Fed up, satellite towns around Madrid turn to far-right Vox

Vox leader Santiago Abascal won many votes for his implacable opposition to the Catalan separatist crisis

"I don't like Vox, I've always supported the Socialists, but I've just had enough of all the in-fighting between the parties," shrugs retired construction worker Luis Martinez, who like many people in Valdemoro voted for the far-right. Whether fed up with the traditional parties "who don't do anything", or just desperate for someone to take on the ongoing Catalan separatist crisis, voters in this town near Madrid here have made their protest felt. Like hundreds of thousands of others, 67-year-old Martinez on Sunday cast his vote for Vox, helping the far-right upstart win 52 of the parliament's 350 seats and turning it into Spain's third-largest party. The traditional parties do everything to "get in power and line their pockets, but they end up doing nothing," he complained in the central square of this town which lies about 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of Madrid. Like Valdemoro, a good number of the towns surrounding the Spanish capital turned green on November 10 -- the colour chosen by Vox for its logo. The party has made significant inroads over the past year following decades in which the far-right languished on the margins after dictator Francisco Franco's death in 1975. Launched in 2014 by Santiago Abascal and others from the hardline fringe of the rightwing Popular Party, Vox struggled to gain traction at first, attracting only a smattering of voters with its ultra-conservative stance on immigration, gender violence and traditional family values. But its implacable opposition to Catalan separatism has seen its popularity soar, experts say. "There is a green belt in Madrid where Vox has become the leading political force," Abascal boasted on Monday. - 'I feel cheated' - The word "Vox" has been sprayed in vibrant green paint on the walls in the centre of Valdemoro, a town of 75,000 people which has both working-class and middle-class neighbourhoods. And many people have simply had enough of the country's two main parties, the Socialists and the Popular Party, who until 2015 enjoyed a decades-long hegemony. "Before I used to vote for the PP, but I feel cheated, the party promised things they just haven't done," says Antonio Sastre, a retired civil servant walking through the town centre with his wife. "The unity of Spain is the main thing because if we don't have a nation, we don't have anything." The Catalan separatist crisis was a key factor in crystallising support for Vox after protesters took to the streets in often violent protest over Spain's jailing of nine leaders over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid. "Anyone who brings down Spain should be put in jail," railed Nemesio Lopez, 63, who did not reveal whom he voted for, but admitted changing parties, disillusioned with both "the left and the right" for not keeping their promises. - 'Someone to restore order' - Other people here were won over by campaign promises about migrants peddled by Vox, which has repeatedly come under fire for falsifying and manipulating data as the basis for policies that would involve the criminalisation and expulsion of immigrants. "I'm not racist, but I can tell you what I hear: that they give these Moors money for doing nothing and I have worked loads and still can't even support my family," said Martinez, using a derogatory term for North African migrants. Others were just looking for someone to take a firm hand. "There are things about Vox that I don't like, but if they can bring some order to things like migration, health and the autonomous regions, that would be good," says 54-year-old Lidia Pascual, who runs a rural bed-and-breakfast. Gema Molina, a 40-year-old businesswoman, agrees that Spain needs "someone who's a bit authoritarian, a leader who can impose order". But she does not seem concerned about some of Vox's other proposals, such as overturning a gender violence law aimed at protecting women, which the party says "discriminates against men".

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