Author Topic: "Democracy or fascism. May 4." (Spanish Populism/Madrid Regional Election)  (Read 1239 times)

Retinend

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Is anyone else following Spanish parliamentary politics? Their particularly devastating pandemic experience has ignited the fuse of right wing extremism. They have their own Le Pen now, Rocío Monasterio[1], and the party - named Vox - has grown to be the third largest in the country (already gaining 15% of the vote in the 2019 general elections).

That puts them behind the establishment left wing party (currently in power under PM Pedro Sánchez), el Partido Socialista Obrero Español (2019: 30%),the establishment right wing party, el Partido Popular (2019: only 17%), and now ahead of the original Spanish populist party - but left wing - the Unidas Podemos[2] party (2019: 13%), lead by Pablo Iglesias, who tweeted the title of this thread (link).

The date in question is the Madrid mayoral election[3]. At the moment, it looks like - similar to the Conservatives cosying up to the DUP after Therea May's near-miss election result - the Spanish conservatives will have to cosy up to Vox in order to maintain power in the capital (PSOE does and will hold power at the national level still, but because of the status of this by-election, it is regarded as a dress rehearsal for real general elections, date not yet declared).

The current Madrid mayor Isabel Díaz Ayuso (Partido Popular) has said: " "Yo quiero gobernar sola, voy a por la mayoría absoluta" ("I want to govern alone - I'm gunning for the absolute majority"[4]) but she might have no choice, as May didn't, but to go into alliance with the far right, come May 4.

It might be a mayoral election "only"[5], but it is regarded so importantly in the country that the aforementioned Pablo Iglesias (leader of the left wing Podemos populist party) decided to rally supporters in the capital city by putting himself on the ballot for May 4th. For this, Iglesias has personally received threatening messages and symbolic bullet cases in the mail (pic), and he is not the only Spanish politician to receive similar threats in the current electoral climate.

In Spain tensions around the civil war never really went away - they were simply frozen and disallowed from public discussion by a combined will to overcome the historical wounds. Here, I worry that a radicalization away from the centre might be even more dangerous than in other western European countries.

As an example of this, it should be noted that Igelsias's tweet of "democracia o fascismo" is a response to Ayuso rallying citizens to choose between "socialismo o libertad". In both cases, this is the sort of divisive rhetoric that is usually only heard in the USA to this extent. Indeed, Ayuso has been compared to Trump (by Al Jazeera, for instance).

Another one of her slogans is "Libertad y después, todo lo demás" ("all follows from (economic) liberty").

If populism indeed tends to target people who are unwillingly unemployed, stuck in fruitless employment, or in no position to benefit from the advantages of the EU nor "economic liberty" per se, then in Spain, Vox has ample scope to grow. The similar Alternativ für Deutschland in Germany enjoyed fast growth among this kind of person, notably former citizens of the former German Democratic Republic, centred in Saxony, East Germany.

An interesting trend is the recurrence of female leaders of far-right groups: AfD's Frauke Petry and successor Alice Weidel, France's Le Pen of the Rassemblement National (formerly Fronte Nationale) and potentially now Vox with Rocío Monasterio.

P.S. To be clear: momentarily she is no more the national leader of her party than Ayuso is of hers. But don't forget our own populist PM was once the mayor of the capital.
 1. roughly translated, the title reads "Monasterio DESTROYS lib journalist"
 2. literally "together we can", a reference to Barack Obama's campaign slogan "Yes We Can" - and note the feminine plural of "unidas", which was changed from "unidos" in 2019
 3. technically it's not a "mayoral" election, but rather an election for "President of the Community of Madrid": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayor_of_Madrid cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_Community_of_Madrid
 4. someone correct me if this is a bad translation - does "mayoria" also mean "mayorhood"?
 5. but see note 3 ^^^
« Last Edit: May 02, 2021, 04:03:06 PM by Retinend »

Just to clarify, Spain is virtually (although not technically) federal in structure - there are 17 regions, each with a great deal of autonomy (link), and the upcoming election is for the Madrid regional government, triggered early because Ciudadanos (a Lib Dem-like party, who had helped right-wing PP into power) had voted no confidence in PP.

