Spanish far right surges as polls predict renewed parliamentary deadlock

The Vox party said it would 'defend' the country from immigration and combat the Catalan independence movement

epa07971593 View of the polling material for general elections in a warehouse in Valencia, eastern Spain, 04 November 2019. Spain will hold general elections on 10 November 2019, after Spanish Primer Minister Sanchez failed to form government following 28 April elections.  EPA/Manuel Bruque

Spain’s far-right Vox party looks likely to become the country’s third-strongest political party less than a week before the country heads to the polls in its fourth election in as many years.

In the last polls published before the election on Sunday, the anti-immigrant Vox party is predicted to win 40 seats in Spain’s 350-seat parliament.

The predictions show the elections are unlikely to act as a remedy for the current political deadlock in Spain with neither of the country's left-wing or right-wing blocs set to win a majority. Only three percentage points separate the opposing political groupings.

But amid the long-standing political gridlock, the polls also show a sizeable minority – about 35 per cent of Spanish voters – remain undecided.

Acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez's left-wing Socialist Worker's Party (PSoE) is set to remain the largest party, according to polls, despite losing a few seats.

The PSoE looks set to win 120 seats with the right Popular Party (PP) increasing its showing from 66 to 97 seats.

The political reordering has mostly occurred on Spain's political right, with voters shuffling from the centre-right Citizens Party to the PP. PP voters, in turn, have been cannibalised by Vox. As such, Vox has leapfrogged the Citizens Party and the far-left United We Can party.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo described Mr Sanchez's attempts to win a left-wing majority in parliament "a full-blown failure".

Legislative deadlock in the country could be avoided by the creation of a grand centre coalition between the two main parties. But there seems little appetite for that kind of parliamentary arrangement.

Two key issues, unrest over Catalan independence and the exhumation of the remains of Spain’s wartime dictator Francisco Franco, have dominated Spain’s election debate.

Vox's leader Santiago Abascal, an outspoken politician from the Basque Country, has railed against moving Franco's remains. On October 24, the dictator's body was moved to a simple grave from an elaborate mausoleum which the socialist government said glorified the country's political past.

The recent poll showed 35 per cent of Spanish voters disagreed with removal of the remains.

Mr Abascal has also capitalised on unrest in Barcelona, promising his party would reign in devolution across Spain. Protests, characterised by violent clashes between police and demonstrators, erupted in the Catalan capital in October after the Supreme Court's decision to sentence nine Catalan leaders to prison for their role in an illegal attempt to break away from Spain in 2017.

As right-wing parties capitalise on anti-immigrant and anti-establishment sentiment across Europe, in Sweden, the country's far-right Sweden Democrats look poised to become the biggest political force.

Dominating local government in the southern Swedish town of Solvesborg, the party has banned children from wearing Islamic headscarves and put a moratorium on the purchase of "provocative” or “challenging" public art. The high-profile moves have gained the party political support, raising its profile across the country.