Guide to the 2011 Spanish Election

Post-election: Read the analysis of the results!

Spain, one of Europe’s most important countries and a country wracked by economic disaster, votes in early elections on November 20, 2011. Spain, which had already voted this year in regional and municipal elections on May 22, was originally scheduled to hold general elections in March 2012. But, after the opposition’s victory in the regional elections, the opposition increased pressure on the incumbent Socialist government to call snap elections.

The incumbent and retiring President of the Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in office since 2004, acquiesced to both the opposition’s pressure and rising demands within his own party for snap elections. On July 29, he announced the organization of general elections on November 20.

Spain’s Parliament or Cortes is composed of two houses. The lower house is the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados), which is made up of 350 deputies elected by closed list proportional representation (d’Hondt method) in 50 constituencies which correspond to Spain’s provinces. A party needs to win at least 3% of the vote in a constituency to be eligible for seats. Blank votes are counted as valid votes in the allocation of seats.

Each province is represented by a minimum of two deputies while the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla are represented by one member. The remaining 248 seats are distributed to provinces based on population. The provinces of Madrid with 35 members and Barcelona with 31 members elect the most members, while the province of Soria elects the least, two.

There are, on average, 100,200 voters for each member, but the electoral system over-represents smaller provinces (most of them in Castile) to the detriment of larger provinces. In Soria, there were only 38,685 voters per deputy in 2008 while in Barcelona there were 128,392 voters per deputy that same year. This overrepresentation of smaller provinces could be seen as favouring the right-wing Popular Party (Partido Popular, PP) in case of a tie in the popular vote because the right’s stronghold has traditionally been these overrepresented provinces. But Socialist-leaning provinces such as Huesca, are also overrepresented (58,755 voters/deputy in Huesca in 2008).

The provincial constituencies system is also biased towards larger parties and regionalist parties. The small number of seats in a lot of provinces means that the ‘real threshold’ for representation is significantly higher. In 2004, the threshold in 3-seat constituencies was on average 25%. Even in Valencia, which elected 16 members, the average threshold (5.4%) was higher than the one set by law (3%). However, the threshold in Madrid, which elected 35 members that year, was 2.6% – below the one set by law. This higher threshold has significantly underrepresented smaller national parties such as the United Left (IU). For example, IU won only two seats in 2008 though it had won more votes than the regionalist CiU and PNV. Critics of Spain’s electoral system often use that example, although it is slightly unfair given that IU and its allies ran candidates in all 50 provinces while the regionalist CiU and PNV ran candidates only in their region where they polled much better than the IU did. Still, if Spain was a single constituency, the IU could have won up to 14 seats.

The Senate (Senado) is the upper house of the Cortes. Though the Congress and Senate both have the power to initiate legislation and the Senate can impose its veto or amendments to legislation, the Congress has the upper hand over the Senate in that only it can initiate votes of confidence and it is able to override a senatorial veto. The Senate has 264 members, of which 208 will be elected on November 20. The Senate is a chamber of territorial representation, but unlike in the United States or Germany, it does not represent the autonomous communities of the country. Instead, it represents provinces. Each of peninsular Spain’s forty-seven provinces elect four senators without regard to population. Ceuta and Melilla elect two senators each. In Spain’s three insular provinces (the Balearic Islands and the two Canarian provinces), the larger islands (Mallorca in the Balearics and Gran Canaria and Tenerife in the Canaries) elect three senators while the smaller islands (Menorca, Ibiza-Formentera in the Balearics; Fuerteventura, La Gomera, El Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma in the Canaries) each elect one member. This system significantly overrepresents smaller provinces, given that Madrid and Soria each have the same number of Senators.

In provinces with four senators, voters may vote up to three candidates. In those with two or three, for up to two. In those with one, for a single candidate. Voters vote for individual candidates (each party slate has three names in four-seaters) and those four winning the most votes are elected. This usually means that seats are split 3-1 between the winning slate and the runners-up.

In addition, 56 seats are nominated by autonomous communities. Each autonomous community is entitled to one plus one additional member for every million inhabitants. Cantabria, Navarre and La Rioja only have one nominated member. Andalusia has 9. Population growth in certain regions increased the weight of nominated senators from 51 to 56 in 2008. The right’s victory in the May elections will likely increase the PP’s control of nominated seats.

Spain has been governed since 2004 by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). Zapatero’s PSOE was elected, by surprise, on March 14 2004 only days after terrorist attacks on March 11 had killed 191 people. He was reelected, though did not win an overall majority, in the March 2008 elections.

Spain in 2011 is wracked by severe economic difficulties. Spain is struggling under nearly 20% unemployment, a huge budget deficit and is possible on the brink of bankruptcy a la Greece/Ireland/Portugal (and the United States, apparently). The government has been compelled to adopt tough austerity measures which have succeeded in bringing Spain back from the brink but at the cost of severe budget trimming which have caused social disruptions. Budget trimming is especially difficult in a decentralized country such as Spain, where regional communities (always clamoring for more financial powers) account for 37% of public spending. Hounded for his initially sluggish response and then his austerity-minded budgets, the Socialist President of the Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in office since 2004, has won some of the worst approval numbers of any Spanish head of government and finally announced in April 2011 that he would not stand for reelection.

In the wake of the crisis, Spain has seen the emergence of a grassroots, largely youth-driven protest movement styled as los indignados. The indignados protest against austerity measures, the abuses of capitalism, corruption, the political and party system. It is possible that the weight of this movement is spun out of proportion: despite calling on voters to stay home during the May elections, turnout actually increased by 2% in those elections even though the slight increase (under 1%) in blank and invalid votes was perhaps an effect of the movement.

Spain is a fascinating country with a deep, riveting and conflict-ridden history. A plethora of issues or themes pervade Spanish politics and history, the most contemporary of which are regional nationalism, devolution, terrorism, political polarization but also broader themes in European history such as immigration, international terrorism and the economic crisis which have major repercussions in Spain. Understanding the nature of Spain’s contemporary political system, its rapid transformation into a leading, democratic European power after years of decadence or authoritarianism and its inherent contradictions requires to dig deep into history. Why does Spain face so many regional nationalisms and demands for devolution? After all, almost every region in Spain has a regionalist party of some sort (even though some are nothing more than also-rans). Countries such as France, Italy or Germany which also have regions with different histories, cultures and sometimes linguistic traditions are not marked by such conflictual regional relations. Furthermore, regionalism in one particular region of Spain has taken the form of a significant movement aiming to achieve its aims through armed violence and terror, a rarity in the west.

Between now and November, this post will take the form of an ambitious, thorough and probably excessively long and redundant guide to Spanish history, politics and political system. It will be modeled around the famous Guide to the 2010 Brazilian Election, though likely longer. Spanish history is ridden with conflicts and heavy polarization, but I try to remain neutral and steer clear of much controversy. That being said, I can’t help but have a profound distaste for certain authoritarian figures or monarchs. Thankfully they’re dead and their fanclub is limited.

