Far Right in Time and Space

The end of Spanish ‘exceptionalism’: The rise of Vox in Spain.

Ever since Francisco Franco died in 1975, Spain has never seen a right-wing party gain the electoral success Vox did in 2018. They obtained a total of 11% of votes cast, gaining 12 seats in Andalucia’s regional elections. Thus, bringing an end to Spain’s exceptionalism status after more than four decades. This was accelerated in 2019 when Vox broke into the congress of deputies securing 10.26% of the general election vote.

One can only wonder how Spain’s right-wing electorate is so strong considering its not so distant past under Franco’s dictatorship. Has Spain forgotten what it was like under his control, or has the rise of Vox got nothing to do with Franco at all?. This sparks the question: what truly does explain the rise of Vox?. Is it the rise of Francoist sympathisers into the Spanish electorate?. Unlikely, it can be better explained through other reasons that currently exist within Spain’s political socio climate. These topics consist of splintering from PP, the immigration crisis and the Catalunya crisis.

Splintering from the Partido Popular

The Partido Popular (PP) had largely been one of the most successful political parties since the death of Franco. They provided a voice for right-wing voices, governing the past 12 of 20 years. However, internal dilemmas that existed within the party allowed Vox to splinter from the party and find traction within the Spanish electorate. Vox had appeared as an alternative for unconvinced PP voters who felt the party should have been doing more regarding Catalunya’s independence rise, whilst alienating their voters through corruption scandals .   

One can make the case that if PP had not been so ambiguous with its Catalunya messaging, I would not be writing this text at all. Yes, PP wanted the best of both worlds, they wanted to maintain their anti-independence electorate whilst also attracting voters that were on the fence between voting for them and Ciudadanos.  

Protestors waving flags in Barcelona to call for independence.

Why is Catalunya so important for Vox?

The Catalunya crisis is arguably the primary factor for the rise of Vox. The rising demand for increased autonomy has equally triggered strong demands for recentralisation. Thus, Vox has been able to capitalise on this sentiment garnering national support. Vox had made the ‘Catalan issues’ its focal point within its political agenda which was especially prevalent for its 2019 election success. 

The majority of the academic community conferred that the crisis was the primary component that triggered the immense amount of support for Vox. I too agree with this claim. As long as regional autonomy maintains to be a salient issue in Spanish politics Vox will likely remain as a political wildcard.   

How can immigration explain Vox’s ascent?   

The success of Vox in their Andalusian regional election can partly be explained by the rise in immigration. It is not difficult to see if they have taken a headline stance on this issue, consistently calling for the deportation of migrants. 

Nevertheless, Vox has struggled to gain traction on this issue on a statewide level. Where there are strong regional identities, support for strong stances on immigration greatly diminished. Thus, making it difficult to frame immigration as a salient issue. This partly explains why Vox did so well in Andalucia. In an El País survey, 40% of Vox voters mentioned immigration as a primary reason for voting Vox in the regional election.

Can Vox be considered fascist?

In recent years it has almost become a trend to call any right wing party fascist. Using terms as such can become divisive and simply not representative of the party in question. Therefore, it is necessary to understand whether or not Vox is actually fascist. Previous blog posts have briefly touched upon this idea in question. The blog makes the case that fascism could merely be a form of new populism. Vox would certainly agree to this conclusion, dismissing any claims of fascist connections. However, the academic community would disagree. 


The academic community defines Vox as an ‘archetypal populist radical right party’ if we are to apply Cas Mudde’s criteria. He includes characteristics such as a combination of nativism and authoritarianism. Such conclusions about right wing parties in modern Europe can also be traced to the north of the continent. An example of this can be found in Sweden’s Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats). There has also been consensus amongst the Swedish scientist communities that they too can be considered fascist, or at least far right with both parties invoking a sense of nativism that resembles a fascist ideology.

I also agree with the academic consensus, Vox has been able to re-awaken a nationalist sentiment that has long been dormant since the reign of Franco. Now, whether Vox can be clarified as fascist warrants more research, a matter of time and the chance of governance. Nevertheless, the continuous rise of Vox as discussed earlier depends on how strong demands for regional autonomy will proceed. Vox has been one of the latest editions to far-right parties in Europe. However, whether they wish to maintain a political powerhouse compared to the likes of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally will depend on how well they can attract voters on issues that don’t revolve around Catalunya.


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14 thoughts on “The end of Spanish ‘exceptionalism’: The rise of Vox in Spain.

  1. firstly, we want to compliment you on the title: we liked it a lot! However, we’d suggest either you remove the single quotation marks or you explain more in detail what you mean by exceptionalism, maybe in the introduction. Don’t forget to add more hyperlinks and another picture!

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment, I appreciate you liked the title. Now that you mentioned it, elaborating on ‘exceptionalism’ would be a good idea. I think I might include a small paragraph on it in the introduction.

      1. Yes, please do! We’d love to read it. We’re glad our feedback was useful and we can’t wait to see how the final version comes out.

