Giorgia Meloni’s political earthquake is fueling Spain’s far-right ambitions – The Irish Times

During Spain’s four decades under Francisco Franco, regime propagandists promoted a myth that told how a light in the window of the dictator’s study in his El Pardo palace never went out. The image was meant to suggest that Franco never rested as he worked to implement his national-Catholic ideology, a variant of fascism.

This story was actually based on a visit by the leader of the far-right Spanish Falange party, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, to Italy, where he met Benito Mussolini and noted that, late at night, “only Il Duce remained at work, beside his lamp, in the corner of a huge empty room, watching over his people”.

Since then, it has been easy to draw myriad parallels between Spain and Italy. They have comparable populations (Italy 60 million, Spain 47 million) and economies of similar size that each rely heavily on services, especially tourism. Both were, along with Portugal and Greece, reluctant members of the unfortunately named “PIGS” nations whose high debt levels fanned the flames of the eurozone crisis more than a decade ago.

Since Giorgia Meloni’s victory in the Italian elections last Sunday, debate has raged in Spain over the political level of the two countries, with many wondering if Spain’s far-right Vox party can emulate its neighbours.

“I hope my victory will pave the way for Vox to triumph in Spain,” Meloni told Spanish news agency EFE following his victory.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal responded to the Italian result saying: “Meloni has shown the way to a Europe that is proud, free and of sovereign nations, able to cooperate for the security and prosperity of all.”

Vox has undoubtedly benefited from the political earthquake in Italy, given the ideological ground that Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party shares with its Spanish counterparts. Clues to those similarities were in the speech Meloni gave in the Spanish city of Marbella in June, when she flew in to campaign on behalf of Vox ahead of Andalusia’s regional elections.

“They will say that you are dangerous, that you are extremists, racists, fascists, Holocaust deniers, homophobes,” she told the Vox rally. “They will say that you are despicable, that you have no leaders capable of governing, that there is no point in voting for you because you will not win anyway.”

Vox’s aggressive line against immigration — its calls for the repatriation of illegal migrants echoing Meloni’s demands that the Navy turn back those who reach Italian shores — has indeed led it to face such charges. Her hostility to LGBT organizations and feminism has aggravated these criticisms. But the widespread belief that Vox “won’t win anyway” is perhaps where the differences between the Italy Brothers and Vox become apparent.

Although Vox made substantial gains in the last election, in 2019, becoming the third largest presence in parliament, it currently lags far behind the conservative People’s Party (PP) and the ruling Socialists in the polls. Despite the arrival of several new parties in Spain over the past decade – Vox, Podemos and Ciudadanos – the country’s relatively stable politics, which has been dominated by two major parties, remains.

Many believe that Vox has already reached its electoral ceiling, given that while the party enjoys wide support among high-income Spaniards, it is unattractive to poorer voters, such as those suffering from the current crisis. of the cost of living. Also, the Catalan territorial question, so crucial in boosting the popularity of the fiercely unionist Vox three years ago, has been relatively calm.

A more realistic ambition for Spain’s far-right is to enter a government coalition as a junior partner of the PP after next year’s general elections, a formula that is already in place in the regional government of Castilla y León. . PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo is keen to avoid a far-right partnership tarnishing his moderate image, but he may have little alternative.

Elsewhere on the political spectrum, there is speculation that the arrival of eurosceptic Meloni, who appears to have little chemistry with Frenchman Emmanuel Macron, could benefit Spanish socialist leader Pedro Sánchez on the international stage.

A possible deterioration in relations between France and Italy should be watched carefully by Spain, believes Catalan commentator Enric Juliana. “The Spanish Prime Minister could establish himself as the main defender of Europeanism in Southern Europe, alongside the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the window lamp invoked in Franco’s apocryphal story – the lamp of the far right and fascism, as many see it – continues to burn in Spain, but not as brightly as it does across the Mediterranean. .

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