Vox: expected growth of the far-right in Catalonia
After having just a handful of councilors elected in 2019, ultra-conservative party likely to grow in this vote
After winning just a handful of councilors in the last local elections, this year is expected to be quite different for Vox, after the far-right party has grown considerably in the intervening years.
In 2019, the party earned just over 1% of the vote in Barcelona, but polls predict them getting beyond the 5% threshold in 2023 and winning representation in the council of the Catalan capital.
Their mayoral candidate for Barcelona, Gonzalo de Oro, has offered a ten-point plan to put order in the city, which includes lowering taxes, defending the use of the Spanish language, and taking a tough stance against illegal immigrants and squatters.
"40% of all of the squats in Spain are in Barcelona, and this isn't a coincidence," de Oro said at one campaign press conference, putting it down to a "calling effect" from incumbent mayor Ada Colau, who he said was a "squatter by occupation."
The very first of the ten points takes a swipe at the left-wing council led by Colau and the Socialist Jaume Collboni, who Vox have been highly critical of in recent years. Their proposal for tightening security accuses the current administration of permitting "illegal foreigners" and "delinquents" of acting with impunity, connecting them with robberies and sexual violence.
Santiago Abascal, the leader of the far-right party in Spain, said in a campaign event in Barcelona that residents should not be resigned to "choosing between a dangerous communist psychopath, a separatist that a part of the cowardly right will vote for, and a progressive like Collboni," when speaking about the other candidates in the race.
Vox are also opposed to Colau's low emissions zone and superblocks model, vowing to get remove those policies, as well as "underused" cycling lanes, to give cars more space to drive and park.
The party has grown considerably over the last five years, positioning themselves strongly against Catalan independence and in defence of the Spanish constitution. During the trial of the leaders of the Catalan independence referendum, Vox acted as private prosecutors, giving them a lot of extra visibility which they were able to use to grow.
In 2021, the far-right entered the Catalan parliament for the first time, winning 11 seats and over 7% of the vote. In Spanish politics, they became the third-biggest party in Spain during the last vote held in 2019.
In the buildup to the 2023 vote, the biggest labor unions in the country came together in an event to warn people against supporting Vox in these elections, saying they were not a political party, but rather a "fascist organization."
David Caño, of the IAC trade union, said that the party spreads "rhetoric of hatred" among neighbors and work colleagues with the aim of "benefitting themselves." "That's all that Vox and the extreme right want to do, benefit the ruling classes and those who have more."
During the previous local elections, Vox won council spots in Salt, just outside Girona in northern Catalonia, but polls indicate that they could be on their way to having a say in many more councils for the next four years.
They will be hoping to pick up voters abandoning Ciudadanos, but they will also be competing with the People's Party for the right-wing vote, all the while with one eye toward the Spanish general election due later this year.