‘Reconquista’ mindset in Andalusia and elsewhere

The anti-immigration wave is likely to affect next year’s elections to the European Parliament.
Sunday 09/12/2018
Tough line. Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right party Vox, during a meeting in Granada, November 26. (AFP)
Tough line. Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right party Vox, during a meeting in Granada, November 26. (AFP)

The great global paradox continues. At a time when humanity is supposed to be pulling down barriers and shedding prejudice, there is reason for concern that insular politics is carrying the day in far too many places.

The latest development is the surprise result by the anti-migrant and Eurosceptic Vox party in regional parliamentary elections in Andalusia, Spain. The far-right party won 12 seats in the 109-member assembly and could oust the socialists from power if they clinch a deal with conservatives and centre-right formations.

Shell-shocked socialists acknowledge the magnitude of the populist wave on the shores of Andalusia. “This phenomenon, which has been taking place in the rest of Europe and the world, has now reached Spain,” said Susana Diaz, the Socialist party secretary-general in Andalusia, who blamed the surprise election result on the high rate of voter abstention.

Poorer and more populous than other Spanish provinces, Andalusia has been a gateway for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. The International Organisation for Migration said that more than 45,000 migrants had reached Spain this year by October 21. That’s nearly half of those who landed on European shores in 2018.

The far-right predictably used the inflow to encourage intolerance. Nothing could better express the xenophobic and anti-Muslim undertones of Vox’s victory message than the proclamation by the party’s candidate in Andalusia Francisco Serrano that “Reconquista of Spain… starts in Andalusia!”

Serrano was referring to the 15th-century period when Iberian kings took control of Andalusian princedoms from Muslim rulers. Serrano’s narrative is a near match of Islamic extremist rhetoric, which advocates for the return of Andalusia to Muslim rule. Both are fighting anachronistic battles that can only fuel cross-cultural tensions.

The Vox candidate’s victory cry was echoed by David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Duke tweeted: “The Reconquista begins in the Andalusian lands and will be extended in the rest of Spain.”

Another outrageous symbolic move came from Denmark, which once represented the kinder, gentler face of Europe. Its right-wing government has novel plans for 2019. It intends to send migrants it cannot deport and those with a criminal record to a remote island that was used in the past to experiment on animal diseases and to cremate pigs.

Of course, the Danish authorities will first decontaminate the island before housing the first batch of migrants in 2021 but Copenhagen’s message to the would-be immigrants, as expressed by Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg, is clear: “They are undesirable in Denmark and they must feel it!”

The anti-immigration wave is likely to affect next year’s elections to the European Parliament. A recent opinion poll in France indicated that eight-in-ten French respondents said they do not want their country to welcome additional immigrants. Majorities of the French public said immigration is too costly in economic terms as well as for terrorism-related risks. They want their country, not the European Union, to regulate the inflow of migrants and refugees.

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