Extreme-Right in bid to obtain support within greater Barcelona area

Xenophobic parties such as ‘Plataforma per Catalunya’ and ‘Vía Democrática’ are growing in the Left-Wing bastions near the Catalan capital. They are still very marginal but for the first time they could win some seats in Barcelona neighbouring towns.

CNA / F. Javier Rodríguez Baena

April 27, 2011 12:31 AM

Barcelona (CNA). The political phenomenon that has been hitting Europe over recent years is affecting Catalonia. Extreme right-wing parties which take advantage of the economic situation and high levels of immigration are starting to make their mark. Xenophobic ‘Plataforma per Catalunya’ (PxC) was close to enter into the Catalan Parliament last November, reaching 2.8% of the votes. The party is already present in some few town halls since eight years ago. However, in the coming municipal elections, for the first time it could win seats in some town halls of greater Barcelona area, such as L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

Spain has not witnessed the growth of a figure like Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. Extreme right-wing is quite marginal in Spain’s democracy. The phenomenon, uncommon in Europe, is according to political science experts largely due to the existence of the powerful People’s Party (PP), which controls the entire right-wing spectrum, ranging from centrist or conservative stances to much more radical ones. Therefore, the PP accumulates almost all the right-wing votes in Spain, including those from extreme right-wing voters. Extreme right wing forces in Spanish politics have been minor and poorly organised groups usually identified with the Franco’s past such as the ‘Falange Española’ party (Franco’s Fascist party), ‘Democracia Nacional’ (National Democracy) or ‘Fuerza Nueva’ (New Force), among others.

However, in Catalonia one of these political groups, ‘Plataforma per Catalunya’ (Platform for Catalonia), has achieved levels of support that may allow its entrance into the democratic institutions. In fact, in some towns, the party already won some seats in the Town Council. In the last Catalan elections the party reached 2.4% of the votes, close to the 3% border to enter into the Catalan Parliament, Whereas the extreme right in Spain or Catalonia had been always linked to Franco’s and Fascist movements and a radical discourse about the unity of Spain, the emphasis has now changed, and immigration and insecurity are now the main issues of the new extreme right. The left-wing newspaper ‘En lucha’ recently commented on the fact that the “social composition of the electoral support for ’Plataforma per Catalunya’ (PxC) is similar to the one Le Pen obtains in France, since his votes come from old Communist workers rather than from reactionary bourgeoisie. Those workers live in a climate of economic crisis and embrace the postulates of the xenophobic and racist extreme right”.

PxC is based in Vic, a city in the heart of Catalonia, just one-hour drive to the north-west of Barcelona. Its leader, Josep Anglada, has been one of Vic’s 4 town councillors since they appeared on the political scene in 2003. Anglada, an active member of ‘Fuerza Nueva’, a Fascist party which had significant support during the 1980s, bases his ideological programme on immigration and its so called “effects” on Catalan society. In order to obtain more votes, his discourse has softened a bit in comparison to 15 years ago, as he tries to convince the electorate that he is now a democratic “Catalanist” who wants the best for Catalan people. With his strong Catalan accent, Anglada offers the media and his followers incredible statements such as “We, the brave, have to expel all the Muslims out of our country and while we are at it, the South Americans too!”, a sentence from last year’s meeting of ‘Manos Limpias’ (Clean Hands), a Fascist trade union in Madrid. Anglada has had a few run-ins with the judicial system: one in 2008 for assaulting a young man in a night club; another in 2009 for starting a fight with some young Catalan independence supporters as well as another on suspicion of embezzling funds from his own party. 

However, this is only one of the extreme-right parties that are starting to play a role in some Catalan towns around the greater Barcelona area. Another such party that blames immigrants for the economic situation is ‘Via Democrática’, created by Pablo Barranco, the former PxC Secretary-General. Barranco argued with Anglada before the recent Catalan elections on the 28th November and created his new party, claiming that it ”respects everyone because all of them are considered as equals, unlike the other party” in clear reference to PxC. Barranco will present his party in 8 cities in the Baix Llobregat county, just near Barcelona and with high levels of immigration. He also wants to run in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, in the Barcelonès county, another city with a large number of immigrants. It is still a long way to the 22nd of May, when the next municipal elections will be held. The fight between ‘Plataforma per Catalunya’ (PxC) and Vía Democrática, in order to be the extreme right-wing force with power near Barcelona, will continue until then.

The Catalan elections on November 28th were the turning point for the extreme right in Catalonia. PxC finished as the eighth force with 2,4% of the votes cast, equivalent to some 75,000 voters in a country of 7.5 million inhabitants. This figure may seem small but if we compare it to the results of the Catalan pro-independence coalition ‘Solidaritat per la Independència’, which obtained 4 seats in the Catalan Parliament, the difference was only 15,000 votes. PxC obtained support within areas underrepresented in the Parliament –in terms of population– and which can generally be found in inland Catalonia, but also obtained support in historically left-wing cities such as Abrera, Martorell and Espareguera –all of them in the Baix Llobregat county-, where support for PxC reached almost 5%. However, as we approach Barcelona, the results of PxC start to drop: only 2,87% in Cornellà and 3,1% in El Prat. The city that breaks this tendency is L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a city that could be seen as an outlying neighbourhood of Barcelona as it is stuck to Barcelona (a side of the street is Barcelona and the other side is L’Hospitalet). There, PxC obtained 4,05% of the votes and became the seventh force only 144 votes below the Left-Wing Catalan Indepedence Party (ERC). The PxC’s spokesman in Baix Llobregat, David Parada, said that getting into the L’Hospitalet City Hall would be “very important for the party because it is the second city of Catalonia and it could give us important media impact”. With 258,000 inhabitants, L’Hospitalet de Llobregat is nowadays the second city of Catalonia in terms of population and has the highest population density of Western Europe. Over recent decades it has received different waves of immigrants, first from other parts of Spain and later from abroad. Many political experts have said that the economic crisis and the decades of left-wing governments have made this swing to the right possible.