Spanish Political Parties

Brief overview of the Spanish party system
After the death of Dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, the first free election was held on 1977. For the first years, Adolfo Suarez’s Union of the Democratic Center (Union de Centro Democratico – UCD) was the major party which played a crucial role in the democratic transition. During the 80’s the Spanish party system changed form a moderate multiparty system to a predominant party system led by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol – PSOE). Since the early 90’s centre-left (PSOE) and center-right (Popular Party – PP) have been gathering around 75% of all votes. Hence, the Spanish party system has been a typical two-party system where the mainstream parties alternate government majorities. Spain is a multinational, multicultural and multilingual federal state in which the nationwide party system coexists with a number of regional party systems.

  Main Political Parties in the 2011 election

Popular Party
Popular Party (Partido Popular – PP) is a conservative party which traces its origins to the Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular – AP) led by Manuel Fraga, a former minister during Franco’s dictatorship. Through Fraga’s suggestions, AP was transformed into PP under the leadership of Hose Maria Aznar in 1989. PP won its first general election in 1996 supported by the three regional parties (Basque Nationalist Party, Catalan Convergence and Union and Canarian Coalition). In general elections of 2000 PP won absolute majority and Hose Maria Aznar became the Prime Minister. The party followed neoliberal economic policies, impelling privatization of public sector enterprises and reduction of public expenditures. In 2003 Mariano Rajoy became the party’s new chairman. PP lost the elections of 2004. While being the opposition party, PP disapproved governments’ handlings over administrative devolution to Catalonia and Basque Country. Adding patriotic elements in its rhetoric, PP opposed political negotiations with Basque’s nationalist organization of ETA and advocated fight against terrorism. After 7 years of opposition the party had its biggest victory in 2011 general elections, ousting PSOE and gaining absolute majority. PP is also a member of the European People’s Party.

Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party
Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol – PSOE) is the oldest party in Spain founded by workers’ leader Pablo Iglesias in 1879 as a Marxist proletarian party. From 1931 to 1936 PSOE participated in coalition governments but after the Civil War, under Franco dictatorship, confronted severe repression. It was banned in 1939 and legalized again in 1977. Party’s ideology has altered substantially through the years. PSOE has abandoned its definitive Marxist positions already from the late 70’s and has gradually become a centrist social democratic party. At 1982 general elections PSOE had a large victory and its leader Felipe Gonzalez became Prime Minister. The party governed the country for 14 years until its defeat in general elections of 1996. During the years of opposition, until 2004, PSOE weathered a crisis and in 2000, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was elected new general secretary planning to renew the party. Zapatero was the Prime Minister of Spain between 2004 and 2011 and, as government, PSOE had to deal with the economic crisis. In the general elections of 2011 the party faced a severe defeat losing 38% of its 2008 votes. PSOE is a full member of Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

United Left
United Left (Izquierda Unida – IU) is a political coalition formed in 1986 from leftists groups, greens, socialists and left-wing republicans during the mobilizations against Spain’s membership in NATO. The predominant party inside the coalition is clearly the Communist Party of Spain (Partido Comunista de Espana – PCE) which is the third largest national political party with long history in Spanish politics and major role during the Civil war. Tracing back to the communist base of PCE, UI is stronger in the regions of Andalusia, Madrid and Asturias. In the first half of the 90’s IU had gained around 10% of the electorate. In the general elections of 2011 the coalition obtained 6.92% of the vote. Coalitions’ share of seats in the Congress is usually lower than its share of votes due to the electoral system which favors the mainstream lists in each district. From 2008 general secretary of UI is Cayo Lara.

Union, Progress and Democracy
Union, Progress and Democracy (Union Progreso y Democracia – UPyD) was founded in 2007, becoming the newest party with national representation. It is a social liberal party which disputes all forms of nationalism as well as separatist movements. Therefore, UPyD gains power from the part of the electorate which is opposing nationalist movements and has anti-ETA feelings especially in Basque country. In general elections of 2011 the party increased its vote share to 4.7% and became the forth political force in the country even though it has lost many of its party members. UPyD does not define itself as either left or right and supports a federal Europe based on citizenship.

Basque Nationalist Party
The Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco – PNV) is the dominant nationalist party in the Basque country. PNV is the oldest in the region since it was founded in 1895 by Sabino Arana as a catholic conservative party agitating the defense of “Basque race”. The party has evolved through the years along with many internal conflicts. It has led the Basque regional government for a long period and has played an important role in the Spanish Congress of Deputies.

Republican Left of Caralonia
Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – ERC) is a left-wing nationalist party in the autonomous community of Catalonia. It was founded in 1931 by Francesc Marcia and was declared illegal when Dictator Franco came in power in 1939. After the Catalan parliamentary elections of 2010, ERC faced a setback and has lost much of its electoral influence. Party’s current president is Oriol Junqueras.

Convergence and Union
Convergence and Union ( Convergència i Unió-CiU) is an electoral alliance consisting of two nationalist Catalan parties: Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC). Its leader is the President of Catalan Government, Artur Mas. It was established in 1978 and it is rather a centrist and moderately nationalist political party. Within the alliance coexist those that want full sovereingty of Catalonia with those who desire increased autonomy within Spain.
Sources: ParlGov, ACE, Wikipedia.

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