Why has the radical right been unsuccessful in Spain and Portugal?
At a time when radical right parties have been gaining electoral terrain all over Western Europe, their very marginal results in the Iberian Peninsula remains a puzzle of significant social scientific importance. In this article, we provide an overview of previous explanations of the disparity in electoral success between Iberian radical right parties and those in the rest of Western Europe, outlining what we argue to be the shortcomings of these explanations. We then propose and provide empirical evidence to support two additional explanations. The first is the anomalously low salience of immigration as a political issue in Portugal and Spain, in contrast to almost every other country in Western Europe. We explain this as the result of low irregular and Islamic immigration, high emigration and the high salience of other, primarily economic, issues following the Eurozone crises. The second is the stigma associated to the existing radical right parties in these countries, which have been unable to present themselves as ‘normal parties’. The exception is the recently formed party Vox in Spain, whose recent growth is best explained by changes in the two factors we highlight – a recent uptick in the salience of immigration and an unprecedented ‘reputational shield’.
Department of Social and Political Sciences, European University Institute, Florence (Italy)
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Florence (Italy)