“I have good news … today ends the torture of lies, investigations, media pressure that rages to guide your vote, without ever talking about the real issues”, screamed Santiago Abascal, in Toledo, during one of his last meetings before the July 23 elections. Open polo shirt revealing his torso, graying beard, incisive gaze… from the top of his seventy-five meter tall, the leader of the far-right party, Vox, hits everyone, being careful not to explain how he could improve the daily lives of Spaniards.
On the other hand, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of the popular party (PP, right), tall, thin, always dressed to the nines, his slightly vague blue-gray eyes and monotonous voice, called for him to rally, agreement and moderation.
Day and night, as described by Benoît Pellistrandi, a historian specializing in Spain (1). “Feijóo is the man of consensus, a technocrat, conservative, moderate, very serious, who abhors extremes. “A man who wants to” unite “, unlike the leader of Vox who relies on divisions. “Abascal is the man of the virile, divisive, supposedly courageous right in the face of a cowardly right,” he continues, underlining the difference in tone of the two men. “Santiago Abascal is a tribune, very frontal, he speaks loudly (…) he cultivates his image of alpha male, while Alberto Núñez Feijóo has a very classic style, he seems almost a little dull. In summary, “Feijóo is quiet strength while Abascal is the furious bull who wants to show that he has ‘cojones'”, sums up the historian.
The quiet strength versus the raging bull
Temperaments at the antipodes and contrasting political trajectories. Born in Ourense, in Galicia, land of the Spanish conservative right, Alberto Núñez Feijóo has a linear and progressive career: law studies, a local political career, before being called to the national scene. A man of experience who has risen through the ranks. Barely graduated, he became a senior civil servant in Galicia, then joined the regional government of which he became president in 2009.
Acclaimed four times with the absolute majority, at the head of the autonomous community, he remained there for thirteen years before taking over the reins of the popular party, in 2022. don’t revolve around it. Conversely, she says, Vox is a “very vertical party, hypercentralized around its leader. Abascal built this party for him. »
Against “the separatists who want to destroy the homeland”
Populist, climatosceptic, anti-feminist, ultranationalist, anti-migrant, this “furious bull”, a sort of “Spanish Trump”, as summarized by the British newspaper Times, built his political character on the fight against the separatists, “the separatists who want to destroy the fatherland”. Born in 1976 in Bilbao in the Spanish Basque Country, the forty-year-old readily repeats that he grew up under the threat of the Basque separatist organization ETA and that this forged his vocation.
Like his grandfather, mayor during the Franco dictatorship and his father, a conservative city councilor, Santiago Abascal got involved in politics at a young age. Barely 20 years old, he became a municipal councilor for the People’s Party (PP) in Llodio (Basque Country), then a regional deputy. After fifteen years in the PP, he left the party which he considered too lax on the question of the separatists and in 2013, he founded Vox with others disappointed with the conservative party. The Catalan crisis will propel Vox, which remained an ultra-minority for several years, to center stage. In 2018, the far-right party entered the Andalusian Parliament, but it was during the 2019 legislative elections that it obtained 15% of the vote and moved to the national Parliament. The far-right party becomes the third political force in the country.
“Vox says out loud, what part of the PP thinks quietly”
But does he share the same values as the conservative right? They are not so different on major national issues, judge Manuelle Peloille, professor of Spanish civilization at the University of Angers. “They are both liberal on the economic level, and conservative on societal issues. The two men agree on the desire to repeal several laws adopted by the socialist party – such as that of “democratic memory” which rehabilitates the victims of Francoism, that allowing free change of gender from the age of 16, or that on sexual consent. “Vox says out loud what part of the PP thinks quietly,” says the specialist.
But the PP cannot govern alone and has no other solution than to seal pacts with Vox. “They don’t really have a choice and besides in some regions, that’s what they are already doing”, abounds Maria Elisa Alonso. As in the autonomous community of Castile and Leon where the two parties have been governing together for a year.