  2. Hi Cian,
    We think your post does not only raise important questions but also delivers crucial answers! In this regard, we specifically enjoyed the last section of the post as you refer to the contested debate about ‘far-right terminology’ while linking your case to a similar example from your group. We would be interested in your personal stance within this debate? Would you agree with the academic community that Mudde’s criteria applies to Vox?

    1. Hi Kilian, thanks for the comment. Yes, for the most part I do agree with Muddes description criteria for Vox. I especially agree with how Vox is able to invoke a sense of nativism that parallels Donald’s Trump’s America first stance. The party can be defined as radical but not yet extreme. They do comply for the most part with democratic principles as of yet. However, this could change if their growth continues. Thus, I am not as confident calling them authoritarian.

      I have just read your post on the AfD and I was wondering if you think there are similarities between the parties when applying Cas muddles criteria?. I am quite interested in learning cross differences between far right parties across Europe.

  3. Thanks for your quick response!
    The question you raised regarding parallels between the positioning of Vox and the AfD within the field of far-right parties is, indeed, interesting! We definitely see an overlap in respect of nativism. Here, the AfD especially crystallises through an emphasis on socio-cultural policies and rhetoric affected by nativism. The latter can also be used as an example of the authoritarian traits of the AfD. Particularly the AfD-grouping the ‘Flügel’ (Wing) around Björn Höcke continuously works with linguistic devices primarily coined by National Socialists. This video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqzXnUNMej4 ) can serve as an example as a German AfD parliamentarian is criticising a “flood” of migrants while promoting an increase of the “birthrate of Germans”.

    1. Hi Kilian,
      After watching the video it is quite clear Vox and the AfD do share similarities on the subject of immigration.

      Both parties claim that immigration would not prove beneficial In terms of the job market whilst putting pressure on the welfare state.
      The rhetoric used is strikingly similar. Where the AfD claim immigrants would not be able to support ageing generations, Vox claim that immigration would threaten the Catholic tradition.

      The video was very much appreciated.

  4. Congratulations on this post! We know that researching about Vox is extremely difficult due to the lack of information and we believe that you have done a really good job. However, we have some subjections for you. As you talk at the beginning of Franco, we think that you could more explicitly explain the ideas of their ideology that lead people to associate Vox with him. Moreover, we believe that as you mention the migration crisis and the events happened in Catalunya, w you could elaborate a bit more on them in order to explain how they affected the rise of this political party. We would also like to know you opinion about the topic. What do you think that has been the main cause for its rise? DO you consider that this party should be refer as fascist or not? We hope that this comment will be helpful to improve the post!

    1. Hi, thanks for all the suggestions, they are very much appreciated.

      I do plan on including more about how Vox rose, this will include the migration crisis and what has happened in Catalunya just after the section on the PP.
      I also plan on incorporating my own opinion towards the end about their rise.

      Thank you for the comment, hope you enjoy reading when its finished.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this. I thought that the headers helped a lot in splitting the various factors. However I think that in your claim “The majority of the academic community” you could try linking a literature review or an academic source which discusses current debates? I think that the beginning of the blog is also very eye catching since it states a very strong assertion. I also think like someone mentioned before that maybe you could go into more detail about Franco and the connection? If there is any connection?

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. I appreciate that you enjoyed the beginning of the blog .Yes, I do think it could be a good idea to include a reference where you mentioned. I will look into revising that soon. In terms of Franco I will also try if I can go into more detail In that aspect.

      If you have anymore questions or comments feel free to leave a comment.
      I hope you enjoy the revised version when its finished.

  6. Very insightful post about this vital shift in Spanish political affairs! You certainly leave the reader with a better understanding of the rise of Vox from an academic perspective (however, be wary of addressing the academic community as a whole). The title is attention-grabbing and the blog entry does not disappoint. What you could do to further improve your work is to include non-academic sources to back up your findings.

    You investigate how the (alleged) external threat of immigration as a push towards voting for Vox resulted positively for the far-right party in the Andalucian regional elections. However, Vox has gradually made its way into the governance of the capital region, Madrid. Take a look at this article https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2021/05/05/madrids-regional-election-how-we-got-here-what-happened-and-why-it-matters/ and please, let us know your opinion on this development.

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment and linking the article.

      I completely agree with the article, on top of this the authors in question are experienced in this field and have published multiple times on the topic.

      The political manoeuvring by Ayuso to call a snap election after what transpired in Murcia definitely help their case. Moreover, the ability to capture the anti-lockdown sentiment was also logical. Many voters in Madrid had long been against the very stringent Covid-19 policies, that Ayuso would claim to get rid of by keeping bars and the economy open have a look at this article https://www.dw.com/en/spain-right-wing-wins-big-in-madrid-regional-election/a-57419727.

      On top of this, Iglesias attempting to make the election about (democracy or fascism) was not the right political move considering how strong PP has long been in Madrid. If you have any other questions please don’t be afraid to ask.

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