The regional governments are pretty important as each community is very devolved; they determine their own regional policy on all sorts of things like taxes, education, healthcare, investment, environment, police, and more.  And Madrid is a fairly major region, for obvious reasons.  As far as I know, there's no mayoral election on 4th May, just the Madrid regional election.

Pablo Iglesias (leader of Podemos) resigned his post of deputy prime minister in order to contest the Madrid elections.  Madrid haven't had a left wing regional government for decades, so it'll be interesting to see if some kind of coalition between Podemos, PSOE and maybe Ciudadanos, is possible.  The pandemic has clearly shown people how much we depend on the state, and the Vox brand of right libertarianism may be losing favour.

Is anyone else following Spanish parliamentary politics? Their particularly devastating pandemic experience has ignited the fuse of right wing extremism. They have their own Le Pen now, Rocío Monasterio[1], and the party - named Vox - has grown to be the third largest in the country (already gaining 15% of the vote in the 2019 general elections).
 1. roughly translated, the title reads "Monasterio DESTROYS lib journalist"

Honestly, as someone living in Spain, I don't see Vox as a really big threat.  I mean, you always come across Francoists, but they're few and far between, and there's much more appetite for socialism (and republicanism) here than in the UK, for example.  However, Vox have a smart social media presence - for example, this propaganda which popped up the other day on Facebook, referring to unaccompanied migrant children:


https://english.elpais.com/politics/2021-04-21/spanish-prosecutors-probe-far-right-campaign-billboard-over-hate-crime-allegations.html

It's basically Farage's breaking point poster, while simultaneously pretending to care about your grandmother (spoiler: they don't).  But it'll stir up the emotions of the Francoist hate squad who want "Spain for the Spaniards".  Thankfully there's been a lot of buyers' remorse with Vox; Andalucia voted them in last election, and then complained when they gave tax cuts to high earners and cut public services.

The one thing we don't suffer here, compared to the UK, is a highly biased media - newspapers and TV.  The state channels are a bit of a government mouthpiece (although not overtly so), but the independent channels (particularly "La Sexta") regularly hold the establishment parties to account, and don't let them get away with their corruption and cronyism.  Younger people here are far more politically astute than I ever remember in the UK, which goes some way to explaining how Podemos ever managed to get power in the national government to begin with.  (That, and proportional representation, of course.)

In any case, yes I'll be following it astutely.  Unrelatedly, back in 2019, Madrid voted in a right-wing mayor, whose first job was to undo the good work of the previous socialist mayor and reinstate traffic in the centre of Madrid, with all the pollution and smog which comes with it (apparently the pollution is an intrinsic part of the Madrid "experience", according to the incumbent mayor).  We'll see in a couple of days whether politics is still drifting to the right.

Bernice

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EDIT: Didn't see Darles Chickens' post above before I posted this.

Just to clarify - and I know you've put this in a footnote - it's not particularly useful to call it the mayoral election when the Mayor of Madrid (ie the city, not the autonomous community) is a separate office. Properly speaking, this is an election for the 132-seat Assembly of the Community of Madrid, and these 132 deputies then elect the President of the Community. Particularly useful to distinguish between the positions since former Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, is leader of the left-wing Más Madrid party, which is projected to gain the third most seats behind the PP and PSOE, and ahead of Vox and Podemos.

El Pais is currently giving a Vox & PP coalition a 70-80% chance of happening, which is particularly bleak. The PP will happily go into coalition with the genuinely fascist Vox because Spain's establishment right, pre and post-Franco, has never seen anything amiss with cosying up to fascism as long as it keeps the money where it should be and keeps the dread spectre of socialism at bay. The post-Franco pacto de olvido (pact of forgetting), by which it was "agreed" to er, not worry too much about that war and dictatorship, lads, was clearly designed to benefit one class of people. Indeed, Madrid's airport currently bears the name of one such person, career Falangist and hero-President of the new democracy, Adolfo Suarez.

