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Spain - Political Parties

Main PartiesLeader
PPPopular PartyMariano Rajoy
PSOE Spanish Socialist Worker's PartyAlfredo Perez Rubalcaba
CDS Democratic and Social Center Adolfo Suarez
CiudadanosCitizens Albert Rivera
PodemosWe Can Pablo Iglesias
VOX (voice in Latin)Santiago Abascal
Minor PartiesLeader
IUUnited Left Gaspar Llamazares
PNVBasque Nationalist PartyJosu Jon Imaz
CCCanarian CoalitionPaulino Rivero
BNG Galician Nationalist BlocAnxo Quintana
APAndalusian PartyAntonio Ortega
ERCCatalonia's Republican LeftJosep-Lluis Carod-Rovira
CiUConvergence and Union
(Moderate Catalan Nationalists)
Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida

Prior to the arrival of participatory democracy in Spain in the late 1970s, Spanish citizens had scant experience with political involvement. Suffrage was extremely limited, electoral mechanisms were controlled and corrupt, and political parties were elitist. Under the Francoist regime, Spanish society was depoliticized; the only political formation officially sanctioned was the National Movement. Remnants of the socialist and the communist parties functioned underground, and they were subject to severely repressive measures.

After forty years without parliamentary elections, political parties were revived, and they proliferated in the months following Franco's death. Leftist parties that had been exiled or had functioned clandestinely, such as the communists and the Socialists, had existing organizations and ideological traditions to form the bases of renewed political activity. The center and the right, however, had no such structures in place, and they lacked experience in political involvement. The coalition party that was victorious in the first elections of the new democratic regime in June 1977, the center-right UCD, failed to develop a coherent political vision. Its brief period of success was due largely to the charisma of its leader, Suarez, and the party ultimately succumbed to its internal conflicts.

With the victory of the PSOE in 1982, Spain's political system moved from a moderate right-left division to a predominance of the center-left. Support for the PSOE had become less class-based and more widespread as Spain underwent economic transformation and as the party became less dogmatic. In general, the tendency of Spain's party politics has been toward the center, and support for extremist parties has declined markedly, which bodes well for the country's future stability.

The Socialists (PSOE) and the far-left party (Izquierda Unida, the successors to the Communist party) have not run combined lists since the reintroduction of democracy. Socialists and "communists" uniting (which is still remembered as being the constituents of the Popular Front coalition of the mid-1930,s) would likely drive some voters away, negating any benefit of the union. The Socialists and far leftists have had agreements and joint candidate lists in regional races in Catalonia and Mallorca.

The PSOE and PP worked together to pass the Law of Political Parties in 2002, which was developed to strip ETA front group Batasuna of its legal status because of its refusal to condemn terrorism, thus removing ETA from the political process and terminating Batasuna's access to public funds.

Smaller parties emerged during the 1970s and the 1980s, and they frequently became part of various coalitions. The PDP had been a component of the UCD, but it re-established its separate identity in 1982, joining with the AP for the October 1982 electoral campaign and forming part of the CP during the June 1986 elections. The PL, founded in 1977, also allied with the CP in 1986. The centrist Democratic Reformist Party (Partido Reformista Democratico--PRD), established in 1984, stressed decentralization and greater independence for local party leaders.

A new radical right-wing party also emerged in 1984, the Spanish Integration Committees (Juntas Espanolas de Integracion). Founded by former Franco ministers, the party presented an updated version of the Falangism of the Franco regime. Another extreme right-wing party, the National Front (Frente Nacional-- FN), was formed in October 1986. On the left, the radical Progressive Federation (Federacion Progresista--FP) called for greater decentralization and for a neutralist foreign policy.

Special interest groups also established political organizations. The Spanish Green Party (Partido Verde Espanol-- PVE) convened its first party congress in February 1985. The group focused on wide-ranging environmentalist concerns, and it opposed NATO membership for Spain. There was also a Feminist Party (Partido Feminista--PF) that focused primarily on education.

Spain's system of political parties was complicated by the existence of regional parties that were active both at the regional level, and, when they had seats in the Cortes, at the national level. In most autonomous communities, politics was dominated by regional affiliates of one of the two national parties, the PSOE and the AP, with the PSOE controlling the greater number of regions. In some of the autonomous communities, however, these regional offshoots had to form coalitions with truly local parties if they wished to govern.

