US & World

Spain election: Votes cast in contest marked by far-right resurgence

An old woman votes in Spanish capital Madrid, April 2019Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Authorities said turnout is higher than in previous years, notably in Catalonia

Voting is under way in Spain’s third general election in four years.

The election is marked by the rise of the far-right movement Vox, which opposes multiculturalism and has threatened to end self-rule for regions like Catalonia.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has presented himself as a bulwark against the advance of the hard right.

Polls suggest his party will lead the vote but no single group will win an overall majority.

The final opinion poll in El País newspaper on Monday put the Socialists (PSOE) at about 30%, the conservative People’s Party (PP) at around 20%, the centre-right Ciudadanos and left-leaning Podemos both near 14% and the far right Vox party at about 11%.

However, the poll also showed that up to four in 10 voters had yet to make up their minds.

Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption Leading players: Pedro Sánchez (PSOE), Pablo Casado (PP), Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos), Santiago Abascal (Vox)

Voting began at 09:00 (07:00 GMT) and will end at 20:00 on the mainland.

An exit poll will be published when voting closes, but in the previous two elections this failed to give an accurate picture of the outcome.

Almost all votes are expected to be counted by midnight.

Turnout stood at more than 41% as of 14:00, election authorities said – higher than the 37% recorded at the same point in 2016.

Catalonia in particular saw rise of nearly 11% in people coming out to vote.

What are the key issues?

The highly polarised campaign was dominated by issues including national identity, gender equality and the future of Catalonia.

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Media captionWho are Spain’s far-right party?

The semi-autonomous region held an independence referendum in October 2017 and declared its independence from Spain weeks later.

A dozen of its leaders have since gone on trial in Madrid, facing charges including rebellion and sedition.

Analysts say support for Vox has been boosted by widespread anger at the independence drive. The party fervently opposes any concessions to the secessionists.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Far-right party Vox candidate Santiago Abascal talks to the media after casting his vote

Women’s rights have also been a key campaigning topic. Gender-based violence has provoked debate and street protests across Spain for years and more politicians than ever are courting women’s votes.

Vox, however, has spoken out against what it calls “radical feminism” that it claims “criminalises” men.

What can happen next?

With polls suggesting there will be no overall majority, observers say the vote could plunge Spain into a prolonged period of political uncertainty as attempts are made to broker a coalition deal.

This also means that chances of a repeat election are high.

Particularly notable within the split vote is the rise in support for Vox, who are set to become the first far-right party to sit in parliament since 1982.

What are the candidates saying?

Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station near Madrid, Prime Minister Sánchez said he hoped for stability.

“After many years of instability and uncertainty, it’s important that today we send a clear, defined message about the Spain we want. And from there a broad parliamentary majority must be built that can support a stable government,” he told reporters.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prime Minister and PSOE candidate Pedro Sánchez casts his vote

Meanwhile, Albert Rivera, leader of the centre-right Ciudadanos, renewed calls to oust Mr Sánchez as he cast his vote in Barcelona.

“These are not any normal elections. At stake is whether we want to remain united, if we want to continue being free and equal citizens, if we want a Spain that looks to the past or the future, a country of extremes or of moderation,” he said.

Where do the parties stand on key issues?

IMMIGRATION

– Responsible immigration policies. Immigration should be legal, orderly and linked to work contracts and the wish to integrate and respect the customs of the nation. – Statute of temporary protection for Venezuelans, granting them temporary residency, freedom of movement and work permits. – Special plan to combat illegal immigration. – Support the work of social services in the care given to refugees who have fled dictatorships, wars or religious persecution. – Integration of legal migrants and advance policies which guarantee that second generations feel like full Spanish citizens. – Enable the recruitment of migrants in their own country.

– Access to Spanish citizenship by residency must be seen as a result of a process of integration of foreigners in Spain. – Prioritise countries in America and Africa for closer co-operation – Put in place a “state pact for safe, orderly and regular immigration”. – Promote the common European asylum and immigration policy. – Promote full integration and equal opportunities for so-called second generations, paying special attention to education. – Reinforce a fair border policy.

– Establish legal and safe entry routes into Spain and guarantee the civil rights of migrants. – Make the process of family reunification, humanitarian visas and new visa programmes more flexible, such as job searches. – Reinforce the Maritime Rescue Service, which will remain as a public and civil service and whose sole function will be the safeguarding of life at sea. – Shut detention centres for foreigners (CIE). – Build a country without racism. – Promote a new asylum law that includes those who have to flee their homes because of environmental issues. – Guarantee that unaccompanied foreign minors receive treatment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

– Set up a “points-based” immigration system to attract the best foreign talent. – Pursue mafia organisations that profit at the expense of the lives and safety of migrants. – Protect the officers of the state security forces that monitor our borders. – Increase resources for the state security forces dealing with irregular migration, reinforcing effective and non-aggressive action.

– Deport illegal migrants to their countries of origin. – Deport migrants who are legally in Spanish territory but who have committed minor offences or serious crimes. – Strengthen our borders. Build an insurmountable wall in Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish cities on the African continent bordering Morocco). – End the attraction: any migrant who enters Spain illegally will not be allowed to legalise their situation, ever. – Eliminate the “arraigo” process that allows illegal migrants to stay in Spain under exceptional circumstances. – Raise the levels of language ability, tax contributions and integration as requirements for citizenship.

EQUALITY

– Local offices for Assistance for Pregnant Women so that no woman stops being a mother because of her economic, social or family circumstances. – Improve social protection and support for pregnant young women and young families, temporarily adapting, if necessary, their schooling, so that motherhood does not pose an obstacle. – Reform the penal code to extend the option of permanent remand to cases of murder in which some gender violence is suspected. – Training in equality and the fight against gender violence to be given to all professionals who might come across the issue in their career. – Plan to close the wage gap in Spain. – Encourage more women into the labour market to reach levels similar to the European average.

– End surrogacy (which is currently illegal in Spain). – Reform of the criminal code to ensure that the lack of explicit consent of the victim is key in sexual crimes. If a woman does not say yes, it means no. – Prohibit segregated education in schools supported by public funds. – In schools, promote the prevention of gender violence and respect for sexual diversity. – Reform gender identity law, eliminating the need for medical diagnoses and making it easier for under 16s to change name and sex records. – Allow non-transferable parental leave for both parents. – Implement urgent measures to ensure equal treatment and employment opportunities for women and men.

– Guarantee immediate housing alternatives for women and their children who suffer domestic violence. – Introduce feminism classes. – Equal and non-transferable paternity and maternity leave. – Offer help with assisted reproduction and facilitate access to the latest contraceptive methods, emergency contraception and voluntary terminations for all women. – Legal protection of trans people and the right to self-determination of gender identity and expression. – Establish equality in local authorities. – Launch a plan to fight domestic violence, with an annual allocation of €600m ($675m).

– End male-preference in the royal line of succession. – Protect marriage between LGTBI people and include the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. – Approve a surrogacy law so that women who cannot conceive and LGTBI families can fulfill their dream of forming a family. – Expand maternity and paternity leave to up to 16 weeks for each parent. – Combat intolerance and hate speech, including on social networks. – Promote a greater presence of women in visible positions of responsibility, guaranteeing an equality balance in public office.

– Protection of life from conception to natural death. – Elimination of quotas (by sex or for any other reason) in electoral lists. – Repeal gender violence law and any rule that discriminates against a person’s sex. Instead, enact a law of intra-family violence that protects the elderly, men, women and children alike. Suppression of subsidised “radical feminist” organisations, effective prosecution of false allegations. – Extension of maternity leave to 180 days that would be extended to one year in the case of children with disabilities.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48081540

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