A far-right party has won seats in a Spanish regional election for the first time since the country’s military dictatorship ended in 1975.
The Vox party took 12 parliamentary seats in Andalusia on Sunday, beating expectations that it would win five.
Tough on immigration and Catalan separatism, Vox could be a kingmaker in a future coalition in Andalusia.
The governing Socialist Party still won more than any other party – 33 seats – but with a greatly reduced majority.
It may try to form a coalition with the left-wing Podemos, to fend off the centre- and far-right in the 109-seat parliament.
Vox’s breakthrough in Spanish politics is the latest in a nationalist surge that has swept across Europe. Many had thought Spain was immune, because memories of life under a fascist dictatorship are still relatively fresh.
France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted (in French): “Strong and warm congratulations to my friends from Vox, who tonight in Spain scored a meaningful result for such a young and dynamic movement.”
The southern region of Andalusia – Spain’s most populous – has high unemployment and is the main arrival point in Spain for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
The regional result could affect Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, reports the El Mundo, as his Socialist Party’s defeat and the government’s weakness could increase pressure on him to call early elections.
Founded in 2014, the party struggled for a long time to make an impact on Spain’s political landscape.
Vox has been derided as far-right and populist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam but its leader Santiago Abascal believes its recent surge of support is because it is “in step with what millions of Spaniards think”.
Its leaders reject the far-right label, insisting it is a party of “extreme necessity” rather than extremism. Its overall support for Spain’s membership of the EU, it says, differentiates it from many populist and far-right movements across Europe.
The party proposes to “make Spain great again” and critics have described its ideology as a nationalist throwback to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.