Supporters of Spain's far-right Vox party wave Spanish flags during a campaign rally in Burgos, northern Spain on April 14, 2019, ahead of the April 28 general elections.

CESAR MANSO | AFP | Getty Images

Supporters of Spain’s far-right Vox party wave Spanish flags during a campaign rally in Burgos, northern Spain on April 14, 2019, ahead of the April 28 general elections.

Spain’s far-right Vox party is expected to see a significant upswing in a general election on April 28 — but unlike other nationalist movements in Europe that have been a response to immigration, Vox’s rise is down to a more homegrown crisis.

What parties like the National Rally in France (formerly, the National Front), the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Lega party in Italy have in common with their Spanish counterpart Vox is that they are all conservative, nationalist parties that have grown in popularity in recent years.

What differentiates Vox, however, is that while the others focus on immigration as a key part of their manifestos, Spanish voters have turned to Vox largely as a response to a pro-independence movement in Catalonia and perceived threat it poses to Spain’s unity.

Catalonia in northeastern Spain has dominated the political debate in the country since a failed independence bid in 2017 and lack of resolution to the separatist movement.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has come under fire for being open to talks with Catalan separatists. And he could once again need their support to form a viable government should his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party fail to gain a majority of votes, as expected.

The failure to deal with Catalan separatists has angered many voters and has drawn many of them to Vox, which says it defends national unity.

Vox has gone further than other right-leaning parties in Spain by not only condemning the pro-independence movement in Catalonia but by taking an active role in a trial against separatist leaders; it also wants to ban separatist parties.

Vox has said it has been unfairly sidelined by the political establishment after Spain’s election board excluded it from a televised debate between party leaders, saying its inclusion would not be “proportionate” to its popularity (as it currently holds no seats in the national parliament).

Rather than blaming the elections watchdog, Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal blamed separatist parties for the decision, saying “it is clear who still commands in Spain: the separatists.”