The shock of the 33 Vox MPs when PP spokesman Borja Sémper began speaking in Basque in Congress last Tuesday presented an unusual picture. Santiago Abascal and his people had never opposed a leader of the party with which they govern five autonomous communities and more than a hundred city councils. But after a few moments of confusion, they had no choice but to leave the room: they had already done so when the Socialist deputy José Ramón Gómez Besteiro intervened from the lectern. They were not allowed to discriminate against the PP against the PSOE or against the Basque language against the Galician language.
In the hallways, the Vox leader leveled accusations against Sémper, whom he accused of “calling himself Canelo” because he had said the day before that his group was not in the debate to make the use of co-official languages official “Canelo” would be used in Congress. He then launched a torpedo against the PP, announcing the presentation in the Senate of a proposal to ban Catalan, Galician and Basque in the Upper House, where they have been used without problems since 2005 and on a larger scale since 2011. “I hope that the PP supports it,” he added, recalling that the Popular Party has an absolute majority in the Senate. An unacceptable demand for Feijóo, who boasted of using “warm bilingualism” (Spanish and Galician) in his interventions as senator.
That wasn’t the only disagreement between the two right-wing parties last week. On Thursday, the PP voted against Vox’s amendments to reform the congressional rules, which aimed to force MPs to use only Spanish in their writings and speeches.
The conflict has spread up and down. Downwards, to the Balearic Islands, where the PP is demanding, under threat of a fine, that the ultras withdraw their proposal that all administrations should also conduct their communications in Spanish. That is, the same thing that is considered a form of coercion in Catalonia and an unnecessary expense in Congress. But vice versa.
Up, in Brussels, where the popular group on Tuesday rejected as “premature” a request from Vox that the European Parliament’s Commission for Citizens’ Rights discuss the alleged threat to the rule of law in Spain posed by Pedro Sánchez’s amnesty in negotiations with the independents. Days earlier, Vox had criticized the PP for speaking to junts and allowing it to form its own faction in the upper house without having enough senators.
Feijóo tries to distance himself from his Ultra partners in the confrontation over the territorial model, aware that Abascal’s alternative is the complete destruction of the autonomous state. And the Vox leaders do not hide their “disappointment” at not being invited to the event against the still hypothetical amnesty law that the people are celebrating today in Madrid. In their words, they are “surprised” that what was initially a large mobilization turned into a rally.
Abascal will not appear at an event where he knows he is not welcome, but he will travel to Barcelona on October 8 to take part in the demonstration called by the Societat Civil Catalana (SOC) association for the same reason He promoted demonstrations against the trial in Catalonia. Vox plans to join this call and demonstrate its mobilizing power in front of Feijóo, who has not yet decided to lead the street protest and is still debating whether or not to go to Barcelona. The popular “are stuck in a sea of contradictions that prevent us from understanding their position,” complains the Ultra group’s new spokesperson in Congress, Pepa Millán.
Privately, some Vox leaders are rubbing their hands over what they describe as Feijóo’s “lukewarmness” in the face of the PSOE’s “betrayal” of nationalist demands. Ultimately, the Ultra Party emerged from the disillusionment of a group of popular leaders, such as Alejo Vidal-Quadras and Abascal himself, with what they saw as the Mariano Rajoy government’s pusillanimous attitude to the ordeal of Catalan nationalism. “The PP is still unaware of the challenge, as if it had returned to the deadly confusions of 2017,” Abascal wrote these days, comparing Feijóo with Rajoy and recalling the illegal 1-O referendum.
The results of the 23-year elections caused a shock at Vox. Not only did the Ultra formation not receive the seats needed for a right-wing majority as expected, but it also lost 19 of the 52 seats it had. The unexpected resignation of its spokesman in Congress, Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, after a series of dismissals or resignations of representatives of the ultra-liberal sector of the party, plunged Vox into a depressive crisis. There were even rumors about Abascal’s possible resignation.
However, the return of former President Carles Puigdemont to the political front appears to have acted as an incentive. Vox’s traditional speech warning of the danger of the collapse of Spain’s unity has become the leitmotif of the entire right, but no party sings it with such conviction. The new legislative period began with the language controversy and, when it comes to it, will advance the discussion about amnesty and self-determination, always on the playing field in which Vox feels most comfortable.
Party sources do not hide that Feijóo’s dubious stance allows Abascal to win back part of the electorate that the PP stole from him in the last elections. Pessimism has turned into optimism and the Vox base seems to have already forgotten Espinosa de los Monteros. After the concerns that her appointment had raised due to her lack of experience, the Vox base this week cheered her successor Pepa Millán for mocking in Congress the Chunta Aragonesista deputy Jorge Pueyo, who denounced the repression of the Aragonese language .
Despite their tensions, Abascal will vote for Feijóo’s candidacy on Wednesday, but only after warning him that “he must face the reality” that he will not become government president and that “his inauguration has no other meaning.” as “to make visible the attack of the PSOE and its partners on the nation and coexistence”.
Contrary to what the PP intends, the mobilization on the streets is not at the service of Feijóo’s inauguration, but vice versa.