Spanish History and Politics since 1874

Comments of importance

  • The title for the head of Spain’s government has always been President of the Government or presidente del gobierno. For the sake of simplicity and for readers used to the term ‘Prime Minister’, I prefer to use the term ‘Prime Minister’ or ‘PM’ even though it is not the correct term and the President of the Government is not known as the Prime Minister in Spain, even colloquially.
  • I prefer to use the English terms for most regions instead of the native term (Castile instead of Castilla, Navarre instead of Navarra, Catalonia instead of Catalunya). For simplicity’s sake, I do, however, use ‘Euskadi’ for the Basque Country.
  • Election results are obtained from Història Electoral (pre-1977) and from the Interior Ministry (since 1977). In Spain, results presented are as percentage of valid votes, which includes blank votes – envelopes containing no party ballot. In my tables, I exclude these votes and show results as percentages of candidate votes, including solely votes cast directly for a party list.
  • An asterisk next to a party’s name in elections after 1977 indicate a regional or regionalist party.
  • My interests in Spanish history are peripheral nationalisms, political evolution, political parties and political violence; thus I focus a lot on that. I do not focus as much on the economic or perhaps social aspects of Spanish history.
  • My main source is Romero-Salvado’s Twentieth Century Spain: Politics and Society in Spain, 1898 – 1998
  • You will notice how important land, property and land ownership has been throughout Spanish history. The regions Galicia, Old Castile, Euskadi and Navarre are countries of small property, that is a large population of poor small peasants owning small tracts of land; leftover from the Reconquista when the Castilian throne gave soldiers individual tracts of land. Andalusia, New Castile and Aragon, especially Andalusia, are marked by the dominance of large properties or latifundios with hegemonic land owners and dirt poor peasants.

Primer: Spain between 1492 and 1875

The Reconquista was marked by the emergence of Christian fiefdoms, the most notable of which were Navarre (Basque nationalists argue that it was a Basque kingdom), Castile (which absorbed Leon and Galicia) and Aragon (which was in personal union with Barcelona). Queen Isabella the Catholic of Castile married Ferdinand of Aragon and united the latter two thrones, but the crown of Aragon retained its own fiscal system and peculiarities until 1714. These special regional advantages, peculiarities and specific local legal system are known as fueros. This is a crucial point: unlike in France, where the monarchs asserted their authority and centralized power, the Spanish monarchy even after 1492 did not do so and allowed for the continued presence of local particularisms, fueros and so forth. Spain’s monarchs did rule over huge amounts of land in Europe and overseas (especially the Hapsburgs). Unlike French monarchs who preferred a smaller territory but a unified territory, Spain preferred a larger territory which it could not really unify into a modern nation-state. Perhaps if the fueros of the Basque Country, for example, had been abolished in 1492 and Spain became a centralized monarchy under the Castilian throne the Basque nationalist movement would be either inexistent, a regionalist annoyance or very weak.

Castile emerged as the driving force behind the Reconquista and the ‘unification’ of Spain. Its language, Castilian, gradually became the language of Spain. The crown of Castile, whose land included the heart of the country in addition to Madrid, was the powerful actor in Spain and its elites became those of Spain as a whole. There is thus an unfortunate tendancy in Spanish nationalism and historiography to see Castile as synonymous with Spain and make the history of Castile that of Spain as a whole.

The Bourbons, who took over in 1700, were more centralizing than the Hapsburg. They centralized authority and started unraveling the patchwork of local previleges after 1715 or so. It was still incomplete centralization, and was not driven by any ideological objectives but rather out of necessity for revenue to finance their various genocides and mass-murders.

When Napoleon invaded Spain, various rebel councils assembled in Cadiz and wrote the 1812 Constitution of Cadiz which would become the founding document of the liberal nationalist current of Spanish politics. It was (moderately) anti-clerical, (moderately) democratic, centralist and in favour of free trade. When Ferdinand VII (who was not very bright) returned to Spain, he reneged his promise to uphold the constitution and returned to absolutist reactionary rule which went along with the country’s bankruptcy following the American conflicts. This led to the Liberal Trienium, a period of civil and anarchy where the liberals ran the country with Ferdinand placed under house arrest.France invaded in 1823 and ended the three-year rule, leading to ten years of reactionary absolutist incompetence under Ferdinand.

Ferdinand VII died in 1833, but had only two daughters from a third marriage. Spain was under male primogeniture/Salic law at this time, so the throne at his death would have passed to his brother Infante Carlos, a reactionary. In 1830, Ferdinand VII – not a liberal at any rate but not as reactionary as his brother – passed the ‘Pragmatic Sanction’ which allowed his eldest daughter, Isabella (born 1830), to inherit the throne as Queen of Spain.

When Ferdinand died in 1833, the reactionary followers of Carlos rose in revolt against the liberal Cristinos/Isabelinos (Isabella’s regent Maria Christina). Carlos’ supporters, the Carlists, represented the traditionalist conservative nationalist current of Spanish politics. Carlists fought for the old order. That meant clericalism (including continuing the Inquisition), the divine right of monarchs and an absolute monarchy. An ultra-conservative and anti-liberal ideology, opposed to the Enlightment values which were starting to ‘invade’ Spain. Carlists, more importantly, also supported the old regime of fueros and regional advantages as opposed to the centralizing tendancies of liberalism. Economically, Carlism was attached the old Medieval order of smallholdings, communal land and Church property which was threatened by the state takeover of Church property and the rise of capitalism. As such, Carlism also represented an original revolt against capitalism led by small farmers in isolated areas who feared losing their lands. As such, Marxism actually had sympathy for Carlism. Carlism found its support in Euskadi, Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia (Euskadi and Navarre in particular). The clergy also supported the Carlist cause.

The Carlists had early success in the war, notably thanks to their wonderful Basque general Zumalacárregui, but his death in the siege of Bilbao in 1835 was the beginning of the end for the Carlists who were finally defeated in 1839. Foreign support by France, the UK and Portuguese liberals was important in the Cristino victory.

The defeat of Carlism ushered in the first signs of centralization: creation of provinces (which have barely been altered since), confiscation of church lands (the Church owned tons of land). The reign of Queen Isabella II (who was also not too bright) between 1833 and 1868 was marked, politically, by political instability, underlying Carlist threats, corruption and a series of military coups named pronunciamientos. Coups in reality took the place that elections take today in changing governments, which were led more often than not by military men. Politics were marked by violent clashes between progressives (including general Espartero and later Juan Prim), moderates (conservatives led by general Narváez) and later the Liberal Union, a centrist grouping led by the conservative general Leopoldo O’Donnell. Governments didn’t last very long, but the Isabeline era saw the “moderate decade” (1844-1854), the progressist bienium (1854-1856) and the Liberal Union era (1856-1863 or 1868). Economic growth remained limited to Catalonia and Euskadi, the deficit grew dramatically, corruption was pervasive, politics were dominated by wealthy elites or career officers and again the Spanish state failed to create a modern, European liberal nation-state.

A broad coalition of opponents to the Queen, allied with republicans, progressives and leaderless Liberal Unionists, and all led by general Juan Prim more or less took power in 1868 and exiled the idiot Queen. Rejecting the idea of a republic, the Cortes looked for a King. They settled on Amadeo I of Savoy, the son of Victor Emmanuel I, who became king in 1871. Political instability only increased with Prim’s assassination and a new Carlist war in 1872. The Italian monarch was basically left on his own and got fed up and packed his bags in 1873.

A republic was proclaimed, but the republic was beset immediately by problems: the republican movement itself was weak and more importantly divided into two conflicting streams: centralist conservative republicans and federalist liberal republicans. All went wrong at once: a cantonalist revolt with cities declaring themselves independent and killing each other, the Carlists causing trouble again, a Cuban revolt and a string of coups and rising authoritarianism. A pronunciamiento on December 29 1874 proclaimed Isabella’s son Alfonso XII as King.

