A bomb attack on a youth centre popular with immigrants and refugees has raised concerns about radicalisation among the country’s political right.

An alleged terrorist attack in Madrid has shown the division among Spain’s ascendant right-wing bloc following November’s elections, in which the centre-right People’s Party (PP) and the far-right Vox group both made tremendous electoral gains.

A grenade was thrown at a youth centre in Hortaleza, a suburb on the edge of the Spanish capital, on December 4. A police bomb squad came to the centre, which is a popular spot for immigrant and refugee youth, to detonate the explosive.

The explosive was found next to a bag of shrapnel, presumably intended to cause extra damage to those on the premises of the youth centre.

Spanish National Police, who did not respond to requests for comment, have not identified suspects in the alleged bombing attempt.

But the debate over the event in Madrid has shown fissures in the alliance of Spain’s political right.

Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Unidas Podemos (Together We Can) leader Pablo Iglesias (not pictured) shake hands during a news conference at Spain's Parliament in Madrid, Spain, November 12, 2019.
Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Unidas Podemos (Together We Can) leader Pablo Iglesias (not pictured) shake hands during a news conference at Spain's Parliament in Madrid, Spain, November 12, 2019. (Reuters)

‘What if they were Spanish?’

Madrid’s regional assembly took up the issue of the attack during a parliamentary debate on December 5. Vox’s spokesperson and parliamentarian Rocio Monasterio said she would differentiate between alleged illegal acts “according to the origin of the person that commits” them.

“What if they’re Spanish?” Regional President Isabel Diaz Ayuso of PP, asked Monasterio: “If they’re one of us, the uncivil behaviour is seen as good … Where are your Christian morals?”

PP supporters, too, are expressing a desire to distance themselves from Vox. Javier Montoya, a resident of Madrid’s Tetuan region, told TRT World that Vox has no morals. “The party shouldn’t be respected,” Montoya, who said he’s a lifelong PP voter, said. “They’re following the nationalist trend in Europe.”

Montoya said PP were the best representatives of the Spanish right, citing the country’s rich ethnic history, including the Arabs who ruled parts of Spain for roughly 700 years. “The people who hate Muslims, hate immigrants, that’s not the majority of Spain. Vox doesn’t represent us.”

Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, said that PP “acted like those who rob televisions [from shops] during a flood” during a national debate in Congress on December 5, referencing seats at the Table of the  Congress of Deputies, a body within Spain’s parliament that has agenda-setting power.

Vox could have had two seats at the nine-seat table. PP declined to lend their votes for Vox’s second candidate, leaving the far-right party with only one seat.

PP’s congressional spokesman Mario Garces asked Vox to maintain “moderation and prudence … something you normally don’t have”. Garces continued to say that PP aren’t Vox’s political rivals.

Socialist candidate Pedro Sanchez waves to supporters during an electoral meeting, ahead of Sunday's general election in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019.
Socialist candidate Pedro Sanchez waves to supporters during an electoral meeting, ahead of Sunday's general election in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (Emilio Morenatti / AP)

Long electoral road

Spain has seen four national elections in as many years, all attempts to break political gridlock that has plagued one of Europe’s largest nations.

Spain’s Congress of Deputies holds 350 seats, meaning any party or alliance must hold 176 seats to rule with confidence.

Vox and PP, along with the Citizens party, have run as a bloc in the last two elections. During April’s election, PP, Vox, and Citizens won 66, 24 and 57 seats respectively, for a total of 147.

In November, the PP increased its seats to 89. Vox shot up to 52 seats, one of the biggest surprises in Spain’s modern political history.

Spain was ruled by a far-right dictatorship from 1939 until 1975. The country hasn’t seen an explicitly far-right party hold so many seats since its first democratic elections in the 1980s.

Citizens, which is often called a liberal, market-friendly party, though they have faced accusations of far-right ties, dropped to 10 seats. The drop was seen as a serious rebuke from voters.

The right bloc totals 151 seats, a slight increase.

The centre-left Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE, as per its Spanish acronym), won both elections, with 123 in April and 120 in November. Its main potential ally, left-wing Podemos, dropped from 42 to 35 seats.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a tentative deal with Podemos to form a government within 48 hours of the last election, drawing scorn from some Spaniards.

PSOE and Podemos would have held 165 seats had they made a deal in April and Vox would have held far less power.

Sanchez, who refused to make a deal with Podemos in April, is widely seen as having gambled – and lost – by calling another election.

A ‘necessary’ alliance

While Sanchez courts regional nationalist and other left-wing parties to form a national government, PP and Vox are looking to make agreements with regional governments.  

Some of Spain’s largest most important regions, including Madrid and the southern regions of Andalusia and Murcia, both of which serve as tourism hot spots and hold important ports for commerce, require the right-wing parties to make agreements to govern.

Maria Morales, a 32-year-old who lives in Madrid and voted Citizens in recent elections, said that while Vox’s far-right rhetoric is disturbing, its important the right-wing agrees to maintain an opposition to PSOE and Podemos.

“The [left-wing parties] are attempting to change the country. It could break apart,” Morales told TRT World, referencing Catalonia’s attempts to secede, an important topic for many Spanish voters. “I want Spain to continue as one country.”

With PP looking to increase its growing support among voters with newfound moderation, and Vox continuing with far-right maximalism, it remains to be seen how the parties would govern together.

Source: TRT World