Amazing, really, that Catalonia seeking independence has brought all the latent fascists out of Spain's woodwork. Forget about the decade of corruption scandals involving the PP and the royals. The real issue is the Catalans, the Socialists, the feminists; pick up the old script, dust off the blue shirts, give no quarter to the enemies of Spain. ¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte!

El Pais is currently giving a Vox & PP coalition a 70-80% chance of happening, which is particularly bleak. The PP will happily go into coalition with the genuinely fascist Vox because Spain's establishment right, pre and post-Franco, has never seen anything amiss with cosying up to fascism as long as it keeps the money where it should be and keeps the dread spectre of socialism at bay

Yes, although it's going to be very close.  So, not impossible that the left manage to make further steps in the next days (Spanish article here).  The question is whether PP/Vox make up the numbers in "shy voters" or not.

Pablo Casado (leader of PP) is a proper cunt, somehow more so than any of the Vox lot, because he pretends to have reasonable views, while in fact he's misogynist, verging on fascist, scum.  Progressive policies like euthanasia and, uhm, abortion will be on the table if this lot get in.  And, yes, it's very sad that there are enough people who share those views that they could gain a majority in Madrid - but then, it's where all the wealth and privilege is in the country, what else would you ever expect.

Retinend

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Yes, it's not literally a mayoral election, rather regional government, but the word communicates something of the nature of the election by analogy with London.

Yes, it's not literally a mayoral election, but the word communicates the point about the nature of the election and the role of the winning candidate, by analogy with London.

Not really - it's more analogous to the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections.

Retinend

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"Parliamentary election" might have made people think it was a general election.

edit: going for the obvious "regional election" in the title

"Parliamentary election" might have made people think it was a general election.

Yes, I guess the problem is that the Spanish style of decentralised government doesn't exist in the UK.  In Spain, the regional elections have pretty much as much weight as a general election, given the sort of powers that regional governments have.  Indeed some policy is only made at the regional level, the national government having no say at all.

I forgot to answer this:
someone correct me if this is a bad translation - does "mayoria" also mean "mayorhood"?

"mayoría" just means "majority".  Mayorhood would be "alcalde".

Retinend

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Thanks!

It's hard to translate a term of political hierarchy. Literally, I could have also reported that Ayuso was the current "president of the community of Madrid" ("presidenta de la comunidad de madrid"), but the words lack chemistry together in translation somehow.

Pretty good summary in English on this in El País today:
https://english.elpais.com/politics/2021-05-03/madrid-regional-election-becomes-a-national-test-for-spain.html

So, the Left is looking a bit crowded (which could affect the results due to the D'Hondt system), with Más Madrid and Podemos both competing for leftist votes.  Madrid CaBers, don't forget to vote tomorrow (if you can)!

Can't they do it like tapas and have a bit of both?

Yeah, but the bigger tapa (a portion of mussels in seafood sauce) will spill over some of the smaller ones on the same plate, making half of the smaller ones inedible.  They should've just gone for meatballs.

katzenjammer

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Pretty good summary in English on this in El País today:
https://english.elpais.com/politics/2021-05-03/madrid-regional-election-becomes-a-national-test-for-spain.html

So, the Left is looking a bit crowded (which could affect the results due to the D'Hondt system), with Más Madrid and Podemos both competing for leftist votes.  Madrid CaBers, don't forget to vote tomorrow (if you can)!

Only Spanish nationals can vote which really boils my piss

PP gets more seats than all the left parties combined, so they can govern without help from Vox.  So nothing much changes.  But fuck this world, seriously.  Spain was one of the few places in the world where I felt people acted with a degree of kindness towards their fellow humans ...and now this.