The Restoration: Whistling past the cemetery (1875-1923)

Illusory stability: 1875-1898

The Bourbonic Restoration, which denotes an era lasting between 1875 and 1923, was marked by artificial stability and an illiberal sham “liberal monarchy” which masked growing social inequality, the growth of peripheral nationalism, the rise of social troubles, continuing corruption, foreign disasters, economic stagnation or ruin, and military weaknesses.

The architect of the system was the brilliant Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, a wily old career politician. Alongside his friend Práxedes Mateo Sagasta they founded that system of artificial stability which made the political elite blind to the realities of Spain and led Spain down the road of disaster. That system was the turno pacifico (or Canovite System), a peaceful alternance of power between two artificial fake political parties: Canovas’ Conservatives and Sagasta’s Liberals. Neither were real parties, rather they were fledgling coalitions of regional barons and pawns of the powers that be. The two agreed to peacefully alternate in power: one party would get a stint in power, rig the polls to win an election then the King would decide to give the others a stint in power (and rig the polls etc). The system was formal: Sagasta and Canovas signed the Pacto de El Pardo in 1885 to formalize the system of peaceful alternance in power.

The system’s stability rested on three institutions: the King, the military and the church. The King was not merely a constitutional monarch with the responsibility of naming a head of government after elections. The King was the core of the system: he was the arbitrer of the turno pacifico, the person who made it run smoothly. The King was the one with the prerogative of dismissing the President of the Government and calling on the opposition to form government. More importantly, the King held in his hands the power to dissolve Parliament and allow whoever was in power to win the elections. Alfonso XIII, on the throne since 1886 and as full king since 1902, took this power very seriously. Alfonso XIII believed in the ‘regeneration’ of Spain and looked for the best means to achieve this. By the end, he started doubting that parliamentarianism was the way to achieve this.

The army was not one of Europe’s most powerful fighting forces, as evidenced by the countless routs it suffered not only in Cuba but also in Morrocco. But the army was key to the system’s stability. The Canovite system managed to consolidate the army’s support for the monarchy, largely by giving it free reign in military affairs. Most politicians were civilians but officers often got comfy seats in the Senate, and held the war ministry for most of the Restoration era. But as we’ll see later, the army was divided between the peninsular office elite corps and the rough-and-tumble ‘Africans’ who fought in colonial conflicts in North Africa.

Article 11 of the 1876 Constitution proclaimed La religión católica, apostólica, romana, es la del Estado. Such an article was crucial to the Canovite system’s ability to regain the control of the Church, which had backed Carlism up until this point. The Church rebuilt its wealth, to the point of owning a third of Spain and the state granted the Church free reign in education. Bishops were also given seats in the Senate. The Church was the grassroots institution in closest contact with workers and peasants, something which serves to explain the rabid anticlericalism of the republican movement in future years.

Elections were shams, rigged by the governing party (who still conceded seats to the other parties and even to friendly Carlists and republicans) to ensure them a majority. The system rested on the caciques, political bosses (often landowners, officials, priests or lawyers) who ran their personal fiefs with unlimited powers to dispense justice, appoint officials, govern locally, settle disputes and rule over their peons. They provided the elites with the votes in election time, sometimes through coercion but the Canovite system also rested on hegemonic power. More often than not, caciques did not have to resort to rigging the votes because their peons were scared to vote against the will of the man who had so much control over their ways. Caciquismo allowed an unprofitable protectionist agrarian economy to prosper, with industry limited to Catalonia (textile and other manufacturing), Euskadi (metallurgy, shipbuilding and some manufacturing) and Asturias (coal mining).

The Castilian wheat-growers, hurt by poor harvests and cheaper grain from abroad, had joined with the Catalan and Basque industrialists to erect huge tariff barriers in 1891 and 1907 to make Spain the most protected economy in Europe. The high tariff barriers allowed for the comfortable continuation of the status-quo, saved Castilian agriculture and prevented major social change. Free trade could have allowed for faster economic growth by reallocating resources and worked to make Spanish industries more competitive but it was far too risky of a gamble for the elite. Poor transportation – railways having been designed by the Madrilene elites, run in large part thanks to foreign speculators and tailored for exporting goods – and other bottlenecks denied cheap food to the industrial periphery – but the industrialists were protected so they couldn’t care less.

What the USS Maine wrought: 1898-1914

The system worked smoothly until 1898. Under the dual leadership of Canovas and Sagasta, Spain enjoyed unprecedented political stability as wealth increased slightly and Spain moved forward a tiny bit. Republican or Carlist revolutionary threats were killed off. The first blow was Canovas’ assasination by an Italian anarchist in 1897. In 1898, Spain was soundly defeated by the United States in the Spanish-American War which sealed Spain’s colonial empire with the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Pacific Islands. The loss of Cuba, which had become the last bulwark and the symbol of Spain’s Empire, was a major blow. Cuba had increasingly been seen by Spain as an integral part of Spain, not just a colony. Its loss was a major blow. The war (and disease) also crippled the Spanish military, the navy in particular having been practically anhilated. The ‘Disaster of ‘98’ as it is often referred to in Spain led to the regeneracionismo movement, an intellectual movement dedicated to restoring Spain to its former greatness and “regenerating” a stronger Spain. Major regenerationist writers included Pío Baroja and Miguel de Unamuno, two Basques.

The Disaster of 98 precipitated the growth of opposing ideologies. In addition to Carlism and republicanism, the two old opposing ideologies, the early twentieth century was marked by the rise of socialism, anarchism (or anarcho-syndicalism) and regionalism.

The Republicans had been terribly divided since the fall of the Republic. Some divisions were inevitable personality clashes. A lot more was due to differences over details: some were centralists, some were federalists, some were Catalan autonomists, some prioritized violent actions (pronunciamientos), some were legalists, a lot were just reformists who ended up supporting the dynastic parties. The Republicans did have some electoral successes (1893, 1903, 1905, 1910, 1919) and always had a rump, but they were never a serious alternative. Their history is not remarkable, but one politician of the era merits some attention.

Alejandro Lerroux was a demagogic, radical and aggressive leader known for a fiery rhetoric mixing anticlericalism, vague reformism and violent attacks on the dynastic parties. Lerroux made his career in Barcelona. Lerroux was active in the Republican Union founded in 1903 by Salmerón, but quit the party in 1906 and founded the Radical Republican Party in 1908. The Radicals were Lerroux’s machine, and had its base in working-class Barcelona. Some theorize that Lerroux was a type-A swindling funded by the start by the Liberals to divert working-class support in Barcelona from the anarcho-syndicalists as well as the regionalists.

The Socialist movement began with the foundation of the PSOE in 1879 in Madrid by Pablo Iglesias. The PSOE only won its first seat in 1910, but has won seats in all democratic elections since. The PSOE subscribed to hardline Marxist rhetoric on the inevitability of the workers’ revolution but, like the SFIO, followed a contradictory legalist and reformist strategy. The PSOE’s union affiliate, the General Union of Workers (UGT), founded in 1888, focused on improving living standards and winning better wages, not fermenting unrest. The PSOE was hurt by its weak base and the division of the left-wing movement in Spain between the Socialists and the anarcho-syndicalists.

