The Spanish far right party VOX, which advocates anti-immigration, anti-abortion and anti-Islam policies, has gained a growing following, with paid membership doubling to 13,000 since April.
VOX relies primarily on social media to spread its message, aiming to galvanise Spanish far right voters with populist rhetoric and catchy slogans. In 2017 the party launched lawsuits against the Catalan government and organisers of the Catalonia independence referendum for “sedition and rebellion” amongst other alleged crimes.
If VOX wins one or more seats in the next Spanish general election, due by mid-2020, it will be the first Spanish far right political party to enter parliament since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.
VOX leader Santiago Abascal, who has vowed to “make Spain great again”, has taken inspiration from other populist leaders like Marine Le Pen and Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini to boost the status of the Spanish far right. He has also been in contact with prominent white nationalist Steve Bannon, who has turned his attentions to uniting far right and populist parties across Europe ahead of the 2019 elections.
On Wednesday rightwing politicians in the Spanish parliament attacked the government for failing to take advantage of Brexit by making a push to reclaim sovereignty of Gibraltar. Madrid ceded control of Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 but has expressed its eventual desire to reclaim the territory, which it considers to be a Spanish colony – in 2016 Spanish far right activists unfurled a large Spanish flag on top of the Rock of Gibraltar. A 2002 referendum on the potential of shared sovereignty between Britain and Spain found nearly 99 per cent of Gibraltarians preferred to remain under British rule.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told reporters in October that protocols had been put in place to regulate the status of Gibraltar after Brexit. The island, which has a population of 30,000, will join the UK mainland in leaving the EU in March 2019 to the chagrin of VOX and its supporters: unlike populist parties in most other European countries, the Spanish far right is not opposed to EU membership. Former Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo, of the main opposition Popular Party, told current Foreign Minister Josep Borrell: “You’ve wasted a golden opportunity,” in failing to push for joint sovereignty with Britain.