As far-right forces gather strength from Hungary to Belgium, Spain appears to be an exception on the continent, as no far-right party is expected to obtain a significant number of votes in the European elections, EURACTIV Spain reports.
In the Iberian country no far-right party nationwide has gained support significantly in recent years. Only at local level has the xenophobic Platform for Catalonia (PXC) obtained a few positions of responsibility (67 out of 9,127).
PxC obtained almost 5,000 votes in 2003, at their first participation in the Catalan regional elections. Eight years later, in the 2011 general election, they won 59,000 votes. Although this force obtained no seats in the Catalan Parliament, it achieved representation in several municipalities largely due to the racist, anti-Muslim and populist speeches of its leader, Josep Anglada.
This is indeed one of the few exceptions of electoral breakthrough of the extreme right in Spain. Far-right parties suffered a setback in 2011 compared to 2008, coinciding with the absolute majority won by the centre-right Popular Party ('Partido Popular') of Mariano Rajoy. Spanish Falange went from 14,000 votes in 2008 to 2,898 in 2011. Meanwhile, National Democracy lost more than 10,000 votes in four years to obtain only 1,867 votes in 2011. In fact, this development in Spain was the reverse of what happened in many countries in Europe.
Juan Andrés Naranjo, a Spanish MEP from the Partido Popular, which is affiliated with the European People's Party, told EURACTIV Spain that he believed that this was a consequence of the country's history. He said that the Franco regime had left bad memories, while on another hand, the nationalist and pro-independence groups had attracted anti-European voters. As a result, the far right is “residual", he said.
However, Elena Valenciano, deputy secretary general of the centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), which is expected to be Spain's dominant socialist party at the European Parliament elections, took a different view. She said that the Popular Party was "embracing some positions which the reasonable right should not embrace”. The most extremist wing of this force in a way represented the extreme right, she said.
Currently, opinion polls show that although no major wave is expected, far-right parties, as well as eurosceptic, extreme left and anti-establishment forces would gain seats in the future European Parliament. The increase would undermine the centre-right, the Socialists, Greens and Liberals.
In this sense, Valenciano says she hopes that citizens will "behave responsibly " and realise how dangerous these parties are.
José Luis Rodríguez, a professor of History at the University Rey Juan Carlos, who is specialised in right-wing movements in Spain, believes that the country's far-right forces have been slow in replacing nostalgia for the past with new issues, such as the xenophobic rejection of immigration, of the EU and the euro, as well in exposing cases of corruption and insecurity and the alleged similarity of the PSOE and the Popular Party's agendas.
Thus, Rodriguez explains that the economic crisis does not necessarily mean that there will be a rise of far-right movements if these parties fail to adapt their discourse and to raise above their historical connotations, as has happened in Spain. Therefore, he said that at the European elections "the Spanish extreme right will get nothing".
French MEP Constance Le Grip (EPP) said it was "obvious" that the far-right parties would get more seats in the European Parliament and that to counter this, the pro-European parties should develop a constructive political message and "talk to the consciousness of the citizens". In any case, she said she did not fear blocks in the institutions' processes or an election outcome that was destructive or paralyzed the EU body.
On 22-25 May, all 28 EU member states will hold elections for the European Parliament.
Across Europe, parties are gearing up to go head-to-head on unemployment, euroscepticism and the future of the European Union.