Spain is not the only European country trying to live in the 21st century in the shadow, albeit a fading one, of a 20th-century dictator — not all of whom were politicians or soldiers. Yet, 44 years after his death the fascist Generalissimo still divides. Last year, prime minister Pedro Sánchez, ruled that Franco’s remains must be disinterred from the basilica at El Valle de Los Caídos overlooking Madrid. A new law gives the government power to dig up the grave and end the high-decibel symbolism beloved by conservatives. Just as in America’s southern states, where monuments to Confederate generals have been removed from public spaces, a toxic legacy is confronted. Ethics trump nostalgia and decency intrudes.
That process continued yesterday when Spain went to the polls for the third time in four years. Sánchez’s ruling socialist party is expected to win the majority of votes but, as increasingly the case across a fragmented EU, fall short of a majority. This may give Franco’s successors, the far-right Vox party, unprecedented leverage. Ironically, Vox exists primarily to prevent division — the establishment of an independent Catalonia — yet may exacerbate it. This election may be a weather vane for next month’s EU elections when a surge to the right is predicted, indeed anti-EU politicians may make up the second largest bloc in the parliament.
Should this transpire it would confirm a truly appalling vista: Franco’s values are resurgent.