Spain’s far-right party Vox holds the key to the formation of a right-wing government in the southern region of Andalusia, but is proving to be a tough partner for Spain’s mainstream conservative parties.
Vox this week said it would not back a coalition government in Andalusia made up of the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos unless the two parties agree to end funding for measures to fight domestic violence.
Formed in December 2013 by former PP members, Vox last month won a surprise 12 seats in Andalusia’s regional elections after campaigning on a nationalist, anti-feminist agenda and polls show it could play a crucial role in national politics after the next polls.
It was the first time that a far-right party has won representation in a Spanish regional parliament since the country returned to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
The election outcome appeared to set up the end of 36 years of Socialist rule in Spain’s most populous region, but the PP and Ciudadanos together only have 47 seats in Andalusia’s 109-seat regional parliament.
Without the support of Vox they would not be able to form a government.
Vox’s national leader, Santiago Abascal, said that his party wants to “replace ideological gender laws, which do not protect women and persecute men just for being men.”
The party’s demand for domestic violence legislation to be overturned sparked outrage in Spain, where the fight against violence against women has been a national priority for years and where a resurgent feminist movement last year organized a massive strike in favor of gender equality.
“This is not debatable, we will not retreat,” Spain’s Socialist Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo tweeted. “There is a violence and a contempt which is specifically aimed at women and girls around the world, it is called male chauvinism and patriarchy. Nobody can hide this reality.”
The national leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, said “one should not politicize domestic violence.”
“On this issues we all have to row in the same direction,” he added.
However, his party partially ceded to Vox’s demands on Friday by proposing that state aid to male victims of domestic violence be increased.
“It seems to us to be a good start,” said Abascal, who still wants the PP and Ciudadanos to sit at the negotiating table with Vox.
The issue is especially tricky for Ciudadanos, which fears losing its more centrist credentials as well as its support in Europe by associating itself with a far-right party ahead of elections to the European Parliament in May.
Spain has up until now been immune to populist, nationalist right-wing politics which have gained ground in Italy, France and other European countries.
However, Vox has surged in the polls over the past year, buoyed by its tough opposition to Catalonia’s separatist push and rising migrant arrivals.
The party defends bullfights, calls for separatist parties to be banned and wants an “impassable wall” to be built around Ceuta and Melilla, two tiny Spanish territories in North Affrica that have the EU’s only land borders with Africa.
It also wants the national health service to cease paying for abortions and an end to “subsidized radical feminist associations.”
Vox would capture 12.9 percent of the vote if a national election were held now, entering the national parliament with 43 to 45 seats, according to a poll published on Wednesday in center-right daily El Mundo.
If the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox joined forces they would have an absolute majority in the 350-seat parliament of as much as 189 seats, according to the poll.
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