PARIS – The French presidency has said it is closely monitoring government coalition talks in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia and warned on Wednesday the center-right parties involved, particularly Ciudadanos, its principal ally in Spain, against striking deals with the far-right.
Vox, a far-right outfit, entered the region’s local parliament for the first time on Dec. 2, securing 12 of the 109 seats up for grabs in a move that brought the party from the fringes of Spanish politics towards the mainstream; it was now king-maker in the ongoing negotiations with two center-right parties, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos (“Citizens”).
“We are watching and we are very clear that you cannot form alliances with the far-right,” a spokesperson from the Elysee Palace told a gathering of foreign media, among them Spain’s EFE, adding that cooperating with the far-right was not a trivial matter.
“We are watching what the Popular Party is doing, but evidently Ciudadanos too, with whom En Marche has had friendly relations for some time,” the spokesperson added.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche (“The Republic on the move”) party and Ciudadanos, Spain’s third political force led by Albert Rivera, both espouse liberal, pro-European policies.
Indeed, Barcelona-born former French prime minister Manuel Valls, a socialist who later backed Macron, was now running for Mayor of Barcelona, where he is supported by Ciudadanos.
For France, Vox’s emergence in Spain’s institutions showed the country had not escaped the rise of the populist right-wing seen elsewhere in Europe.
“Spain is not safe from nationalist sentiment and perhaps also from a desire for political renewal, which had already been expressed by the emergence of two new parties, on the left and the center-right, Podemos and Ciudadanos,” the spokesperson continued.
Ciudadanos was founded in 2005 but gained a substantial foothold in Spain’s political landscape in the 2015 general elections while Podemos, a grass-roots anti-austerity party led by Pablo Iglesias, formed in 2014 at a time of skyrocketing unemployment and economic hardship.
Ultra-nationalist Vox, led by Santiago Abascal, was set up by former members of the PP in 2014 and spent several years on the sidelines of Spanish politics.
Its showing in the Andalusian elections was widely viewed as a litmus test for its future political potential.
The far-right platform would now turn its attention to the upcoming European Parliament elections in May, in which nationalist and populist parties are expected by many pollsters to wrest seats from the waning center ground.
Macron was set to center his own party’s campaign on the fight against extremist politics as he did in the 2017 French presidential run-off against
Marine Le Pen, the then-leader of the National Front, now known as the National Front
However, Macron himself was fending off widespread popular opposition to his policies.
“Gilet jaunes” (“yellow vest”) protesters, who owe their sobriquet to the signature garb of high-visibility traffic vests they wear while protesting against the rise of fuel taxes, the lower purchasing power of their wages and what they describe as Macron’s neoliberal policies, continued to stage rallies on an a weekly basis.
What began in mid-November as a way to oppose planned fuel tax hikes has since morphed into a catch-all anti-government movement.
Macron was forced to reel back his scheduled fuel price increase.