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The End of the Spanish Exception?

Far-Right Populism Has Finally Conquered Spain, but the Real Shift Lies Elsewhere

PP leader Pablo Casado at a news conference in Madrid, April 2019 Susana Vera / REUTERS

On Tuesday, Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, announced that his center-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) would seek to form a minority government in cooperation with the far-left party Unidas Podemos. Six weeks after elections in late April left no party with a clear majority, the country is edging closer to a new left-wing government.

In the international press, the national election made headlines for two reasons, each offering a different picture of the state of Spanish—and, by extension, European—politics. The shocking entry into the lower house of parliament of the far-right nationalist party Vox appeared to augur a potential new threat to liberal democracy in a country long considered immune to right-wing populism after 40 years under the rule of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. By contrast, the victory of the PSOE, which came in first with some 29 percent of the vote, seemed a sign of

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