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Popular Party [PP Partido Popular ]

The Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular--AP) was a conservative right-wing party founded in 1976 by former Franco ministers under the leadership of Fraga, who had helped to prepare the way for reform during the Franco era and who had expected to play a key role in post-Franco governments. The need to present a more centrist image led to a change in leadership, with Jose Maria Aznar, and a new name of the party, named the Popular Party [PP Partido Popular ] since 1989.

Fraga underestimated the popular desire for change and distaste for Francoism, and he advocated an extremely gradual transition to democracy. Although Fraga had originally intended to convey a reformist image, his party was perceived by the electorate as both reactionary and authoritarian. Fraga's own outbursts of temper and the close ties of many of the AP candidates to the previous regime contributed to this perception. When elections were held in June 1977, the AP garnered only 8.3 percent of the vote.

In the months following the 1977 elections, dissension erupted within the AP over constitutional issues that arose as the draft document was being formulated. The more reactionary members voted against the draft constitution, and they advocated a shift to the right. Fraga, however, wanted to move the AP toward the political center in order to form a larger centerright party. Most of the disenchanted reactionaries left the AP, and Fraga and the remaining AP members joined other more moderately conservative party leaders to form the Democratic Coalition (Coalicion Democratica--CD). It was hoped that this new coalition would capture the support of those who had voted for the UCD in 1977, but who had become disenchanted with the Suarez government. When elections were held in March 1979, however, the CD received only 6.1 percent of the vote. Deeply disappointed, Fraga resigned as head of his party.

By the time of the AP's Third Party Congress in December 1979, party leaders were reassessing their involvement in the CD. Many felt that the creation of the coalition had merely confused the voters, and they sought to emphasize the AP's independent identity. Fraga resumed control of the party, and the political resolutions adopted by the party congress reaffirmed the conservative orientation of the AP.

In the early 1980s, Fraga succeeded in rallying the various components of the right around his leadership. He was aided in his efforts to revive the AP by the increasing disintegration of the UCD. In the general elections held in October 1982, the AP gained votes both from previous UCD supporters and from the far right, and it became the major opposition party, securing 25.4 percent of the popular vote.

Whereas the AP's parliamentary representation had dropped to 9 seats in 1979, the party allied itself with the small right-wing PDP and won 106 seats in 1982. The increased strength of the AP was further evidenced in the municipal and regional elections held in May 1983, when the party drew 26 percent of the vote. A significant portion of the electorate appeared to support the AP's emphasis on law and order as well as its probusiness policies.

Subsequent political developments belied the party's aspirations to continue increasing its base of support. Prior to the June 1986 elections, the AP once again joined forces with the PDP, and along with the PL, formed the CP, in another attempt to expand its constituency to include the center of the political spectrum. The coalition called for stronger measures against terrorism, for more privatization, and for a reduction in spending and in taxes. The CP failed to increase its share of the vote in the 1986 elections, however, and it soon began to disintegrate.

When regional elections in late 1986 resulted in further losses for the coalition, Fraga resigned as AP president, although he retained his parliamentary seat. Manuel Fraga, the son of immigrants from Cuba with family in Latin America, became President of Galicia in 1989. At the party congress in February 1987, Hernandez was chosen to head the AP, declaring that under his leadership the AP would become a "modern right-wing European party." But Hernandez lacked political experience at the national level, and the party continued to decline. When support for the AP plummeted in the municipal and regional elections held in June 1987, there was increased likelihood that it would be overtaken as major opposition party by Suarez's CDS.

After taking office in 1996, President Aznar led his center-right Popular Party (PP) to unprecedented power at the national and regional level. Although Aznar was not a candidate in 2004, the PP was poised to win its third national election in a row, despite widespread dissatisfaction with Aznar's decision to contribute forces to U.S.-led operations in Iraq. The 3/11 attacks and their aftermath were a turning point in modern Spanish politics. The Madrid train attacks shocked the Spanish public and triggered an outpouring of grief and sadness, but then anger when the PP government continued to blame ETA for the bombings after evidence arose pointing to Islamic radicals as authors of the attacks. The bombings allowed the Socialists to capitalize on simmering resentment of Aznar's decision to send troops to Iraq, leading to a huge voter turnout and a Socialist victory.

The conservative PP ousted the PSOE from power in 2011 by winning 44.64 percent of the votes and 186 seats in the Congreso de los Diputados. It was the party’s largest ever majority.

Since it came to power in December 2011, just months after the NATO-led intervention in Libya, the current ruling conservative People's’ Party has reignited the pro-NATO and pro-U.S. presence in the country by signing several military deals with Washington that allowed for a NATO and US expansion in the country.

An emphatic victory appeared to be way off the cards for the 60-year-old Rajoy in 2015, with the electorate seemingly discontent with the nation’s faltering economic recovery. Unemployment levels across the country still remained above 20 percent, as they were in 2013, and forecasts suggest this figure was likely to decrease only minimally by 2020 under the current government.

Rajoy’s case for re-election was further hindered in 2014 by corruption scandals that rocked the party, with a judge ruling that a PP official had kept a secret slush of campaign money for 18 years that “drew on various sources of funding outside the legal economic sphere.” However, having been a minister from 1996 to 2003 Rajoy boasted a long political career and the inexperience of his competition was a caveat he played on. He has said his competition was formed “a quarter of an hour ago” and has shunned invitations to participate in recent four-way debates, saying he will only debate with the “main opposition leader.”

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Page last modified: 18-12-2015 16:10:36 ZULU