Another electoral triumph for bigotry


Another European election and another set of gains for politicians who build their platform on prejudice, race-hate and Islamophobia. This time, the ugly head of bigotry has raised itself in Spain, where the far-right Vox party has done significantly better than expected in regional elections in the autonomous southern region of Andalusia.

Predicted to win at the most only five seats in the regional parliament, voters in fact returned 12 Vox legislators. It is now possible that this party, which was formed less than four years ago, could now be part of a right-wing coalition to run the region.

Vox’s anti-immigration message has been strengthened in Andalusia by the fact that the region’s long Mediterranean coastline has been the major landing point for asylum-seekers setting off from Libya, Tunisia or Morocco. The 53,000 people who have arrived in Spain so far this year are a mix of refugees from the conflicts in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia, the majority of them Muslim and sub-Saharan Africans. There have been ugly confrontations between local thugs and black refugees but the more insidious challenges have come from oafs who have both verbally and physically assaulted Muslims. It should not be surprising that these ignoramuses clearly understand little of the immense cultural and architectural contribution made during almost 800 years of Arab rule in Spain which left stunning monuments such as those in the Andalusian cities of Cordova and Seville.

However, it is not these fools, but the cunning politicians who exploit them, that must give cause for rising concern throughout Europe. In more ways than one, these far-right parties are pushing back against the long-standing political establishment. Commentators in Spain have been surprised that right-wingers should have done so well less than 50 years after the ending of General Franco’s fascist dictatorship. But this is naïve. It is only 20 years further back in history that Hitler’s Nazis were finally destroyed and yet the ogre of bigotry and race hatred has once again reared its odious head with the far-right AfD party in Germany.

Spain’s Vox party is an exception to its sister extremists elsewhere in Europe in that it has expressed its broad support for the European Union. However, in every other respect it has embraced the corrosive and poisonous far-right agenda that has seen the alarming growth of racist parties in 15 other European countries.

The continent’s leaders ought by now to have woken up to the danger they face. Yet there seems to be little appreciation that the European liberal consensus is actually starting to crumble. Mainstream politicians fearful of electoral losses are trying to steal the clothes of far-right parties by adopting some of their loathsome agendas. Far from undermining their challenge, their actions serve to validate the racist upstarts.

A more sober analysis by the European political establishment would show that it is not that the new right-wing parties have succeeded but rather that moderate leaders have failed. Their key failure has been to communicate, to bring voters with them, to retain their confidence. And this error has come about because too many members of the European establishment arrogantly decided that since they knew best, there was no need for them to explain and convince electorates that their ideas were correct.