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Vox enters Congress for the first time but falls short of expectations

Far-right leader Santiago Abascal admitted the election result was a source of “joy but also concern” after the right-wing bloc failed to secure enough votes to form a government

Elecciones Generales 2019
Santiago Abascal, en un colegio electoral de Pinar del Rey (Madrid).

The Spanish far-right party Vox was expected to make historic gains at the general election on Sunday but ended up walking away with a more moderate result: 10.3% of the vote and 24 seats in Congress. During the election campaign, images of Vox’s mass rallies fueled fears that the emerging group would make a deal with the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) to form a government. Instead Vox will have to resign itself to being in opposition as the fifth-strongest political force in Spain.

Vox leaders blamed this failure on its rivals, the PP and Ciudadanos, for dividing the right

Vox leaders blamed this failure on its rivals, the PP and Ciudadanos, for dividing the right. Javier Ortega Smith, the secretary general of Vox, said the two parties were “incapable of throwing out the sectarian left from the Spanish government.” Meanwhile, Vox leader Santiago Abascal said that the sole responsibility for the poor result lay with the “inability, disloyalty, betrayal and fear” of the “cowardly right,” in reference to the PP, for not opposing the left when it had 186 deputies under former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and handing over “television, media and education to the dictatorship of progressives.”

Abascal admitted the election result was a source of “joy but also concern” because the right-wing bloc did not win enough votes to “get rid of the Popular Front,” a term he used to allude to the Socialist Party (PSOE), Unidas Podemos (UP) and the pro-independence parties, who are likely to reach a deal to form government. “Spain is worse today than yesterday,” he said. “Vox is more needed than ever.”

Support for Vox at this year’s election was more than 50 times greater than that seen at the 2016 polls. From having no congressional representation, the far-right party now has 24 deputies in Congress. While the result should be cause for internal celebration, Vox leaders had raised expectations so high that it came as a disappointment. Abascal argued that the polls had underestimated support for Vox, as in December’s Andalusian regional election, and bragged that many pollsters would have to shut down for failing to accurately predict the rise of the far-right party. Instead, Vox received fewer seats than the 29 to 37 predicted by the Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) voter intention survey.

Support for Vox at this year’s election was more than 50 times greater than that seen at the 2016 polls

Vox chose to celebrate the election results at the Fénix Hotel, an establishment on the corner of Colón square in Madrid, a stone’s throw from the headquarters of the PP. More than 280 journalists – many from the foreign press – asked for accreditation for the event, but only 84 were able to fit in the small press room.

Once the polls closed, Rocío Monasterio, the head of Vox in Madrid, appeared before the press to say that “there would be many Vox deputies” in the new Congress.” At that time, Vox’s number one candidate for Barcelona, Ignacio Garriga, predicted that the party would win 70 seats – the same number the anti-austerity party Podemos won at the 2016 election. As the vote was counted, the room where Vox leaders were following the results was firmly shut, and the few who left did so with long faces. Within Vox, many supporters had expressed concern that the show of right-wing force could mobilize the left on election day.

At 10.30pm with almost 80% of the vote counted, Ortega left the hotel to encourage the hundreds of Vox supporters – many of them young – who had gathered near the hotel at Madrid’s Margaret Thatcher square, to watch the results on a large television screen. Ortega told the dejected supporters they should be “very pleased and proud” of what they had achieved despite being left out of the televised election debates and lacking the public funds of their rivals.

“Vox is here to stay”

Vox leader Santiago Abascal stated on Sunday that “Vox is here to stay.” The next challenge is the European, regional and municipal elections on May 26. With 24 deputies, Vox also aims to become the leading opposition force against the Socialist Party government that is now likely to emerge after Sunday’s result.

As he cast his vote on Sunday in Madrid, Abascal maintained that the election would be “historic,” claiming “millions of Spaniards are going to vote with hope and without fear of anybody or anything.”

Once the polls had opened, Vox shared an image on their official Twitter account of a warrior going into battle with a Spanish flag on his back. In the picture, the warrior wields a large sword as he faces feminist, communist, Republican symbols, as well as the mastheads and logos of EL PAÍS, the radio station Cadena SER and the television channel La Sexta. The message read: “The battle begins.”

In the regional elections in Andalusia last December, Vox obtained 395,978 votes, 10.97% of the total, and entered the regional parliament for the first time with 12 seats. At the last general election in 2016, the party received just 46,781 votes, 0.2% of the total.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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