Anarchism was introduced in Spain in 1868 by an Italian anarchist representing the First Internationale in Spain and spread quickly in the late nineteenth century. Anarchists violently rejected the state, capitalism, the Church and the lot of it; instead wishing for a libertarian-communist paradise. The violent rejection of the state and utopist rhetoric struck a chord with Andalusian landless peasants, unconvinced by the doctrinaire socialists, and Andalusia became the base of anarchism in Spain. Anarchism was also dominant in Catalonia and Barcelona, which had a long history of support for federalists and various proto-anarchist ideologies. Anarchists prioritized violent actions, massive strikes and direct action which won it lots of spots in jails and lots of bullets on the behalf of the state. The decline of free-for-all terrorism led to the rise of syndicalism as a method to achieve the violent overthrow of the state.

Significant in all this is the ‘Semana Tragica’ of 1909. In 1909, Spain was embroiled in fighting with local tribes in the Rif (Morrocco). Conservative PM Antonio Maura called up reservists, which in Barcelona were mostly poor workers. In July 1909, a violent general strike broke out led by the anarchist Solidaridad Obrera union. The strike descended into chaos, as Lerroux’s Young Barbarians (looters linked to the Radicals) started looting and burning churches. Maura, and his radical Interior Minister Juan de la Cierva sent in troops from outside the city to successfully crush the revolt. The trial and subsequent execution of anarchist teacher Francesc Ferrer created an international uproar which led to Alfonso XIII firing Maura in October 1909 and replacing him with the Liberal Segismundo Moret.

The Semana Tragica triggered Solidaritad Obrera’s peninsular expansion to compete with the reformist UGT. In 1910, the National Confederation of Labour or CNT was founded. The CNT subscribed to anarcho-syndicalism, which prioritized large strike actions which rarely had definite material objectives. The CNT was very decentralized, with no bureaucracy or socialist-like ‘democratic centralism’.

The Disaster of 98 also sparked the rebirth of regionalist movements, notably in Euskadi and Catalonia. In Euskadi, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) was founded in 1895 by Sabino Arana. Sabino Arana, born in a Carlist family, was an insane racist xenophobe. Arana published his most famous work, Bizkaya por su independencia, a mish-mash of history, pseudo-myths, eugenics and racism. The Basque people do indeed form a unique collective ethnicity, speaking a language (Euskara) which is the last remaining pre-Indo-European language in Europe and with unknown origins. But prior to Arana, there had been little in the way of collective identity (people rather identified with their province) and no real nationalist movement demanding separation from Spain. The removal of the fueros in the 1870s triggered the birth of Basque nationalism, which is strongly influenced by foralism. Arana further created ethnic myths, defining the Basques as a unique and pure people allegedly descended from the humans on Noah’s Ark. For good measure, he put the manly and pure Basques against the dirty impure Spaniards/foreigners, referred to as maketos (or ‘Koreans’). Arana’s hatred of Spain and the maketos is symbolic of the emergence of Basque nationalism as a reactionary movement against immigration of Spaniards from outside Euskadi to work in the booming metallurgical industry around Bilbao. The maketos were seen as dangerous foreigners polluting the pure race with their language, customs and especially with socialism and anticlericalism. Arana is also the man behind the creation of most of the symbols of modern Euskadi: he created the Basque flag, he coined the name ‘Euskadi’ (the alternative term is Euskal Herria, land of Basque speakers) and wrote the Basque anthem. Arana got himself arrested pretty much intentionally, and in 1902 interestingly signaled a change of line from hardline independence to autonomy within Spain but died in 1903 without explaining whether change of mind was genuine or a tactic. The early PNV was, in Arana’s vein, a hardline nationalist reactionary conservative party. It suffered splits early in its existence but was reunited in 1930.

Catalan nationalism was born in the wake of the cultural renaissance in Catalonia in the nineteenth century (the Renaixença) and the decline of the Spanish state. Catalonia has never been a kingdom, but the County of Barcelona claims a long history as one of the oldest states in Europe and Catalonia was closely associated to the throne of Aragon. Catalonia’s previleges were abolished in 1714, but there was no nationalist movement to speak of. Catalonia was then the industrial core of Spain, with inland textile mills and later textile and other industries around Barcelona. Integration within the peninsular market was favourable to Catalan industrialists. But with the Disaster of 98, industrialists increasingly felt that the Spanish state was declining into an outdated agrarian country. Catalan industrialists, largely of conservative persuasion, formed the Lliga Regionalista in 1901. The Lliga wished to economically modernize Spain under its leadership, and crush the centralist agrarian oligarchy. They used autonomy as a method of gaining leverage and obtain concessions. It was certainly not separatist, as independence was contrary to the economic interests of the industrialist elite. It was also purely opportunistic, forming temporary alliances of convenience with republicans, socialists, labour and the dynastic parties. But at its roots it was conservative, something which fueled the rise of smaller left-wing (and sometimes separatist) republican nationalist movements led by prominent left-leaning intellectuals. The Lliga’s dominant personality was the brillant Francesc Cambó, with Enric Prat de la Riba being the other main Lliga politician of the era.

The Disaster of 98 did not signal the end of the turno. Stuff went on smoothly, with the Conservatives taking over from the Liberals in 1899 and the cycle continuing, with the Liberals returning to power in 1905. It was symbolic of an elite totally blind and oblivious to reality.

Despite the defeat of 1898, the army took an increasingly aggressive place in politics post-Disaster. The officer corps were overstaffed and unreformed, and bitter at the defeats which they blamed on the incompetent corrupt civilian politicians. They proved intolerant of civilian criticism, seeing themselves as the guardian of the fatherland, national unity and social order above from the politicians.

The Cut-Cut crisis of November 1905 is particular significant in this regard. The Catalan satiric maganize Cut-Cut had published an anti-militarist cartoon, leading incensensed officers to rampage the offices of the magazine and a Catalan newspaper. The Liberal PM, Eugenio Montero Ríos was sacked by Alfonso XIII (who often sided with the military in disputes between the army and the politicians) and replaced by another Liberal, Segismundo Moret who placated the military with the 1906 Law of Jurisdictions which gave the army jurisdiction over any offence to the army, the monarchy or state. Indignated Catalans, from Carlists to Republicans and including the Lliga, formed Solidaritat Catala which won 41 out of 44 seats in Catalonia in the 1907 election. The Solidaritat alliance was opposed by Lerroux, who walked out of the PUR to form the Radicals in 1908. Solidaritat collapsed over internal divisions and the chaos of the Semana Tragica in 1909.

Given the nature of the dynastic parties, the death of their leaders in 1897 and 1903 respectively marked the end of internal stability for them. As makeshift coalitions of caciques and regional barons devoid of any real ideological anchor, the death of the leaders catalyzed the factionalization of both parties. Factions centered around one personality and with a strong base in said personality’s fief grew in number until 1923. After 1913, the Conservatives were split between the mauristas, the governing datistas and the smaller and radical right-wing ciervistas. The Liberals were split after 1912 between Álvaro de Figueroa, count of Romanones and Manuel García Prieto, marquis of Alhucemas with smaller factions appearing in later years.

The Conservatives did find a strong leader in Antonio Maura, who became the uncontested leader of the party in 1903 and took the office of Prime Minister for a second time in 1907. Maura was a regenerationist, governing by the tagline “revolución desde arriba” (revolution from the top). He sought to mobilize the electorate and break caciquismo. But his autocratic style alienated opponents, and he made no friends as he sought – unsuccessfully – to reform the electoral system (to eliminate caciquismo) and introduce corporatism in local government (again to break caciquismo). His efforts to look honest were also dashed in the 1907 elections, which his interior minister Juan de la Cierva rigged like never before. Maura fell in 1909 over the aforementioned Semana Tragica, being replaced by the Liberal Moret.