Bernice

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Madrid have had a PP President (pardon my stutter) since 95, so I guess it's not that surprising, even if I can't stand the cunts. And it looks like the Ciudadanos vote collapsed to the PP rather than Vox, which is something.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtjiN_6f9Yo
Isabel Díaz Ayuso gana las elecciones en Madrid: "La libertad ha triunfado"
35,020 views•May 4, 2021

"we will recover our pride, a sense of belonging, a culture of hard work, and - above all - competence, unity and liberty, all of which Spain badly needs"

I looked at the words "pride" and "sense of belonging" for a while, wondering if they were dog whistles, but I reckon that the real message here, as is her wont, is: "put your trust in the market". What's more, the inclusion of "competence and unity" seems like a criticism of the populist dismissal of such. I suppose at a time when all the markets are closed, and the political fringes are starting to frighten the centre, this was a good time for Ayuso's standard conservative-libertarian rhetoric. Hence this outstanding victory for Ayuso and PP yesterday (right, blue bar):


comparison of 2019 and 2021 elections from El País

What I'm just learning for myself now is that the coalition between the conservatives and Vox already happened! It was a three-way right wing coalition to defeat PSOE's impressive - unprecedented - apparent victory in 2019 (left, red bar). However Vox was insignificant in the coalition, next to the combined electoral power of PP+Ciudadanos (left, blue+orange). So what was at stake was that Vox would creep up and occupy the 2nd-party-of-power-position that Ciudadanos had previously enjoyed.

So what I see, looking at these data, is that the Ciudadanos must be devastated by this result: whatever their aims were in calling a vote of no confidence in her, Ayuso's support has more than doubled, and Ciudadanos have only a shadow of their 2019 electoral vote share.

Then, the strictly populist parties, Unidas Podemos and Vox, have technically increased their turnout since 2019, but, as the bar chart adequately shows, in spite of the growth in votes, their vote share has shrunk. Since 2019 Madrileños have become more political (higher turnout of voters, more of a testy political atmosphere), but the results don't indicate that they are more populist. I feel quite happy at the defeat of the populist right wing threat, but, as you said Darles, their looming spectre in the media might have had something more to do with their impressively slick (if evil) media campaign, more than actual grassroots support.

Bernice

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Properly speaking, I think the previous coalition was between Ciudadanos and the PP, with Vox propping it up but not formally in coalition.

I'm not convinced how useful it is to frame this election in terms of populism vs ... moderation? the political establishment? For one thing, I'm not sure that UP and Vox are "strictly populist" parties, or at least any more populist than Más Madrid, which is now the largest party of the left and the second biggest in the assembly (albeit by some way). Granted this may be my reflexive suspicion of 'populism' as a term of analysis, which I think has been flogged to death over the past five years or so. Its definition has been stretched thin to encompass pretty much anything outside a narrowly prescribed and perhaps elitist notion of political propriety.


PSOE's collapse is pretty remarkable, isn't it? Doesn't augur well for them nationally.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 11:19:13 AM by Bernice »

Retinend

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Ah ok - not officially in coalition, but in political allegiance.

Maybe I should define my idea of "populism".  To me it means a style of politics where you position yourself outside of the establishment and you incite left/right division in order to gain from the fallout. Typical populist talking points are examples of the perceived "failure" of liberal democracy and it being out of touch with the "real" Spaniards/Americans/British people etc.

One of the first parties of Europe oops in Spain to do this was Unidas Podemos, making it a prime example of populism in my theory, although it is a rare left wing variant. Presumably you wouldn't disagree that Vox are populists. When I say "strictly", I just mean that "populism" is - as you indicate - becoming a fuzzy category encompassing a (hopefully) waning trend. I don't seek to frame this as "moderation wins" however, as Ayuso has said things - already quoted - that I am very wary of.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 10:43:32 AM by Retinend »

Retinend

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El Pais is currently giving a Vox & PP coalition a 70-80% chance of happening, which is particularly bleak.

You should have made some money!

Blinder Data

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the psoe decrease is obvs bad but the bar chart makes it look worse than the numbers suggest. the PP gains are striking though.

Pablo iglesias quit as deputy pm to run in Madrid elections, and has now quit politics altogether because of the poor results?! did he not see this coming or did he fancy a break and found the perfect excuse?

