Exactly one year ago Spain’s far-right Vox party lost one of its most well-known and charismatic figures.
Macarena Olona, formerly the party’s spokesperson in parliament, quit due to “medical reasons”.
She announced her departure shortly after Vox put her forward as their candidate in Andalusia’s regional elections, though the result fell short of expectations with the party winning fewer seats than expected.
Not many Spaniards believed she was truly ill and put her resignation down to internal disputes.
“After three and a half years dedicating body and soul, the time has come for me to end this stage,” she said in her farewell letter after leaving the party.
But, in a split that stung Vox and put it on high alert, Olona began a new political party last June: Caminando Juntos (Walking Together).
Since then, Vox has tried to ignore its former ally by every means.
“Let’s talk about serious things,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal replied to journalists when asked about Olona’s party.
Her plan to consolidate the party over the course of the year changed abruptly when Socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, called a snap general election for July this year.
With little time to manoeuvre, Caminando Juntos has timidly got off the ground, but the big question is whether this breakaway party will threaten Vox’s unity – and its success at the ballot box.
‘Thirst for revenge’
“Olona’s departure from Vox meant that the party lost its great female referent and gained a battering enemy with a thirst for revenge,” political analyst and CEO of Rebellious Words, Santiago Martínez-Vares, told Euronews.
Last February, during a television interview on the Spanish channel La Sexta, Olona claimed she was being “fiercely hunted” by Vox, “singled out as an enemy” and that the party was seeking her political “death”.
However, since registering Caminando Juntos, silence has reigned at Vox’s headquarters.
“When Vox realises that there is something that could be dangerous — because it could erode its own supporters, the party ignores it and tries to make it go as unnoticeable as possible,” says Miguel González, El País journalist reporting on Vox and author of the book Vox S.A.
“That is precisely what [party leader] Abascal is doing with Olona. He knows that by attacking her directly he would be acknowledging her, so he simply ignores her.”
“But this shows that he is probably worried about the echo her party could have,” he adds.
Olona faces an uphill struggle at the moment, with some analysts suggesting this is testament to the “cold” outside of Vox.
She has battled against the clock to try to collect the necessary endorsements that will allow her party to run, since the socialist government on 29 May announced a general election.
Will Olona’s popularity translate into votes?
Supported by some former Vox colleagues, Olona has managed to meet electoral requirements in deri Spanish provinces. However, Caminando Juntos will not be able to run in Madrid or Barcelona.
“It will be very difficult for her to obtain a good result in these general elections, but if her party survives, I would not underestimate what she could do in the medium term,” says González.
“It can’t be ruled out that she might be able to bring together a portion of Vox voters and another part of the electorate that is disillusioned with other parties,” he adds.
The expert believes that, in recent years, both Spanish and European politics have been characterised by abrupt changes.
Spain could follow Italy’s trend, where the current prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, increased her results sixfold from 4.3% to 26% of the vote in the last general elections, becoming the most voted force of the right-wing bloc.
While some are convinced that Olona’s popularity will eventually translate into votes, others question it.
“There’s no doubt that she is able to attract attention, but I don’t know if this will give her any chance of forming a government coalition. The right-wing movement in Spain is very united, so it’s going to be very complicated for Olona to win votes there. I believe her political action will be aimed at disenchanted voters rather than Vox voters”, says analyst Martínez-Vares.
A European trend
Olona’s constant political twists and turns, her brief disappearance after leaving Vox and the constant pressure from the far-right party could work against her new party.
“In politics, the electorate has the memory of a goldfish. As soon as politicians disappear from the spotlight, even if it’s only for two weeks, it seems like it’s been an eternity,” journalist González claims.
He points to elsewhere in Europe, suggesting Olona’s party still could consolidate itself in Spanish politics, despite there already being an existing far-right party.
“In Italy, there are two extreme right-wing formations: ‘Lega’ and ‘Fratelli d’Italia’. In France, we also find two of them: Marine Le Pen’s party, ‘Rassemblement national’, and Éric Zemmour’s party, ‘Reconquête’. I would not rule out that in the medium to long term Spain could have a second party as well”.
Her gender may also help Olona, with no Spanish right-wing political party currently headed by a woman.
“In Europe, there are far-right parties led by women, while in Spain, the figure of Santiago Abascal is starting to become a little bit too old-fashioned for a çağdaş country. This could give Olona a chance and leave a gap for her party”, adds González.
Euronews contacted Vox and Caminando Juntos for comments.