Maura grew frustrated with the turno, but the Conservatives, led by wealthy lawyer Eduardo Dato were eager to enjoy the spoils of power again, and, to Maura’s frustration, happily followed the order in 1913 when the Liberals were done for the time being. Maura and his supporters formed the maurista faction, the only dynastic party to mobilize popular support and the first modern right-wing movement in Spain though still a personalist movement.

A neutral country’s internal war: 1914-1917

Dato declared Spain’s neutrality as World War I broke out in 1914. Spain was in no position to fight a war in Europe, its army being in shambles and its economy and society being incapable of supporting the strains of a major conflict. Furthermore, Spain had no interests at stake in the Balkans and had practiced, since 1898 at least, a policy of isolationism and narrow focus on protecting the Morrocan protectorate.

Perhaps as a fateful sign of things to come, Spanish society and elites were split down the middle over the war. One the one hand, you had the Francophiles who wished for an Ally victory and on the other, the Germanophiles who wished for the Central Powers to win. The Francophiles were mostly left-wing, intellectuals, professionals and liberal democrats. The Germanophiles were mostly right-wing drawn from the previleged social groups (such as landowners, aristocrats or the military). They were close to the Prussian ideals of law, order and national unity. As war went on, the Germanophiles sought to keep Spain neutral while the Francophiles began pushing for diplomatic rupture with Germany or even military intervention.

As the belligerents necessited food, natural resources and weapons from new sources, Spain experienced a trade boom. The volume and price of exports increased, resulting in a sudden flow of gold into Spain. But the result was actually disastrous for Spanish society. The inability to import staple commodities, the unrestricted export of Spain’s domestic produce and the increasing amount of money in circulation combined to create inflation and increased social inequality. Though the caciques, speculators and profiteers amassed huge profits, the agrarian heart of Spain experienced shortages and unemployment. The social situation created worker militancy, further helped by the extraordinary 1916 pact between the reformist UGT and the anarcho-syndicalist CNT.

The middle-ranking officers in the army became increasingly restless as well in late 1916. That year, hit by the strains of the war economy and incensed by a military reform bill, they formed the Juntas Militares de Defensa – basically officer’s trade unions. The Juntas, representatives of middle-level officers, were triggered by the rising inflation, but represented military frustration with a bureaucratic army, rife with royal favouritism, and overstaffed with officers (16,000 for 80,000 soldiers). They defended their previleges but were also influenced by the military’s desire to take the reigns of a movement of national regeneration and defense of national unity.

The Francophile Liberal Count of Romanones (mostly because he did lots of business with France as a mine owner) arrived in office in December 1915 and increasingly sought to engage Spain actively in the conflict. The sinking of a ship in Spanish waters by Germany pushed him to take the next step. But in the meantime, the events in Russian had sent shockwaves through the Spanish elite, Alfonso XIII the foremost. The King dismissed him in April 1917 and replaced him with the neutralist Liberal García Prieto.

As the Juntas developed an increasingly revolutionary language with their stirring attacks on the corrupt oligarchy and political system, the worried Alfonso moved to arrest the Junteros in June 1917. But the army quickly rose in open revolt, threatened the King with a military coup and forced the García Prieto cabinet to resign less than two months after taking office. Following the turno loyally, Alfonso replaced him with Dato, who proceeded to shut down the parliament and suspend constitutional guarantees. The climate was rife for revolution. The proletarian movement was united and restless, the army was growingly revolutionary, the Catalan bourgeoisie was increasingly restless (and reinvigorated after they had forced Santiago Alba, the Castilian grain grower anti-industrialist finance minister, out of office in 1916). For the Lliga, the time was rife not for proletarian revolution but for the realignment they so wished for.

The Lliga drove the creation of an Assembly of Parliamentarians, convening in Barcelona in July 1917. The Assembly, which consisted of the regionalists, republicans and socialists, wanted a Constituent Assembly, free elections, decentralization and political reform. The mauristas, crucially, were absent and in their absence prevented the Assembly from gaining legitimacy and military acquiesence. The Dato government was able to portray the Assembly as a separatist-Red plot, all while mollifying and brown-nosing the Junteros into officially acknowledging and responding to their immediate demands. Dato also realized the contradictions within the Assembly movement: led by the conservative anti-revolutionary Cambó and the Lliga, joined by the labour movement which was angling for revolution (or atleast significant reform).

The UGT and CNT agreed to a general strike in March 1917, but the Conservative government provoked it further by inspiring employers to intransigence in their dealings with the overly cautious and reformist UGT. Dato thus forced the UGT’s hands (combined with CNT pressures on them) into calling that general strike in August 1917, the first UGT strike movement which took direct aim at the regime although the movement’s demands were extremely limited. But the movement was a flop, limited to industrial, urban or mining zones. Outside Asturias, it lasted barely a week as the bourgeoisie obviously did not fraternize with the movement while the officers, forgetting the rhetoric, crushed the movement with shocking brutality. The strike wave was crushed, but the Assembly met again in Madrid in October and reaffirmed July’s commitments to reform. Furthermore, the Junteros soon realized that the Dato cabinet had tricked them and they got word that Dato was moving towards killing them off. Understanbly, they were pissed and in October they advised Alfonso to fire Dato or risk his head. He acquiesed.

Chaos: 1917-1923

Though the democratizing movement collapsed in August 1917, the turno also collapsed with the demise of Dato. Parties became caricatures of their past selves, terribly factionalized.

At any rate, it was García Prieto who returned to power in November 1917 at the helm of an historic coalition of Liberals, mauristas, ciervistas and two Lliga regionalists. The Lliga had achieved more or less what they clamored for, that is weakening the oligarchic system and attaining power for themselves. Furthermore, it is undeniable that the proletarian movement of August 1917 had scared the Lliga away from its ephemeral opportunist alliance with the labour movement. It was much more comfortable finding accomodation with a weakened landowning oligarchy and their Liberal/Conservative representatives than with the labour movement. The García Prieto cabinet gave an illusion of some change, and the 1918 elections were remarkably open with the Dato Conservatives winning the most seats against a Liberal Party divided into five factions (though the Conservatives themselves were divided into three factions). But the 1917 events strenghtened the King, who became the ultimate arbitrer of politics; and the army, working alongside the King to form an anti-constitutional block represented in cabinet by the far-right Juan de la Cierva, the unscrupulous representative of the Junteros.

The García Prieto cabinet did not last long. In March 1918, an impressive ministerio de primates was formed with Antonio Maura at its helm. The historic cabinet of titans included all the bigwigs: Alba, Romanones, García Prieto, Dato, Maura and Cambó. Faced with Alfonso XIII’s pro-German attitude, the cabinet was unable to respond decisively to the humiliations Germany was inflicting on Spain (sinking of ships, hiring anarchist disturbers). Finally, it collapsed in November 1918 wracked by squabbles.

Class struggle increased in the wake of post-war European revolutionary movements and the Russian Revolution. The situation worsened with rising inflation, low salaries, food shortages and more trade deficits after the war boom. Led by the CNT (the UGT retreating to conservative reformism), a series of waves, disturbances and social chaos hit Spain starting in 1918. Rural unrest exploded with Andalusian peasants between 1918 and 1920 – landowners fled to the cities while workers seized power in all but name. In Catalonia, the CNT was equally reinvigorated and showed its strength with a formidable 44-day strike in 1919 at a Canadian hydroelectric concern in Barcelona.

