The far-right is changing the face of the EU's third biggest city

Vox spokesman Javier Ortega Smith (center) takes part in a minute's silence for a victim of gender-based violence with a banner that reads: "Violence has no gender. Against all types of domestic violence."

(CNN)A far-right party is exerting its political influence in the Spanish capital of Madrid, starting with its Christmas lights.

Vox made a pact with the conservative Partido Popular (PP), which rules the city's regional government, earlier this year. And the far-right party, a newcomer on Spain's political scene, has already made its presence felt.
It has seized on cultural issues, and last month secured commitments to increase spending and religious imagery on Christmas decorations around Madrid. Vox has also opposed attempts to improve gender equality and pushed for a new family department to promote what it describes as traditional values.
    Each of these policies touches on key issues for Vox, which won four out of 57 seats in May's Madrid council elections. It then entered negotiations with the PP over policy concessions in exchange for support in crucial council votes. The PP formed the city government in August.
    Vox burst onto the political scene in 2018 after taking an unexpectedly high number of seats in the election in Andalusia, Spain's largest region. Not only did the result accord the party influence through its crucial support for a PP-led alliance, it also marked something of a watershed -- as the first time a far-right party had entered a regional parliament since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
    It then won 24 out of a total 350 seats in the national parliament in April's general election, a slightly disappointing result for the party after its Andalusian success, according to some political experts, but one which nonetheless cemented its place as a new political force.

    Traditional Christmas images

    Vox has attracted voters with its hard line stance on illegal immigration, its opposition to Catalan independence and its calls for Gibraltar to be returned to Spain, as well as an emphasis on cultural traditions, which were raised recently in Madrid.
    A Vox spokesman told CNN that the previous regional government had removed all religious symbolism from Christmas decorations in the city, but his party wants to reemphasize the Christian tradition of the festival. "We are not telling people how they should celebrate Christmas but from the institutions we should be accurate and respect the Spanish culture, the Catholic culture," he said.
    This year there will be more lights, larger decorations and new designs that focus on traditional Christmas images. Nativity scenes will be installed at several of the city's symbolic monumental gates.
    Festive decorations are just one symbolic issue that Vox has taken up. The party doesn't control any council departments and officially remains in opposition. But Vox's pact with PP means Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Madrid's regional leader, has promised to develop a program with concessions to Vox.
    "I'll honor it completely because that's my word," said Ayuso in reference to the pact, which includes provisions forcing schools to inform parents about the content of lessons before the start of term, and changes to the way in which unaccompanied migrant children are identified.
    A Vox spokesman told CNN that there have been mistakes in identifying foreign unaccompanied minors and that there have been cases of people pretending to be children in order to claim certain state benefits.
    "We demand that a new way of identification is put in place so we can correctly identify the people who have the right to those benefits," the spokesman said, emphasizing that Vox has zero tolerance for illegal migration. "We would like those benefits to go to legal and regulated immigration."
    A PP spokeswoman told CNN the identification of minors is the responsibility of the central prosecutor's office for minors, not regional politicians. The spokeswoman emphasized that any policy changes would have to be made at a national level, rather than by the local Madrid government.

    PP reliant on Vox to govern Madrid

    Madrid's PP mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, will need Vox's votes again to pass a budget and other essential business.
    However Almeida and Vox spokesman Javier Ortega Smith have already suffered a very public disagreement, arguing in the street in full view of the press and the public on September 19. As Almeida and other public figures observed a minute's silence in honor of a victim of gender-based violence, Ortega Smith disrupted proceedings holding a sign that read: "Violence has no gender."
    Speaking about the incident, the Vox spokesman expressed his condolences with the family of the victim. "It was just a way of expressing our condolences from another point of view," he said. "All victims are the same, they shouldn't be treated differently because of their gender."
    Almeida said that he thought Vox had made a mistake in bringing the banner to the memorial. However the mayor also emphasized that he "does not believe in gender ideology" and that the struggle for equality between men and women should be "without ideology."
    Spain's far-right is back -- with a difference