Spain’s Vox looking to overthrow Sanchez
GLeaning on his cane and on a usher, Ramón Tamames fights his way up the steep stairs in the semicircle. All cameras are trained on the old man until he finally takes a seat in the row of the right-wing populist Vox party. The debate on a no-confidence motion by the Vox party against the left-wing prime minister begins this Tuesday morning in the Spanish parliament Pedro Sanchez.
The general settlement, which the prime minister’s challenger presents while seated, lasts more than an hour because the way to the speaker’s gallery is too difficult for him. The Spanish right-wing populist candidate will be 90 this year. Vox landed a coup with the appearance of the old politician.
There hasn’t been another topic in Spain for days: the respected economist used to be a member of the leadership of the Communist Party, helped in the peaceful transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy before becoming more conservative in old age. Tamames was also a member of Parliament for seven years – but Vox never. He described his intervention as “one of his final tributes to this beautiful country” that he wants to save from Sánchez’s “Frankenstein” government, which is dividing Spain.
Tamames is not aggressively attacking the left-wing government like Vox chairman Santiago Abasacal before him. His speech is reminiscent of a grumpy professor who sometimes gets tangled up in numbers in his lecture, which is peppered with quotations, and whose collar bursts from time to time. It’s about everything: the government’s weakness in relation to the separatists, its autocratic style of government as well as the lack of sewage treatment plants, the birth rate and the demand for a Spanish “Mittelstand” based on the German model, for which he uses the German word. Tamames’ ideas are neither communist nor right-wing extremist – more neoliberal and conservative, which would fit less with Vox and more with the conservative People’s Party PP.
Willingness to compromise with the extreme right
But the PP has announced that it will abstain from voting this Wednesday. On Tuesday, Vox only had the support of its own 52 MPs – out of a total of 350 MPs. But the exotic candidate ensures the right-wing extremists maximum attention for a short time. Vox needs them urgently, because before the election marathon this year, the right-wing populists, who have been rushing from one election success to the next for years, are struggling in the polls. Suddenly their voters migrate back to the conservative PP. The Vox chairman Abascal had already failed in this legislative period with a motion of no confidence. Now the old professor should help to get Vox out of the right-wing dirty corner and prove that their concerns find support across party lines.
Tamames’ accusations and Abascal’s attacks are aimed at the left-wing minority government, but at the same time they cause difficulties for the PP. The Vox chairman repeatedly regrets that the PP opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo is staying away from the two-day general debate. The PP leader, who was elected a year ago, is not a member of parliament and could only have attended as a guest.
Feijóo deliberately keeps his distance from right-wing populists. He is courting voters in the Spanish center, so his PP does not want to support Vox’s futile application and wants to concentrate entirely on the upcoming elections. But unlike the first no-confidence motion against which the PP voted back then, this time the Conservatives just want to abstain. For the left-wing coalition, this announcement is further proof of Feijóo’s willingness to compromise vis-à-vis the far right and that he would allow himself to be tolerated by Vox if necessary, should that pave the way for him to the government.
The political spectacle uses the divided left-wing coalition as a political template. In his endless replies, Sánchez campaigns for his own reform policies. It wasn’t the professor’s “best idea” to stand up for Vox of all things and thus “whitewash” a right-wing extremist party,” he accused Tamames. Then he boasts about his pension reform, the increase in the minimum wage, the strengthening of employee rights and the rent control. Above all, the government uses the parliamentary stage to stir up fear of the right-wing opposition. Before the local, regional and parliamentary elections, the recipe that worked in 2019 should prove itself. Sánchez and his partners equate Vox and PP: Whoever votes for the conservative People’s Party will ultimately get the right-wing populists, warns moderate voters.
The attacks from the left-wing coalition on Tuesday are aimed less at Vox and more at the PP, which has become the strongest party in most polls, but would not have its own majority without Vox. However, Sánchez knows from his own experience how close and surprising votes can be. He also did not win his own majority in 2019 and surprisingly came to power on June 1, 2018 only through a vote of no confidence. It was the only successful application out of six in the history of Spanish democracy.