Almost all of the PP’s territorial power is based on agreements with the extreme right. Six of its regional presidents have been supported by Vox since last May 28. Five of them with coalition governments. And with Alberto Núñez Feijóo at the head of the party. Whoever arrived in Madrid a year and a half ago boasting of being an ‘anti-vox’ vaccine has become the main supporter of the pacts with the extreme right. And, despite his autonomist speeches, who has imposed them on his regional barons at least twice.
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Vox agrees with Feijóo’s words of gratitude to support his investiture
It was like this almost from his arrival. The PP barons ended Pablo Casado’s stage in a long meeting that began on a Wednesday and ended early Thursday morning. Spain was in the month of February 2022. A few days before the territorial leaders designated Feijóo as their successor, the electoral advance in Castilla y León was unsuccessful for Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, who to remove Ciudadanos from the Government Council had to put to Vox.
The elections were prior to Casado’s political death. The coalition agreement was already signed with Feijóo touring Spain to appear before each of the autonomous leaderships of the PP as a preliminary step to the extraordinary congress that was going to elevate him to the noble floor of Genoa, 13 without competing against any rival.
He was the virtual leader of the PP when Mañueco took over as the first vice president of Vox: Juan García-Gallardo. And the formal president of the party when Mañueco took office. An act from which Feijóo was absent. He alleged for this a series of express meetings with social agents announced almost overnight.
Feijóo was then confident that he could do what his predecessor tried, without success. Casado broke with Vox during the first failed motion of censure that the extreme right raised against Pedro Sánchez. “We have come this far,” he said. Abascal then said, in the fall of 2021, that he felt “perplexed,” the same word he used on August 17 when the PP left its ally out of the Congressional Table.
For a few days, both parties played at disagreement. But the visit of their respective leaders to the Zarzuela Palace rekindled relations. On Tuesday the 22nd, early in the morning, Feijóo and Abascal made peace. Just in time for the head of Vox to announce to the king that his 33 deputies would support the PP in his investiture attempt. Despite having arithmetic against him, Felipe VI ordered Feijóo.
The price to pay for the PP was very low: just a few words of gratitude. Feijóo has not stopped boasting since then that he has achieved the support of Vox “without demands.” In fact, those of Abascal have renounced a hypothetical coalition government that, however, they have demanded to the point of exhaustion at the regional and municipal level after 28M.
But there is a cost for the PP, and especially for Feijóo: he will no longer be able to say that he is fleeing the blocs and that he maintains a political path outside the extreme right.
A “fit” for Vox
That the PP was condemned to come to terms with Vox was clear to the PP before the July 23 elections. Feijóo’s speech went from one paragraph to another from attacking Santiago Abascal’s men to recognizing that he would without hesitation include them in his government if he needed his ‘yes’ to be sworn in as president. “If I have to ask Vox for a yes, the logical thing is that it be part of my Government,” he said at an event in the El Mundo newspaper. And he insisted: “If we need Vox, we are willing to look for fits.”
A word, “fit”, that Feijóo has now recovered to talk about solving the “territorial problem of Catalonia”. Feijóo even put a figure for this “fit”: 12% of the vote. Although later he had to back out. Because that “fit” has nothing to do with Vox votes. Or not alone. It depends on the correlation of forces.
The first to understand it was Carlos Mazón. The current president of the Valencian Generalitat ran like no one else to close a coalition agreement with Vox when he heard the national spokesperson of the PP, Borja Sémper, try to put “red lines” to the pacts with the extreme right.
Sémper’s presence is not free in this sense either. His reinstatement in January 2023 was part of an undisguised strategy of trying to put things in between with Vox before the double electoral date scheduled for this year. The Basque politician abandoned the first political line, and of the PP, in 2020. “The PP’s discourse has to be very different from what Vox represents,” he said then in an interview with elDiario.es.
And although Feijóo’s current Deputy Secretary of Culture and party spokesperson has effectively tried to show a distance from the extreme right in his statements, the reality is that almost all government agreements with Vox have been signed with him in the leadership of the PP.
After the agreement in the Valencian Community, and dozens of city councils, came censorship of plays, films or flags. María Guardiola saw an opportunity to get rid of the ultras. She put her word above everything. She promised before the cameras that she would never govern with Vox. But a round trip to Madrid twisted his arm. The national leadership of Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s PP imposed the pact, and even negotiated it.
The general coordinator, Elías Bendodo, first, and the deputy secretary of Territorial Organization, Miguel Tellado, later, have been part of all the negotiations, as Teodoro García Egea, secretary general of Casado, did in the past. It was when two of the most relevant barons of the right, the Andalusian Juan Manuel Moreno and the Madrid-born Isabel Díaz Ayuso, retained power in 2018 and 2019 after losing the elections thanks to the vote of the ultra deputies.
Vox has gone from obtaining 50 deputies in 2019 to only 33 in 2023. But it has more power than ever thanks to Feijóo’s PP. Just before the recent July elections, the leader said on RNE: “My objective is not to agree with Vox.” And he added: “In Galicia, Vox has not obtained a single deputy.” A phrase that Feijóo has said many times since he arrived in Madrid, in April 2022, and that has now lost much of its meaning.
Regional leaders with little autonomy
This same week, Feijóo said in another interview that he had been “criticized for giving autonomy to the autonomies” of the PP. That is, for supposedly having put an end to one of the party’s hallmarks: the control of the entire territorial apparatus from the national headquarters, on Génova Street in Madrid.
The way in which Feijóo became president of the PP was, indeed, novel. His move to Madrid is based on a meeting of regional leaders outside the organic and statutory channels of the party, where the exile of Pablo Casado was dictated. And when the Galician assumed leadership, he sought express balance between the regions. The PP entered unprecedented territory, a ‘baronization’ process encouraged by the new leadership. But the negotiating gyririgay after the May 28 elections cut off what could remain of Feijóo’s attempt to, in his words, give “autonomy to the autonomies.”
If the national leadership was the one who twisted the arm so that María Guardiola will swallow with VoxAccording to the Andalusian president, Juan Manuel Moreno, the long hand of Genoa has also been present in the last negotiating process after 28M, that of Murcia, where the PP led by Fernando López Miras has also broken its own word and has assumed a coalition government with the extreme right, which has been given, among others, a vice presidency with powers in matters of security.
Unlike what Jorge Azcón did in Aragón, who waited until June 23 and sealed the agreement in the first week of August, López Miras has kept the pulse until the last possible moment, on the verge of an electoral repetition.
All previous statements, both by the recently re-elected president of Murcia and his team, indicated their determination to return to the polls rather than accept a coalition government with Vox. Before and after the elections. Before and after Vox gave its support to Feijóo’s investiture. Even in the hours before the agreement was announced. The PP of Murcia, both in public and private, defended until the last second the autonomy that the party boasts of.
But there was agreement. Coalition Government Pact. And with direct intervention of the national leaderships of both parties. Feijóo, in an interview on Antena 3 this week, defended him. “A pact between PP and Vox is good,” he said. And he added: “Because 11 million people have voted for us.”
The president of the PP thus related the Murcia agreement to the result of 23J. And he confirmed in public what he had already said in private: that giving up the agreement with Vox “would be political suicide.” This same week, Feijóo met with Santiago Abascal in Congress. For the first time, both reported the meeting in advance, and the media was allowed to take images of the moments leading up to the meeting. A before and after in the relations of Feijóo, and the PP, with Vox.
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