The bourgeoisie and industrialists dropped the bourgeois reformism of the war years and moved to kill off the CNT. Spain descended into sheer violence as they hired thugs and gangs to inflict chaos and destruction on the CNT. Employers and the army held the real power and bent the governments to their will as chaos continued with arrests and murder of CNT leaders, gun fights between employers and labour and assassinations.

A crucial turning point was the 1921 disaster at Annual. In the midst of an unpopular and underfunded Moroccan campaign against local Rif tribes led by Abd-el-Krim, Spanish forces were routed at Annual in 1921 and 12,000 troops were massacred. The uproar which followed demanded that heads roll for the disaster. In reality, that meant Alfonso’s head given that he was behind the reckless adventure.

Setting up a commission on the Annual disaster was one of the things which the Liberal government of García Prieto set out to do in 1923, in addition to an ambitious project of political and social reforms. But as the Parliament continued to be a joke, all progressive schemes failed one after the other, discrediting the ultimate efforts to reform the system from within.

Prominent regenerationists including Joaquín Costa had long called for a cirujano de hierro (iron surgeon) to break the corrupt oligarchic sham liberalism of the Restoration era. The efforts to reform the system from within in 1908, 1917 and 1923 made the authoritarian solution appear as the only way out for frustrated reformists and regenerationists. Rising labour unrest and the threat to the power of the elites in the context of a general collapse of European oligarchic liberalism conspired to signal the death-knell of the liberal Restoration.

On September 13, 1923 the Captain General of Catalonia, Miguel Primo de Rivera staged a pronunciamiento and effectively seized power.

Primo’s dictatorship: cirujano de hierro (1923-1931)

A bad attempt at a Mussolini imitation: 1923-1930

As Primo seized power, he could count on the support or tolerance of the majority of the military as well as the full support of the King. Alfonso, since taking power in 1902, had showed numerous times his penchant for abuse of power and preference for an authoritarian solution. Since 1917, the army and the throne had become best buddies. Furthermore, Primo’s coup in September came just a few days before Parliament reconvened to, among other things, discuss the recommendations of the commission on Annual which could have found Alfonso responsible for the disaster. On September 13, Alfonso took his time and finally made clear that his support rested with Primo whom he quickly called upon to form a military government.

Primo could count on the active support or passivity of most of the elite. The governing civilian elites were tired and impotent. Primo’s good relations with the Catalan bourgeoisie assured him the active support of the Lliga. He also had, as a devout Catholic and Andalusian landowner, the full support of the Church, the industrialist business elite and the oligarchic landowners. Republicans and socialists opposed the coup, but could put up no resistance aside from isolated movements which were quickly crushed. The CNT was in no position to take on the military. The UGT, eternally cautious, adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude which equated with passivity and tolerance for the coup.

Primo set up a military government, staffed entirely by officers. He declared martial law, dissolved Parliament, banned all parties, dissolved municipal governments, dissolved Catalan self-government and banned the use of any regional language or distinctive regionalist symbol. Though Primo admired Mussolini, he actually fell short of creating a personalist fascist regime. It was more a run-of-the-mill military dictatorship, which nonetheless stood out in Spanish history as the first military coup led not to install one party into power but rather as a rising by the non-political guardians of order, national unity and the fatherland. Primo’s rhetoric mixed ideological vagueness, anti-system/anti-political talk, populism and paternalism. The lack of a guiding philosophy or goal aside from “putting Spain back in order” and various other vague catchphrases would come to doom Primo in the future. But for now his objective was to find solutions to the urgent problems, something at which he succeeded quite well.

Primo’s biggest success came with labour relations. Although the Communist Party (PCE) and CNT were banned and their members suffered the brunt of state repression, Primo’s regime had a real desire to create a fairer society and improve living standards, perhaps as a way to quell labour unrest. Acting in an Italian-like corporatist style, Primo set up in 1926 arbitration committees to settle disputes between employers and workers. The comités paritarios did not go as far as Italy’s corporatist structures in that they did not create a single union for workers and allowed workers considerable autonomy (such as the right to strike). Crucial to the successful working of Primo’s comités paritarios was the participation of the Socialists and the UGT. The Socialists and UGT had come to the conclusion that their best hope for material gains for their base was participation in the structures of the state. The UGT, led by Francisco Largo Cabellero and the PSOE’s moderate leadership led by Julián Besteiro; both favourable to working within the structures of the regime defeated Indalecio Prieto’s faction which opposed such participation. The UGT went on the emerge as the dominant union within the comités paritarios, ahead of right-wing Catholic sindicados libres created post-war. Helped by lower commodity prices and generous public funding for education, health, social benefits and public works; social peace perdured until the end of the regime. This increase in prosperity for workers, however, only touched urban areas. Despite Primo’s propaganda coups and the sidelining of some old oligarchs, the regime did not touch the interests of the landowners and let the structures of latifundismo be.

Primo’s economic policies were heavily interventionist and protectionist. Gone were the old liberal ideas of laissez-faire, replaced instead by heavy tariff protection, state control, support for national industry, state investment in natural resources and public works and finally a large public sector. Spain had one of Spain’s largest public sectors alongside the USSR and Italy, and remained one of Europe’s most protected economies. Funding came mostly from budget surpluses, loans and credit. The state’s centralist economic policies ended up making Spain a virtual oligopoly.

Primo was vastly successful in Morocco. A Spanish retreat emboldened the Rif rebels to attack French troops, leading to a joint Franco-Spanish effort including a French attack from the south and a Spanish landing from the north. By 1926, Abd-el-Krim had been crushed and forced to unconditional surrender.

Primo originally set out to put the country back in order and then hand government back to the civilians. However, as time went on, perhaps emboldened by domestic and foreign success until 1926, Primo began making moves to perpetuate his rule.

In 1924, Primo created a new party, the Patriotic Union (UP) to mobilize support for the regime. In 1926, he called for a constituent National Consultative Assembly to be formed and draft a constitution for his regime. Both turned out to be utter failures. The major reason why Primo never managed to turn himself into an all-embracing, ruthless totalitarian leader a la Mussolini was that he remained an amateur populist and paternalist leader who lacked the totalitarianism to suppress competing interests. The UP remained an artificial (and rather small) government-fed outfit with no ideology except the vague conservative catchphrases of the 1920s. The Assembly drew up a draft which pleased nobody, and ended up being thrown out because even Primo didn’t like it.

Opposition to the regime only increased with time. The regime had been opposed by the start by the liberal intelligentsia and professional middle-classes, and most prominent liberal minds such as Miguel de Unamuno had been forced into exile and others were violently suppressed. The regime’s close alliance with the Church (marked notably by compulsory religious courses in schools) led to student protests against his regime. His centralist policies, which included supression of Catalan self-government (set up in 1914) increased peripheric nationalist sentiments, notably in Catalonia – where the Lliga’s support for Primo’s coup had discredited it at the expense of left-wing quasi-separatist movements. Most surprisingly perhaps, Primo also faced rising discontent with the army. Many factors contributed to this rising opposition to his rule within the military: personalization and perennialization of his rule, budget cuts, military reform including efforts to trim the officer corps and finally the touchy issue of promotion. Promotion had been a hot-button issue in the military since World War I or so and opposed two groups. On the one hand, the peninsular military elites (often concentrated in the artillery and engineering corps) supported strict closed-scale promotion by seniority. On the other, the africanistas (or colonial troops, largely infantry) supported promotion by war merit. Primo attempted to compromise with a special selection committee, bypassing senior generals. The Artillery Corps opposed this strongly.

