Thursday, May 26

Vox launches its electoral campaign in the ‘red belt’ | Spain

The Plaza de la Constitución in the Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas, where Vox will launch its campaign for the regional elections on May 4 on Wednesday, is popularly known as “the Red Square.” Because of the color of its cobblestones, but also because it is a frequent scene of demonstrations.

Vox has changed the central Plaza de Colón, the usual space of its electoral events, for the square where the then mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, closed her campaign in May 2019. It has passed from the Salamanca district, where the three central parties and the right had more than 70% of the votes in the last general elections, to Puente de Vallecas, where the left surpassed 65%.

If in the Catalan elections of last February Vox campaigned in the fiefdoms of the independence movement, in which it was the object of bullfighting and attacks that multiplied its media presence, in Madrid it has chosen as a priority objective the Red belt, which intends to repaint green; looking for the electoral turnaround that the National Front of Le Pen achieved in traditional reserves of the French Communist Party. Vallecas is also the small homeland of Pablo Iglesias, which the leader of Podemos, according to the leaders of the ultra party, “abandoned and betrayed” to move to his chalet in Galapagar. Vox wants to make the former vice president its main antagonist.

The pennant of the far-right party to win votes in the working-class neighborhoods is citizen insecurity. The Vox candidate for the Madrid Presidency, Rocío Monasterio, appeared on Good Friday in the Ciudad Lineal neighborhood, where the day before, Latino gangs shot her in the middle of the street and sowed panic. Monastery promised the neighbors a strong hand with those gangs “made up of illegal immigrants who are not being repatriated,” although there is no evidence that their members, many of Dominican origin, are not legal immigrants and even with Spanish nationality.

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The association of crime with irregular immigration is a constant in the Vox campaign, which has called for the closure of the centers for unaccompanied foreign minors, without explaining what to do with them, and has denounced that each place costs the regional coffers 4,700 euros per month.

Vox takes credit for the fact that Isabel Díaz Ayuso, from the PP, has turned Madrid into the community with the least restrictions due to the pandemic, facing off against its Ciudadanos partners, and advocates lifting the curfew and ending the confinements. Shopkeepers and merchants, self-employed and unemployed nurture a fishing ground of discontent in the most depressed neighborhoods, where the electoral brand of the PP would have been invalidated by successive corruption scandals.

Faced with the misgivings that in many sectors its promise to apply a “radical tax cut” provokes, Vox responds by publicizing symbolic cuts in “political spending”: reducing by half the 132 deputies of the regional assembly or limiting the 13 councils to seven that Ayuso had.

Limited success

So far, the success of Vox to penetrate the Red belt Madrid has been limited. In Puente de Vallecas, the district where he will kick off his campaign, he got 12% of the votes on November 10, 2019, thus becoming the fourth political force. However, it achieved greater successes in some towns south of the capital: it was the most voted force in Valdemoro (75,000 inhabitants); and the second in Fuenlabrada (fourth population of the community, with 195,000 inhabitants), ahead of the PP.

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Those were their results in the congressional elections, since in the regional elections their harvest was much scarcer. Vox’s challenge is to turn the 4-M into a general rehearsal. That is why Santiago Abascal – who will have as much electoral prominence as the Monastery itself – is not only the campaign manager, but also closes the list for Madrid.

The decision to focus on contesting the vote to the left instead of competing with the PP not only supposes an implicit pact of non-aggression with Ayuso – with which Monastery admits to get along and with which it aspires to govern -, but also has character strategic: the only way that the sum of the rights does not give zero is that it is not limited to dividing the electorate that the PP already had, but that it scratches votes from the left or from abstention.

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