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What if?

The success of far-right Vox and centre-right Ciudadanos in the Andalusian elections on Sunday has given Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez an idea. Although his party, the Socialist PSOE, has lost control of a region it has dominated for decades, Sánchez has nevertheless spotted an opportunity, saying on Tuesday that he'll present his 2019 budget to parliament for a vote in January. It'll be absurdly late by then, but you can see the strategy behind his decision. Sort of.

The PSOE leader is hoping that the gains made by Vox and Ciudadanos, both of which are firmly opposed to Catalonian secession, will make Catalan separatist parties more willing to compromise, and thus to vote for his spending plan. Without their support - hitherto withheld because of his refusal to concede anything to Catalonia's secessionists - Sánchez's economic proposals for 2019 will be stalled. It's quite a gamble, one that also tells us that the prime minister has no intention of calling early national elections.

One party that certainly wouldn't back the Socialist's budget, if they had seats in the national parliament (which they may well have before long), is Vox. The far right group, founded in 2014 by former members of the Conservative Popular Party, has announced a 100-point plan for Spain featuring economic policies diametrically opposed to the PSOE's. For example: Sánchez is for higher taxes, especially on corporations, whereas Vox's stance on tax is "the lower, the better". The latter party proposes a blanket income tax rate of 21%, lower corporation and property taxes, and the eradication of estate, inheritance and capital gains taxes.

This is classic right-wing economic policy - anathema, in other words, to Spain's leftist parties and their voters. Yet there won't be many of the younger generation of Spaniards - those who have propelled Ciudadanos and their left wing counterpart, Podemos, to power - that wouldn't agree with Vox's proposals on how to deal with corrupt, profligate politicians.

The far-right newcomer wants to "cut back on wasteful spending" among ministers by including it as an offence in the criminal code. It also proposes tougher measures on corruption among the political class and the banning of government pardons. The small print of such policies is still fuzzy, with "wasteful spending" yet to be defined; but it's precisely such proposals that account for some of Vox's success in Andalucía on Sunday. Spaniards are sick and tired of politicians squandering taxpayers' money, and Vox is tapping that vein of discontent.

Whether or not the party's recent success will push Catalan separatists into the arms of the Socialists come January remains to be seen. But between now and then, Sánchez also has to think about what will happen if this far-right upstart becomes a presence in the national parliament. If (or, most likely, when) it does, leftist spending plans will face their staunchest opponents to date.