The success of the far-right party Vox in regional elections in Andalusia in southern Spain at the weekend has sent shock waves through the country's political establishment.
The nationalist party won 12 seats in the region's local assembly after the vote Sunday, far exceeding a prediction that it would win only two or three seats.
Although there were 109 seats up for grabs, neither of the region's main parties — the Socialist Party (with 33 seats) nor the conservative Popular Party (or PP, with 26 seats) — won a majority of the vote that would enable it to control the region.
As such, Vox is now in a position of kingmaker in negotiations over a possible right-wing coalition made up of PP, the center-right Ciudadanos party, which gained 21 seats, and Vox, a party that was formed in 2013 by former members of the PP.
PP national leader Pablo Casado said his party planned to hold talks in Andalusia with these other parties, Reuters said. On Monday, Ciudadanos ruled out any coalition with the Socialists, signaling an interest in an arrangement with PP and Vox, with all three parties seemingly united against the Socialist party.
"We are the ones who will bring about change, progress and the reconquest," Francisco Serrano, Vox's candidate in Andalusia, told a loud crowd gathered in Seville, many of whom waved Spanish flags and chanted "Spain! Spain!," Reuters reported.
Antonio Barroso, deputy head of research at Teneo Intelligence, said in a note ahead of the election that just a couple of regional MPs would give Vox a platform on which to build a successful campaign for next year's European Parliament election, "in which the (very proportional) electoral system tends to help the fortunes of small radical parties."
"However, while Vox might gain some support over the coming months, at this stage, it is unlikely that it will be able to become a large party given Ciudadanos and PP are unlikely to leave much space on the right for Vox to grow significantly," he said.
"If anything, this Sunday's Andalusian election will likely provide another reminder of the main trend underlying Spanish politics recent years: political fragmentation."
Vox's good performance has been attributed to voter concerns over jobs and the number of migrants arriving in the southern coastal region by sea. Andalusia also has one of the highest unemployment rates in Spain, of around 25 percent, compared to a national rate of just under 15 percent.
The same concerns have seen other nationalist, anti-immigrant and populist parties fare well in recent years throughout Europe. The success of the Alternative for Germany party, the National Front in France — now re-branded as the Rassemblement National (the National Rally) — and Lega party in Italy show that Spain's immediate neighbors are facing the same phenomenon.
Vox has echoed these other parties by parroting an anti-immigration, anti-Islamic message that chimes with voters who feel disenfranchised and disaffected with Europe's governing class. National Rally's leader Marine Le Pen tweeted her congratulations to Vox on Monday.
The result will be a blow to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose Socialist party dominated Andalusian politics for 36 years, and it will also worry many people in Spain, given the country's military dictatorship for much of the 20th century, one which caused bloodshed and discord between the left and right.
Commenting on the result Monday, Sanchez said his Socialist party will continue to push a European agenda for Spain. "The results in Andalusia strengthen our commitment to defend the constitution and democracy from fear," Sanchez tweeted.