Starting in 1926, there were failed coup attempts spearheaded by unholy coalitions of old dynastic politicians, republicans and even the anarcho-syndicalists. But one rebellion, although quickly crushed, received the support of the Artillery Corps which led to Primo dissolving the corps.

What doomed Primo was the 1929 economic crisis. Spain was hit particularly hard, with a sharp drop in imports and rising prices. The artificial and uncompetitive Spanish economy found it basically impossible to cope with the crisis. Given the huge public spending, the crisis also meant a huge budget deficit. The regime’s right-wing allies refused to pay in, signaling that they had lost confidence in the regime and its interventionist and corporatist policies.

In 1929, the PSOE-UGT finally broke with the regime. Indalecio Prieto’s anti-Primo faction gained the upper hand, crucially with the support of Largo Caballero who was feeling the strains of cooperation with an abandoned unpopular regime on its grassroots and the UGT.

Finally, Alfonso XIII was getting frustrated with the person whom he had happily referred to as “his Mussolini” in 1923. Unlike Victor Emmanuel, Alfonso didn’t like having the play the role of second fiddle behind the flamboyant and erratic Primo who increasingly relegated Alfonso to the role of signing his decrees. Alfonso much preferred his past role of top political arbitror, with the power to kill governments and dissolve legislatures at a whim. Furthermore, Alfonso in 1929 was well aware of the regime’s unpopularity and started worrying that his association with it would negatively affect his throne. Before it was too late, Alfonso was seeking to fire Primo and save his throne.

With the military having clearly lost confidence in him, and the King refusing to play second fiddle anymore, Primo, further wracked by diabetes and alcoholism, resigned on January 28 1930 and moved to Paris where he did, depressed, two months later.

Dictablanda: 1930-1931

It is doubtful that Alfonso could have saved his head by 1930, having already suffered extensively from seven years of association with an unpopular regime. But any chances he had of saving his spot were dashed by his own stupidity. Instead of moving quickly to civilian, constitutional democratic rule, Alfonso appointed another general, the unpopular old cripple Dámaso Berenguer as head of government. Thus began the bizarre interregnum, the dictablanda (soft dictatorship).

Alfonso’s other crucial mistake was his attempt to make as if nothing had changed since 1923 and that he could quietly go back to the old order of caciquismo. But in seven years, Primo’s regime had destroyed the strong clientelist networks of caciquismo while his interventionist economic policies had encouraged rapid modernization, industrialization and urbanization. Over a million people had migrated to larger urban centres, leading to increased urbanization. Agriculture remained dominant but did not account for a majority of the Spanish workforce. The deficient transportation network had been improved, there were more children in schools and illiteracy had declined. It was foolish on Alfonso’s part to hope that he could just call back the Liberal and Conservative parties and act as if nothing had happened. The parties themselves were empty shells, their clientelist networks destroyed and their politicians oftentimes angry at Alfonso for associating with Primo’s anti-politician rhetoric. Those who did still like Alfonso proceeded to return to their old squabbles. When Berenguer stuffed his government with Conservatives, the old Liberals were incensed, claiming that it was their turn to rig elections and get the spoils.

The dictatorship’s repression of opposition had the effect of mobilizing the unmobilized sectors: intellectuals, professionals and entrepreneurs, in favour of the republican movement. Eager for change and for a better life, these newly mobilized groups looked to the republic as the symbol of change, progress and modernity and the alternative to the discredited archaic monarchy. Some of the new republicans included Manuel Azaña but also former monarchists including Niceto Alcalá-Zamora (a former Liberal faction boss) and Miguel Maura (son of Antonio Maura). The newfound republicanism of old monarchists certainly helped further legitimize the republican movement, as moderates got increasingly attracted to the idea of a conservative republic led by moderates.

On August 17 1930, the various republican and socialist groupings signed the Pact of San Sebastián, forming a power bloc/coalition supporting the election of a constituent assembly, the proclamation of the republic and Catalan autonomy. The PSOE joined the pact in October, joining the Lerroux’s Radicals, Azaña’s Republican Action, Marcelino Domingo’s Radical-Socialists, Maura and Alcalá-Zamora’s Liberal Republican Right (DLR), Santiago Casares Quiroga’s Galician republicans and finally three Catalan republican parties including Estat Català. The Pact’s signatories proceeded to form a provisional government led by the moderates Alcalá-Zamora and Maura. But the republicans also knew that Berenguer would fall by a mere show of force, and, uniting the disparate elements of the anti-monarchist movement, organized a military insurrection for December 15, 1930.

However, an impulsive captain involved in the plot took matters to his own hands three days prior to the coup and staged an abortive insurrection in Jaca, near the French border. The authorities crushed his movement, arrested (and executed) him and forced the provisional government into jail or hiding.

The defeat of the Jaca rising was Alfonso’s last hurrah. By February, Berenguer’s Conservative-dominated cabinet was forced out after Liberals and other parties refused to take part in general elections. The King tried entrusting government to José Sánchez Guerra, the Conservative leader since 1921 and a harsh critic of the King’s role in the Primo dictatorship (which Sánchez Guerra had tried to overthrow militarily); but Sánchez Guerra’s risky gamble of attracting jailed republicans to his cabinet failed and he was forced out. Instead, Alfonso created another old-style “national concentration” cabinet including rotting discredited politicos such as Romanones, Cierva, García Prieto and Gabriel Maura. To appease all the old squabbling nobles, it was the dying cripple Admiral Aznar who became Prime Minister while Berenguer became War Minister. The national concentration option had failed in 1917, so it had no chance of success in 1931. The trial of the republicans blew up in the regime’s face, as the prisoners’ lawyers were given free reign to attack the regime and the court opened to the public (republicans). They received the minimal sentence and were soon set free.

To reorganize their old networks and test the waters, the government organized municipal elections on April 12, 1931. The republican-socialist coalition engaged in the new art of electoral campaigning, leaving the monarchists to assume it was still 1900 and that there was no need for them to campaign. The elections gave large monarchist majorities in rural areas, but the republicans and their allies carried all but 10 of Spain’s 50 provincial capitals and won huge majorities in the largest cities. Where the elections were free – that is, in the cities – the republicans won big.

It was these municipal elections which led to the collapse of the monarchy within 48 hours. The baffled, demoralized and defeatist monarchists abandoned ship en masse within 24 hours. By April 13, the cabinet decided to inform Alfonso that they could not continue lacking popular support. The army’s refusal to intervene, as in 1917 and 1923, to save his throne pushed Alfonso out of the game. On April 14, Alcalá-Zamora informed Romanones that they were giving the king until sunset to leave the country. The military informed Miguel Maura of their loyalty to the republic.

In a huge mood of euphoria, city after city proclaimed the republic on April 14. In Barcelona, colonel Francesc Macià proclaimed the Catalan Republic within an Iberian confederation.

The Republic: doomed to fail? (1931-1936)

The quick ride from euphoria to despair: 1931-1933

As other European countries were abandoning democracy in favour of authoritarianism, Spain was going the other way as it was embarking in a courageous experiment with progressive, secular, decentralized democracy never seen in Spain in the midst of the Great Depression. Greeted by waves of euphoria as a magical regime able to solve all of the country’s problems in a heartbeat, the republic faced huge odds and was perhaps doomed from its first day.

