Spain always has to be different. Although the general election on the 28th of April resulted in the “Spanish exception”- one of the few European countries without a far-right party in its parliament- the turnout for Vox has thrown up another peculiarity within the country: of the ten largest capitals in Europe, Madrid is the only one where the far-right has gained a vote share larger than their nationwide average.
Vox achieved 13.86% of the vote in Madrid, while their national average was lower at 10.26% (a 3.6% difference) in the election. The other nine capitals follow an inverse pattern. One of the starkest cases of this disparate voting pattern is in France, where the Front National (now known as Rassemblement National) achieved 21.3% at a national level, while managing only 4.99% in Paris.
What is causing this new “exception”? Political experts attribute it to two factors: the link between Vox’s program and specific characteristics of the electorate in Madrid and also the political idiosyncrasies of the capital.
On the one hand, Santiago Abascal’s party triumphs most in urban areas where it can pick up ex-voters of the Partido Popular (PP) rather than those disenchanted voters who opt to support left-leaning parties. This limits its ability to gain votes in rural areas, unlike its European colleagues. “Vox has more in common with the Front National of Jean-Marie Le Pen than that of Marine Le Pen” explains Pablo Simón, political scientist and lecturer at Carlos III University.
The other determining factor is the larger presence of civil servants and military officers in big cities, especially in Madrid, as well as a larger upper-middle class. Ignacio Molina, a senior researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute, argues that the Spanish electoral system gives rural areas and provinces disproportionate amount of power, influencing the programs of the major parties. Vox’s results in the general election back-up this theory with greater support in large Spanish cities, with the exception of Catalonia and the Basque Country where nationalist groups tend to win.
The far-right in capital cities
The difference between far-right vote percentages in each nation and their corresponding capitals
Source: electoral results. El Confidencial
United Kingdom – London
In 2016, the United Kingdom voted in favour of leaving the European Union, which was the main objective of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Nigel Farage, their most charismatic leader, left the party. With his departure, UKIP was almost totally wiped out in the 2017 general election. Nevertheless, the UK has followed the disparity in vote share between the rest of the country and London.
In 2015, UKIP gained 12.6% of the vote in the nationwide poll though only received 8.1% in London (4.5% less). Not even Nigel Farage, who has made a comeback with his successful Brexit Party, could win a seat in the House of Commons in 2015, as a result of Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system.
Germany – Berlin
In Germany, the difference is less stark. While the xenophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 12.6% of the national vote in 2017, it gained 12% in the Berlin (0.6% less). This election result meant that AfD became the first far-right party since the end of the Second World War to take up seats in the Bundestag.
Italy – Rome
Salvini’s League party, after