Bernice

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Ah ok - not officially in coalition, but in political allegiance.


Maybe I should define my idea of "populism".  To me it means a style of politics where you position yourself outside of the establishment and you incite left/right division in order to gain from the fallout. Typical populist talking points are examples of the perceived "failure" of liberal democracy and it being out of touch with the "real" Spaniards/Americans/British people etc.


One of the first parties of Europe oops in Spain to do this was Unidas Podemos, making it a prime example of populism in my theory, although it is a rare left wing variant. Presumably you wouldn't disagree that Vox are populists. When I say "strictly", I just mean that "populism" is - as you indicate - becoming a fuzzy category encompassing a (hopefully) waning trend. I don't seek to frame this as "moderation wins" however, as Ayuso has said things - already quoted - that I am very wary of.


I think I'd quibble with the notion of populism "inciting left/right division in order to gain from the fallout" since it implies, automatically, a sort of cynicism about this strategy rather than a genuine sense of insurgency against an elite/ the establishment (be it an insurgency from the left or from the right). I think it would be hard to deny that Podemos displays/utilises populism, though I guess my issue is to what extent it's useful to define the party by this fact.

I actually think Vox is interesting because, from what I know, they don't seem to be all that populist - certainly not compared with their radical right counterparts in other European countries. They don't talk about "the people" but rather "Spain". They don't talk about corrupt elites (it would be rich, given their proximity to the PP) nor the establishment, but traitorous minority interests in Catalonia, the Basque country, in mosques the length and breadth of the country.

Pablo iglesias quit as deputy pm to run in Madrid elections, and has now quit politics altogether because of the poor results?! did he not see this coming or did he fancy a break and found the perfect excuse?

I get the sense he was pretty burnt out. Seven years in the crucible of Spanish politics, first insurgent, then desperately trying to avoid a collapse after that 2015 wave crashed, the entire time a hate figure for pretty much everyone except Podemos voters (and even then...). The right-wing El Mundo published a fairly even-handed political obituary today. They raise the prospect that with him gone a reconciliation between Podemos and Mas Madrid/Mas Pais, which was (kind of) born out of the split between Iglesias and his former strategist Errejon. Equally, I can see Podemos fading rapidly after this, but the left vote in Spain has been in flux for so long now that it's very hard to call. At least it's never boring.

chveik

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populism is a catch-all term, it has very little conceptual value in terms of political analysis

Retinend

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Its a term I hear used plenty often, referring to a style of doing politics. Nothing opaque about it.

Bernice

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It definitely has use in political analysis, but it has been much abused by the commentariat these past few years as a sort of catch-all term for "politics I don't like".

katzenjammer

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Fascism it is then

Ayuso's meteroic rise is remarkable. Five years ago she was managing the twitter account of the president's dog, two years ago she was largely unknown and now she is the most powerful right wing politician in Spain. I'm pretty uninformed on Spanish politics but my view on some of the reasons for this from living in central Madrid are:

1) The lockdown last year was absolutely brutal, most people live in small flats with no outside space and we were locked in 24x7 for months. To begin with people were scared and largely accepted the measures but as time wore on they became more skeptical and there were loud pot banging protests and cries of 'libertad', which incidentally became Ayuso's election slogan.  Perceived wisdom is that the lockdown lasted much longer than it needed to. The national government eventually passed responsibility for anti covid measures to the regions and Madrid has been probably the most open city in Europe since then. Bars, restaurants, shops and schools have stayed open, the only restrictions have been a night time curfew, meetings in other people's houses and a maximum of six people meeting up outside.  Fortunately for us, but particularly Ayuso this has not resulted in a massive outbreak and any rises in cases are easily blamed on the national government for continuing to allow foreign travellers in. There have been a lot of stories in the media about young rich Parisians coming here for weekend breaks, for example.

