Raising profile, Spain's far-right Vox gets seat on parliament oversight body
By Belén Carreño
Far-right party Vox on Tuesday won a seat on the committee responsible for running Spain's parliament, raising its national political profile hours after a member of the party scuffled with another lawmaker.
Vox became the third-largest party in a fragmented parliament in a national election in November, more than doubling its seats to 52 after campaigning on a platform of staunch nationalism spiced with anti-feminist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Amid at times chaotic scenes in the parliamentary chamber on the day the new legislature was sworn in, Vox lawmaker Ignacio Gil Lazaro was elected as one of the oversight committee's four vice-presidents, with only members of his own party voting for him.
The nine-strong committee decides when bills are admitted for debate and its members represent parliament overseas, giving them considerable influence.
Vox's presence on it is likely to add another layer of potential destabilisation to an already volatile political environment.
Spain had held four national elections in four years. In last month's, the Socialists won the most seats but fell short of a majority and, despite a lightning-quick coalition pact with left-wing Unidas Podemos, are still scrambling to drum up enough support from other parties to control the 350-seat parliament.
Prior to Tuesday's lawmakers' ballot to decide the make-up of the oversight committee, a scuffle broke out between a member of Vox and a deputy from centre-right Ciudadanos, and Socialist party spokeswoman Adriana Lastra twisted her ankle and had to receive medical attention.
After the vote, in which Socialist Meritxell Batet was elected committee president, Catalan separatist politicians used the swearing-in process as a platform to demand freedom for political prisoners.
They also ditched the traditional oath to uphold Spain's constitution in favour of a pledge to campaign for a Catalan republic. (Reuters)