What is the Conservative Vox

SpainThe conservatives and the competition from the right

On the evening of April 28, 2019, Pablo Casado smiles eagerly into the many television cameras. The head of the conservative People's Party PP must have been crying, because his party almost halved its share of the vote in the parliamentary elections - from 33 to almost 17 percent. In absolute numbers: The PP lost the support of around three and a half million Spaniards.

The party must be rebuilt, brick by brick, after these complicated months, says Casado. What was particularly complicated for the PP was the success of Vox, a far-right party founded by former PP members that had made rapid progress in Spain. Thousands of previous PP supporters voted in the Vox election, the party got ten percent from the stand.

PP approached the far right party

The PP has lost its orientation in its political strategy, says the Madrid political scientist Lluis Orriols. The party initially showed no reservations with Vox. Unlike in Germany, the conservative People's Party of Spain approached the right wing party and concluded government pacts with it in regional and city parliaments.

"In Spain, the right-wing parties have never kept a kind of safe distance from each other. Vox is just another actor that we are now working with. We have now seen that in many parts of the country."

For example, the PP rules in Andalusia in southern Spain together with Vox and in Madrid's town hall. At the same time, the PP tried to meet Vox thematically on an equal footing. In other words: to appear more radical, to move further to the right in the political spectrum.

Controversial issue of Catalonia

PP boss Casado sharpened his rhetoric and attacked Prime Minister Sanchez of the Socialists in a tone that had been more familiar from Vox up until then.

"The head of government is the greatest traitor there is in Spain. He is the greatest traitor in all of Spanish history, completely incapable of governing. He is disloyal and commits high treason to the interests of our country."

It was about Catalonia and Sanchez's willingness to enter into a dialogue with those in favor of independence. Vox grew up with the Catalonia crisis: it emphasizes the unity of Spain more consistently than any other party. In contrast to the extreme right-wing parties in other European countries, migration is more of a secondary issue for Vox.

Approach to the right failed

The rapprochement with Vox has hardly benefited the conservative People's Party PP. In the new election of the Spanish parliament last November, the party won a good 20 percent of the vote - an increase of four percentage points - but Vox gained even more and came to 15 percent. For political scientist Orriols it is clear:

"Trying to attack Vox on issues that you set in turn is very difficult. The confrontation based on the motto: 'Who is the more radical?' is a strategy with no future. "

There is no concrete recipe for how conservative parties in Europe should deal with the threat from the right, says the political scientist. In his words, the best they can do is try to address the social problems that led to the success of the populist forces. In any case, the course of the Spanish PP to approach the far right politically has failed: With their current election results even the status of "People's Party" is shaky.