six seats (8.9%), Sumar, with up to four 4 seats (6%), and the far-left Podemos, with one or two seats (3.9%).

Spain will have 61 seats in the next European Parliament, two more than at present. 

While the PP, which won the 23 July 2023 general snap elections but could not form a ruling majority, sees the EU elections as a step toward national governance, Sánchez and the PSOE highlight the risk of ‘ultra’ forces gaining strength, predicted by most polls.

‘Far-right international alliance’ 

VOX, the third party in the Spanish parliament, is part of the EU’s rising hard-right, together with all the forces of the European Conservatives and Reformists, their European Group,  and the ‘hawkish’ Identity and Democracy (ID) group, who pose a “serious danger” to the  EU, PSOE’s lead candidate, Teresa Ribera, has recently warned. 

To reinforce the message of the threat by the far right, Sánchez called on Spaniards on Saturday to vote for the PSOE and avoid the Europe of “Aznar, Feijóo, Ayuso, Netanyahu, Milei, and Meloni”. 

He referred to former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar (PP), the current PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso (PP), Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Argentina’s neoliberal populist President Javier Milei, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who also leads the ECR.   

Sumar wants to ‘send the PP and VOX to hell’ 

Sánchez described them as “the far-right international”, which must be urgently stopped at the ballot box. He also warned warning of possible alliances between the EPP and the ECR, as recently hinted by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who was in Spain this weekend to support the PP. 

Sumar, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz, is also waving the flag of fear of the ‘ultra’ forces in the European elections and using direct messages to attract voters. 

Last weekend, the party unfurled a large poster in a central street of Madrid:

“Send them to hell. Vote Sumar on 9 June. Enjoy your holidays,” it said. 

[Edited by Charles Szumski/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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