The end of the Spanish Exception?

by Alberto Domingo Bayarri

Up until now, Spain held an abnormality in comparison to the international context of rising (far-right) populism, which is set to become a major disruptive force in the next European Parliament elections.

Many European countries have faced a rise in the support to extremist or neoconservative parties. Analysts have tried to understand the reasons behind this growing support, being able to identify issues such as corruption, immigration and economic crisis. These issues are present in all the countries were new extremists have risen, but they are present too in Spain.

However, unlike in other countries, Spain did not have elected policymakers from right-wing extremist parties at national or regional level, even though such parties have existed for decades, with a marginal support. This ‘immunity’ to right-wing populism started being labelled as the ‘Spanish Exception’. Due to various factors, ranging from the levels of tolerance towards immigration to the current territorial disputes within Spain, no one expected Spain to have policymakers who openly defend measures against immigration, or who vow to dismantle the system of protection against gender violence.

But the most recent elections in the region of Andalusia may have changed it all: the ‘populist radical right’ party Vox, created in 2013 by former People’s Party leaders, obtained over 10% of the votes and 12 seats. Even though this result is still far from the large support that equivalent parties enjoy in other European countries, it has allowed Vox to have a key voice in the negotiations to form a new Government in the region.

This has changed the political scenario in Spain – yet again. In a context of upcoming regional, local and European elections, this can shift national politics rather quickly, similar to the disruption caused by the rise of Podemos and Ciudadanos in 2015. Some institutions have started changing: Andalusia, for the first time ever since the establishment of the 1978 Constitution regime, is no longer governed by the socialist party, who lost its main stronghold in the country in favour of a PP-Ciudadanos Government. We can expect new policies in place and, more importantly, new policymakers, possibly marking the end of the ‘Spanish Exception’.

There is a fundamental consequence of a changing political environment: those who engage with the institutions need to be more strategic than ever before in order to cope with change and to be able to continue engaging successfully. And those who wish to start engaging need in-depth knowledge in order to find their way in an increasingly complex environment.

Spain is certainly becoming more complex and unpredictable than ever. New institutional challenges are opening. Consequently, the public affairs and institutional relations sector in Spain is rapidly growing, as it is of upmost importance to act professionally and strategically both from a business and from an advocacy point of view.


Three Flags Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 Picture by Grez on Wikimedia Commons


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