A far-right party in Spain broke new political ground Sunday after winning 12 seats in a regional election for the first time since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
In another sign that the far-right is gaining momentum in Europe, the Vox party gained its success in Andalucia, an area in the south of the country which has suffered with high unemployment and is one of the flashpoints for the country’s battle with illegal immigration.
Its success was lauded by French far-right politician Marine Le Pen, who tweeted: “Strong and warm congratulations to my friends from Vox, who tonight in Spain scored a meaningful result for such a young and dynamic movement.”
Vox has attracted voters with its hard line stance on illegal immigration, its opposition to Catalan independence and its calls for Gibraltar to be returned to Spain.
It could now find itself in a position as kingmaker with the ruling Socialist party failing to secure enough seats to command a majority.
“We are the ones who will bring about change, progress and the reconquest,” Francisco Serrano, Vox’s candidate in Andalusia told a loud crowd gathered in Seville, Reuters reported Sunday.
The Socialists, who won 33 seats, said Vox’s success should be viewed as “very serious.”
“This phenomenon we have seen in the rest of Europe and the world has now reached Spain and is entering the Andalusia parliament,” Susana Diaz, the Socialist candidate in the region, told supporters, according to Reuters.
The results in Andalucia, a region where the Socialist party has governed since the first post-Franco elections in 1982, are likely to spark fears that the far-right could gain further influence in a series of local and European elections in May 2019.
Vox will now have to wait to find out whether it will be approached to be part of rightwing coalition that would be led by the conservative People’s Party, which came second.
Its national leader Pablo Casado said it will hold talks with all the parties to the right of the Socialists, Reuters reported.
The result is also a setback for Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took office in June following a corruption scandal.
“My government will continue to push ahead with a pro-reform, pro- European project,” he tweeted on Monday.
“The results in Andalucía strengthen our compromise to defend the constitution and democracy against fear.”
Spain is not scheduled to hold a general election until 2020, though there is speculation the vote could be brought forward if Sanchez’s minority government fail to pass a budget.
CNN’s James Masters wrote from London. Laura Perez-Maestro reported from Madrid.