Vox’s bombastic rhetoric and toxic policies pose a serious threat to Spanish democracy – but not as much of an existential threat as many assume. Joining a mainstream Conservative government could normalize the party, for example. Even if this is wishful thinking, it helps keep things in perspective. Vox entered the Spanish Parliament in 2019 and it first entered a regional government in 2022, in a coalition led by the People’s Party. These are important successes, especially since Spain previously had no far-right representation in the national parliament. But they testify to the inexperience of the party, which would occupy a junior position in a coalition.

There is a broader point. The appearance of Vox – however striking – did not signal any significant change for the Spanish right and politics in Spain. Contrary to common wisdom, the extreme right did not disappear with Franco’s death. During the democratic transition, from 1977 to 1982, it coalesced around Alianza Popular, a neo-Franco party that won 16 parliamentary seats in the elections of 1977. Its ultra-Catholic and right-wing founders were known as the Magnificent Sevenbecause all seven were former Franco ministers, including Manuel Fraga, Franco’s information and tourism minister who, as a member of parliament, helped draft Spain’s 1978 constitution.

In the late 1980s, with the creation of the Popular Party, the extreme right folded into the new party and went on to influence future conservative governments – including pushing a humanities curriculum during the administration of José María Aznar who. bleached role of conservatives in the rise of the Franco dictatorship and encouraging the failed attempt of Mariano Rajoy for curb abortion rights. Recently, spurred on by the rise of right-wing, populist parties around the world, Spain’s far-right has decided it’s safe to come out of hiding. But it was there all along.

Most importantly, Spanish democracy is strong enough to withstand the involvement of a far-right party in a conservative government. Although not anymore the exception in Europe when it comes to the extreme right, Spain remains different for another important reason: It is remarkably free of the dreaded political pathology known as democratic regression, or the erosion of democratic norms. The absence of such problems in Spain is reflected in that of Freedom House Freedom in the World Report, which ranks the Spanish democracy among the most developed in the world. This is particularly striking given that Spain fulfills the two conditions most often found in regressive countries: a short history as a democracy and extreme polarization. However, Spanish democracy, served by permanent leadership, social and economic progress and a vibrant multi-party political culture, held firm.

It’s not impervious to threats, of course. A big unknown is what role separatism will play in the next government and, indeed, in the future of the country. All the political forces of the nation exploit separatism for political gain. In recent years the right, including the Popular Party, has won elections by railing against the separatists, even at the cost of collapse in Catalonia and the Basque Country, home to Spain’s main separatist movements. The left in turn uses Vox as a mouthpiece to raise the ghosts of Franco, especially in the separatist regions, in the hope of energizing its supporters. For their part, the separatists are playing right against left to advance their narrow goals, while unfairly portraying Madrid as an oppressor of strengthen their claims of victimization.

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