The rainbow flags were the first to go when the far-right seized power in Naquera, an ultraconservative town in eastern Spain where many want “order and morality” to counter what it sees as the “anarchism” of the left.
It was in this town of 7,700 residents in the foothills of the Sierra Calderona that the far-right Vox won a victory in the May 28 local elections, becoming the biggest place in Spain to elect a mayor from the ultraconservative party.
And it has become a testing ground for the ultranationalists ahead of snap July 23 general elections — which polls say the right-wing Popular Party (PP) will win, although it may need Vox’s support to rule.
Last month, as Spain celebrated Pride Week, Naquera’s new town council decided to veto the hanging of rainbow LGBTQ banners from public buildings in a decision hailed by 80-year-old Vox supporter Jesus Gomez.
“We’ll stop” the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez because “these leftwingers have caused outright anarchism”, said the white-haired octogenarian who opposes Pride celebrations and wears a Spanish flag wristband.
He used to vote for the PP but the party left him “totally disillusioned” by dithering over its conservative values, whereas Vox — which was founded in 2013 by disgruntled PP members — represents “morality” and “order”, he says.
– ‘A hostile environment’ –
Standing outside Naquera’s town hall, Juan Cano says he was angered by Sanchez’s government making deals with regional separatists to push laws through parliament.
“I don’t like the deals they made,” particularly with the far-left Basque pro-independence party Bildu, considered the heir of the now-defunct armed separatist group ETA, the 65-year-old civil servant told AFP.
“There’s been so much criticism (about making deal with) the extreme right… but nothing about (deals with) the extreme left,” he said.
But not everyone in Naquera likes the stance of the town’s new mayor Ivan Exposito, who did not respond to AFP interview requests.
Despite his decision not to allow LGBTQ flags on public buildings, dozens of rainbow banners could be seen hanging from Naquera’s balconies and hundreds of people lined the town’s streets on June 28 to mark Pride.
One of those celebrating was Francisco Perez, who has lived in Naquera with his husband for over a decade “without any problems” although he says the atmosphere has turned “quite hostile”.
“All my old childhood memories are coming back, that feeling of fear as you walk down the street,” he told AFP.
“I think we’re taking a step backwards and that the situation is going to get quite difficult… If I could, I’d leave,” admits the 58-year-old, who works in the hotel industry.
And what’s happening in Naquera could happen across the country if a PP-Vox government is elected, warns local Socialist opposition leader Victor Navarro.
“Naquera is a testing ground because it’s one of the biggest towns where (the far-right) is governing and I think what’s happening here (could happen) at a national level,” he said.
– ‘Restoring freedom’ –
Several of the 140 municipalities run by Vox alone or in a coalition have done away with local equality and environment departments or dropped references to gender violence, instead emphasising the importance of tradition.
In Valdemorillo west of Madrid, the authorities cancelled “Orlando”, a Virginia Woolf play about a gender-changing poet, and in Santa Cruz de Bezana near Santander, they axed a screening of Disney’s “Lightyear” in which two female characters kiss.
Vox, which jointly rules three of Spain’s 17 regions, has run an election campaign pledging to roll back laws on gender violence, LGBTQ rights, abortion and euthanasia, as well as a democratic memory law honouring the victims of the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975).
It has also vowed to outlaw pro-independence parties and protect the “rural lifestyle”, defending its religious festivals and popular traditions, such as bullfighting.
All of which has let Vox position itself as the party that will “restore freedom” in the face of an “inquisitorial left that judges people for their way of life and their hobbies”, said Guillermo Fernandez Vazquez, a political scientist at Madrid’s Carlos III University.
And such an approach has been key to the party’s growth from being a marginal political force in 2017 to becoming Spain’s third-largest parliamentary party in 2019.
Polls suggest Vox’s number of seats could fall from 52 to around 40 in the 350-seat parliament.
But although that would mean less representation, if the PP wins, Vox could end up taking a key supporting role that would see it entering government.
Source : Yahoo News