2) Pablo Iglesias. He seems unpopular among left leaning centrist voters. The few I've spoken to could barely hide their disgust for him and said they couldn't bring themselves to vote PSOE for fear that he might end up in a coalition with them. The media has also played it's part, stoking fears about squatters for example. One colleague of mine seems absolutely terrified that next time he goes on holiday he's going to come back to find a bunch of gypsies living in his flat that are impossible to evict. According to him Podemos support the squatting laws (which have been in force since way before they existed and nobody seemed to care much) but the right will abolish them. I haven't checked to see if this is true. There is also criticism of Podemos 'wokeness' seen as an attack on 'Spanishness'.

3) Catalonia. This is still rumbling on in people's minds. Whatever your views on an independent Catalonia there's no doubt it would be a very bad thing for Spain and Madrid. Loads of people hung Spanish flags outside their windows back in 2017 and they are still there. The shift to the right since then has been noticeable.

4) Aysuo herself is popular. She's young and outspoken, a bit Joris Bonsonish, she stays a lot of stupid shit that gets headlines, amuses her base and riles the left. She's seen as sticking it to the man and standing up for Madrid against Pedro Sanchez or something, compared to the PSOE candidate who is a boring middle aged man on his third shot at becoming president.
 
I expect the reality is that she'll will work very hard for her pay masters, corruption will increase with public money being funneled to dodgy contracts.  Public health and education will worsen by being defunded and the blame placed on immigration. The wealth gap will widen further and the blame placed on the lazy poor. Environmental issues will be ignored. We all know the tune buy now. It's all quite depressing and worrying. The only ray of hope is that Mas Madrid did OK and may have potential in future.

Bernice

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One thing that amazes me about Spanish politics is how Teflon the PP manages to be with corruption scandal after corruption scandal. Although, writing that out now, I suspect this is a cycle we are now at the start of with the Tories over here.

katzenjammer

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Most people I've asked about corruption just say they are all as bad as each other.  According to this website they might have a point

https://www.casos-aislados.com/stats.php

I forgot to add to my post above that I'm actually quite relieved that Vox didn't do better, I was expecting them to.

Pretty good summing up right there katzenjammer.

I've always assumed the success of PP to be down to a certain demographic (the elderly, Catholics, countryfolk from Galicia) who'll just vote for them whatever.  People have short memories, because, under Rajoy, there was scandal after scandal, and some of the most harsh legislation restricting freedoms.

On the squatting thing, it's true that Spain seems to have some crazy laws which work in favour of the squatter.  Something like: you've got 48 hours to get them out, otherwise you're looking at an interminable process in the courts, which can drag on for years.  Unless you saw them breaking and entering, you can't get them on that, and when they start selling all your stuff, you're powerless.  It sounds totally insane to me, but it is a real problem which I remember PP pledging to do something about.  I guess if you just keep drip feeding people stuff like that, which triggers an obvious emotional response, this is how you start winning them over.

And yes, Vox are still not anything to be particularly worried about.  Not like the rise of Le Pen in France recently, at least.

Retinend

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And yes, Vox are still not anything to be particularly worried about.  Not like the rise of Le Pen in France recently, at least.

I find it surprising that you repeat this, when in 2019 they had a 15% share of the Spanish electorate nationwide. This election has shown that they have improved on their 2019 turnout, even in a disadvantageous region - so why should they not rise to Le Pen's 2017 peak of 21% come the next Spanish general elections?

If Vox rise, it will likely be because they've taken votes from PP, but they will always be a junior partner in the coalition and so not much will really change.  The Spanish electoral system forces parties to form coalitions, and while Vox are getting around a 15% share, I still see them as too small to have much influence.  In any case, PP are already parroting their rhetoric, so there's not so much to choose between them.

With Ciudadanos votes apparently going to PP,  PP could possibly end up being stretched in two directions, and who knows how that will end up.  I guess there's still the possibilty that Vox ends up dominating, but I still see them as too fringe to gain that kind of popularity.  I accept that I might also be living in a bubble here (where I live in Baleares, Vox only won 3 out of 59 seats, so not of much concern).

The situation in France is different because of their runoffs system.  It's increasingly likely that Le Pen will reach the second round, and, at that point, depending on who she's up against, it might well be in the bag.

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