Ahead of Another Election, Feminism Is at the Center of Spain’s Fractured Politics

Ahead of Another Election, Feminism Is at the Center of Spain’s Fractured Politics
Women hold flares during a march for International Women’s Day in Madrid, Spain, March 8, 2019 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

BARCELONA, Spain—For the past two years, millions of women and men across Spain have joined in a general strike and protest to mark International Women’s Day, on March 8, pressing for women’s rights and gender equality. Last year, the sheer scale of the demonstrations was stunning, with an estimated 5.3 million Spaniards participating in workplace walkouts. Now, it looks like they will be a yearly occurrence. Not since the anti-austerity protests of the indignados in 2011, which gave rise to a new political party, the far-left Podemos, have so many Spaniards taken to the streets. With a general election planned for April 28, feminism is at the center of Spain’s fractured political landscape.

This will be Spain’s third general election since 2015. During roughly that time, a traditional two-party system has become a five-party one, after the emergence of Podemos and with the old conservative party, the People’s Party, now sharing the conservative vote with two other upstarts, the center-right Ciudadanos and the far-right Vox. Current polls indicate that the governing center-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party is pulling ahead of the other parties with around 29 percent of the vote—still far short of a parliamentary majority. But the political momentum is broadly with the right. In the past year, conservative parties have been buoyed by the ongoing crisis over Catalonia’s attempt to declare independence from Spain, along with a rise in irregular migration from across the Mediterranean and the success of Vox in regional elections in Andalusia last December.

Previously a fringe party, Vox was the big surprise in the regional vote in Andalusia, a large, populous and poor region in the south of Spain, where the party won around 11 percent of the vote. It then lent its support to help form a coalition government of the People’s Party and Ciudadanos, displacing the Socialists from a region they had governed continuously since democracy returned to Spain in 1978. All three parties have suggested they would repeat this strategy nationally.

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