Only the Basque Country and Catalonia had regional parties that were strong enough to set the political agenda; the most important were the PNV and the Catalan electoral coalition; Convergence and Union (Convergncia i Unio--CiU). These two moderately right-wing parties routinely won seats in the Cortes, and the CiU did well enough in regional elections to govern Catalonia, if it chose, without the aid of coalition partners. It was also the only regional party that had a decisive role in politics on the national level. This foremost exponent of Catalan nationalism occasionally supplied important parliamentary support to the UCD in the late 1970s. By far the second most important party in Catalonia was the regional offshoot of the PSOE, the Socialists' Party of Catalonia (Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya--PSC). The Catalan party system in general was characterized by pragmatism and by moderation.

By contrast, the Basque national parties were beset by polarization, fragmentation, and political violence. In 1986 a group of PNV dissidents, unhappy with both the party's economic conservatism and its willingness to cooperate with the PSOE's stern antiterrorist measures, split from the party to form the more radical organization named Basque Solidarity (Eusko Alkartasuna--EA). In addition, there were two more extreme Basque nationalist groups, the Basque Left (Euskadiko Ezkerra--EE) and the HB. The more radical of these was the HB, which included Marxist-Leninist revolutionary and ultranationalist groups and which was closely linked to the ETAM. The party emphasized social revolution and armed struggle for Basque independence. The EE party was believed to be tied to the less violent ETA Political-Military Front (ETA Politico-Militar-- ETA-PM). These nationalist parties almost invariably won seats in the Cortes.

The anarchist movement that had been so important for most of the century up to the end of the Civil War was nearly extinct by the end of Franco's rule.

According to a November 2014 Metroscopia survey, 27% Spaniards expressed their support for Podemos, with only 25.5 % and 20% of Spanish citizens willing to vote for the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the governing Popular Party, respectively. Spains electoral system (a form of proportional representation) is skewed towards making it easier for Spanish conservatives to win rural seats and a majority in Congress. The Popular Party could hope to win a new majority with as little as 34% of the vote.

On 20 December 2015, Spain held decisive municipal (local), regional and general elections, after four years of Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party government and parliamentary majority. Spain in 2015 was a generational battle, the old versus the young, the past versus the future, the fifth such moment since the Civil War ended in 1936.

The ballot marked the end of the established two-party system that had held sway since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco ended in 1975, ushering in an untested and potentially volatile era of consensus politics. It also offered the latest snapshot of the willingness of European electorates to abandon the mainstream center-right and center-left, following significant gains by populist parties since October 2015 in elections in France and Portugal.

Socialist Pedro Sanchez took over as Spains prime minister on 01 June 2018, after outgoing leader Mariano Rajoy lost a parliamentary confidence vote triggered by a long-running corruption trial involving members of his center-right party. Socialist party head Sanchez becomes Spains seventh Prime Minister since its return to democracy in the late 1970s following the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. But Rajoys departure after six years in office casts one of the European Unions top four economies into an uncertain political landscape. Sanchez won the no-confidence motion with 180 votes in favour, 169 against and 1 abstention. He suggested he would try to govern until the scheduled end of the parliamentary term in mid-2020. But it is unclear how long his administration, with only 84 Socialist deputies in the 350-member legislative assembly, can last. Two Catalan pro-independence parties as well as Podemos also backed Sanchez. Market-friendly Ciudadanos, leading in the national opinion polls, was the only major party that supported Rajoy.

A far-right party on 02 December 2018 won seats in Andalusia's regional parliament for the first time since the country returned to democracy following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. With 93 percent of the votes counted, the small Vox party took 12 seats, handing a majority to right-wing parties in the southern Spanish region governed by the Socialists for the last 36 years. The result means that Vox, which opposes illegal immigration and Catalan independence, has exceeded even the most optimistic poll predictions which had forecast a possible five seat win. The Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) scored the worst result in its history winning 33 seats. Its potential ally on the left Adelante Andalusia (Forward Andalusia) picked up only 17 seats, depriving the left of a majority, while the conservative Popular Party (PP) won 26 seats and the Ciudadanos liberals took 21 seats.

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