As vote nears, Spanish PM warns of a far-right surge like Finland

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Spain’s outgoing prime minister Pedro Sanchez warned Friday that an emerging far-right party could do much better in upcoming elections than what opinion polls predict, just like in Finland.

Finland’s far-right, anti-immigration Finns Party more than doubled its seats in parliament in elections on April 14, closely tailing the leftist Social Democrats who only narrowly won.

In Spain, which is gearing up for a general election on Sunday, opinion polls see far-right party Vox, which only burst onto the scene in December regional polls in southern Andalusia, entering the national parliament for the first time in fifth position.

But Sanchez warned Vox could do much better.

“There is a real, true risk,” he told Spanish radio.

“No one expected that the far-right would go from fifth position to second position in Finland,” he said.

Just a few months ago, the Finns Party was behind in the polls but surged on an anti-immigration platform.

In the end, the Social Democrats won by just 7,600 votes, with the Finns Party second.

“Voting matters,” said Sanchez.

The strong performance of the far-right in Finland has caused concern in Europe, where populist movements have made new gains recently including in Spain, on top of its strong bases in nations like France, Germany, and Italy.

So far, opinion polls in Spain predict Sanchez will win but his Socialist Party won’t get a majority.

They also believe a right-wing majority that would include Vox is unlikely.

But in Andalusia, while opinion polls had predicted that Vox would emerge onto the scene after languishing on the outer margins of politics, none thought it would do so well and gain nearly 11% of votes.

As a result, Vox’s support was key to propelling a right-wing coalition of the conservative Popular Party and center-right Ciudadanos to power in what had traditionally been a socialist bastion.

There is a concern this will happen again at a national level.

“This is no longer an issue of the left against the right, at risk is that the far-right will influence how the Spanish government acts,” said Sanchez.