Spain and the Ascent of the Right Wing

With the election of Pablo Casado to be the face of the Popular Party after Rajoy’s ousting earlier this year in a vote of no confidence, the uprising of the Right Wing seems to be on a steady ascent into the public eye.

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Who is Pablo Casado?

Pablo Casado secured 57.2 percent of votes at the congress compared to 42 percent in a hotly contested election against former Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría for position as leader of the disgraced Popular Party, riddled with corruption.

His rise to the top of the Popular Party comes amidst a lot of scandal concerning his qualifications and his supposed Harvard degree and University Degree in Law which he completed the first half in seven years and the second half in a fraction of the normal required time. His degree was also obtained in University of King Juan Carlos, the same University wracked by scandal earlier this year concerning Cristina Cifuentes, disgraced PP member, who has been accused of paying to obtain her degree without completing the course. Casado denies that there are any irregularities in his studies.

He is due to take a strong stance against the Catalonian independence bid and is seen as a staunch right-wing conservative.

He has not officially set out his policies as yet but proposals suggest that he seeks to apply the penal code for sedition regarding the Catalan referendum and he wants to enact a change in electoral law to prevent the pro-independence parties from involvement in government. He is a proponent of free trade and aims to reduce IRPF taxes and and corporation tax as well as eliminating wealth, inheritance and donation taxes.

He is also against abortion, despite claiming to be a defender for women and LGBTI rights. He says that he defends “the right to life” and has said about abortion: “We want to return to the Law of 1985. Abortion is not a right. It can’t be a free for all.”

Perhaps these do not fully reflect his core values however, they could be a way for Partido Popular to recover some of the 3 million votes they lost to Ciudadanos who took their place as Centre party. By appealing to more right wing voters Casado will be able to distinguish PP and target a specific type of voter.

One way that he will tackle this is by taking it upon his shoulders to prevent the exhumation of Franco’s body from the Valle de los Caidos. Something sure to appeal to the pro-Franco supporters avidly protesting the move by the PSOE government. He states “We have to look towards the future. Without revisionism nor truth commissions. There is a way to conduct politics without the necessity to open wounds and confront the division between two Spains.”

This move has clearly won over the Spanish right leaning supporters who take strong issue with this proposal by PSOE. His aim to appeal to a more conservative right wing group allows PP to recapture some voters who may feel isolated by Ciudadanos policies.

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What’s the controversy about the Valley of the Fallen – El Valle de los Caidos

This hotly debated issue has recently been grabbing headlines all over Spain. The remains of fascist dictator Francisco Franco will soon be removed from a state-funded mausoleum under a plan by Spain’s new socialist government PSOE in a bid to remove the glorification of Franco’s dictatorship.

The civil war monument, El Valle de los Caídos has remained untouched since its completion in1959. The site is the resting place of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader of Falange, the far-right party that supported Franco. It is also one of Europe’s largest mass graves, being the final resting place for the remains of 33,700 people killed in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.

Surprisingly, Spain is the second country after Cambodia with the most mass graves and many would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie and not to stir up the bones of the dead.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said, “Spain can’t allow symbols that divide Spaniards. Something that is unimaginable in Germany or Italy, countries that also suffered fascist dictatorships, should also not be imaginable in our country.” This is a part of an effort to remove the monuments to fascism that continues to exist in Spain in the presence of the tomb of Franco which has become a shrine to right wing fascist Spaniards who gather yearly at his tomb to pay their respects.

Sanchez’s initiative echoes public opinion, a poll for TV station La Sexta found that 56% of its respondents were in favour of exhuming Franco’s remains, with a third against.

In an interview for the Guardian, one of the supporters of this movement has said “Everyone has dead relatives and you want them to be in a dignified place, or at least in the place where they would have wanted to be, but above and beyond the fact they were murdered, their remains were taken and placed next to those of Franco, who was the biggest killer, and José Antonio [Primo de Rivera].”

This echoes the sentiment of many who have lost members of their family, or who have never been able to provide a proper burial for the dead and missing.

The Historical Memory Law – legislation that seeks to recognise victims on both sides of Spain’s Civil War (1936-39) – bans all “political acts or any act that celebrate the Civil War, its protagonists or the Franco dictatorship” at the Valley of the Fallen. Despite the approval of the law in 2007, pro-fascist organisations continue to hold gatherings there in honor of Franco. In s November 2010, riot police have had to be called in to intervene when protests broke out on site.

These very people have risen up in the past week to protest against the proposal to remove Franco’s body. Hundreds of protesters gathered at the site raising their hands in fascist salutes and chanting slogans such as “Spaniards yes, refugees no,” and “Catalonia is Spain, they’re not fooling us.” Civil Guard officers had to step in to calm down the outraged protestors.

Further provoking the ire of these protestors is that PSOE have promised to launch a government funded initiative to search for the people who went missing under Franco and identify the bodies that are lying in mass graves and roadsides. This has previously been carried out by private organisations due to government opposition from the previous ruling Popular Party.

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Flags and Nationalism

The rise of pro-fascist and pro-Franco supporters has seen a marked increase since the Catalan independence crisis where, increasingly, if you take a stroll through any city, you can see flags strung up on balconies around cities all over Spain, including the flag of Franco’s regime.

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This worrying trend echoes concerns all over Europe with the emergence of right wing and fascist parties becoming more outspoken and more present in the news, on social media and on the streets.

Though Spain has not been subject to a mainstream right-wing populism movement, the beginnings of an uprising can be seen. Anti-immigration sentiment has grown recently due to the influx of migrants from ships such as the Aquarius in the Mediterranean that have been welcomed into Spanish Society by the current left-leaning government in power.

Spain has had a turbulent year of change: issues such as corruption, the Catalan independence crisis, continuing lack of employment, migration and nationalism have come together in a veritable cocktail of general dissatisfaction among the populace and it remains to be seen whether Spain will be able to continue to suppress right-wing populism in mainstream politics.

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