Proclaiming the republic, 1931

The country which the republicans wanted to turn into a modern progressive secular liberal democracy was one of Europe’s most backwards societies. Two millions of peasants were landless, while 20,000 people owned half of Spain. The Catholic Church, with one priest for 493 inhabitants, played a prominent place in society through education, business and politics. The army suffered from a huge inflation of officers. Despite the euphoria of 1931, Spain quickly polarized into two diametrically opposed rival sides representing the two conflicting national ideologies of Spain: progressive, secular and liberal on one hand; conservative, Catholic and traditionalist on the other.

Elections to the Constituent Cortes on June 28, 1931 gave a crushing majority to the republican-socialist coalition born out of the August 1930 Pact. These forces won 368 out of 470 seats, in addition to 42 Catalan nationalist republicans including the new Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). The right was totally crushed, taking only 30 seats in the constituent assembly. The PSOE, with 115 seats emerged as the largest party while the Radicals won 90 seats. Alcalá-Zamora’s party, the DLR, won only 25 – one less than Azaña’s Republican Action.

Party Seats
PSOE 115
Radicals 90
Radical-Socialists 59
ERC 29
AR 26
DLR 25
FRG (Galician republicans) 14
ASR (Ortega y Gasset) 13
Other republicans 23
Other left (USC etc) 10
Republicans+Socialists and allies 420
Agrarians 15
Acción Nacional 5
Carlists (CT) 4
Other regionalists 13
Other right 6

The republic’s priorities were curtailing the Church’s powers, drafting a constitution, granting autonomy to Catalonia, social reform and finally the necessary agrarian reform.

The state moved quickly to severely curtail the Catholic Church’s powers. Divorce and civil marriage was legalized, religious symbols were removed from buildings and the Constitution abolished Catholicism as the state religion. But the most important move to curtail the Church’s power came with Article 26 of the constitution, which barred the Church from teaching and forced it to disclose its properties and interests, which would be taxed. The approval of Article 26 in October led Alcalá-Zamora and Miguel Maura, the government’s two moderate Catholic ministers, to quit the government.

As war minister, Azaña reformed the military as to make an apolitical organization. The old law of jurisdictions was repealed, the question of Moroccan responsibilities reopened, the number of divisions halved, officers encouraged to retire early, and promotions by war merits were frozen.

The Socialist labour and justice ministers, Francisco Largo Cabellero and Fernando de los Ríos, made the first moves towards agrarian reform. Salaries were increased, rents frozen, Primo’s arbitration committees expanded to the countryside and the eight-hour workday expanded to cover all labour. Two crucial laws aimed at the countryside and the oligarchs were passed: the Law of Municipal Boundaries barred owners from employing outside labour until all those in the municipality had jobs and the Law of Obligatory Cultivation required owners to use all land for arable purposes.

The Constitution, approved in December 1931, was a modern progressive document which defined Spain as a nation of workers of all classes and as an integral republic compatible with regional and local autonomy. The republic was a parliamentary regime, led by a unicameral legislature. The legislature was to be elected following a complex electoral law, part proportional and part majoritary – single-seat constituencies were replaced by multi-member provincial (or, for larger cities, municipal) constituencies, with roughly 80% of seats awarded to the winning list and 20% to the runners-up. The system allowed for more stability while allowing for the representation of minority parties, and encouraged parties to form coalitions. The head of state was a President elected by the legislature and an elected commission to a six-year term. The divisions caused by Alcalá-Zamora’s resignation in October were patched up when Alcalá-Zamora was elected the republic’s first President.

The most controversial feature of the constitution was its stridently anti-clerical aspect (Article 26 being the best example). Going beyond a simple separation of Church and state, even moderate onlookers opined that the constitution targetted the Church and devout Catholics. From the point of the view of the liberal left republican drafters of this constitution, such a bellicuous attitude towards the Church and Catholicism is hardly surprising. The Church had been a reactionary bulwark under the Alfonsine monarchy which had kept Spain as a backwards nation. Furthermore, a good part of the Church’s hierarchy was hell-bent on destroying the republic from the outset, unable to stomach democracy and progress. For the republicans, it was primordial that Spain broke off all links with the Church, because it was the only way to build a progressive Spain. But they apparently forgot that in April 1931, the republic had been supported by vast cohorts of moderate to conservative Catholics. The hostile approach to the issue alienated those willing to compromise and strenghtened the hand of reactionaries within the Church’s hierarchy. Church burnings throughout Spain in 1931, during which the republicans sat on their hands, did nothing to appease Catholics and the Church.

The republic in the crucial years between 1931 and 1933 was opposed from virtually every angle imaginable. The most resistance to the new regime was found on the right, where the old elites and dominant economic classes feared for their status within the new society if the Socialist-led reformist agenda was implemented.

The 1931 elections had left the right decimated. Only 30 or so right-wingers were returned in the elections to the Constituent Cortes, most of them independent “agrarians”. What could be termed the “old right” no longer existed – the dynastic parties were, of course, dead and their members all over the place. The “new right” which was to emerge was to be drastically different from the “old right” movements led by notables and which were not close to constituting true political movements. The new right was heavily influenced by the emergence of fascism and was nationalist, authoritarian, anti-democratic and in many cases stridently clerical.

The right was divided into two groups. On the far-right, the catastrofistas were entirely commited to the destruction of the regime by any means possible, violence included. The catastrofistas included the Carlists, who developed a vicious paramilitary known as the Requeté; the wealthy and influential Alfonsine monarchists and a new fascist grouping known as the Falange, founded in 1933 by Miguel Primo de Rivera’s son José Antonio. The other right-wingers were the moderate accidentalistas who adopted a legalist attitude and whose main preoccupation was not the type of government (deemed an ‘accident’) but rather the nature of the government and the way it was run. Whether or not the accidentalistas were actually republicans is up for debate. They may have been pragmatists who knew it impossible to destroy the regime so early, instead aiming to win control of the regime and destroy it from within.

The right which emerged in Spain between 1931 and 1933 represented a real popular movement, backed not only by the old elites but also by the devoutly Catholic farmers of Castile and Navarre. In the formation of such a mass party, influential wealthy Catholics played a key role. The ACNP, an organization of right-wing media owners whose control of a large part of the media allowed for the spreading of the rhetoric which would inflamme the conservative masses. The ACNP’s media depicted the republic as Godless, anti-Spanish, satanical and evil. The ACNP was funded by business and employers, and most notably by the rural oligarchy. The rural oligarchy, dominant even during Primo’s regime, had the most to loose from a reformist agenda which could totally destroy the balance of power in rural Spain in favour of the proletariat. The new laws forced the landowners to pay their labourers more while the labourers worked fewer hours. The mixed-juries were dominated by Socialists and bound to favour labour. It was primarily in the Spanish countryside that the two visions of Spain collided: traditionalist clerical versus secular progressive and egalitarian.

Two movements clashed in the countryside. On the one hand, the UGT changed significantly as hundreds of landless labourer joined the National Federation of Landworkers (FNTT), affiliated to the UGT. The UGT, represented in government by Largo Caballero, the Socialist labour minister, became a mass movement with a plurality of its members being landless workers. In doing so, it displaced the CNT as the representative of the rural proletariat. On the other stood the National Catholic Agrarian Confederation (CNCA), a right-wing movemented representing smallholders and led by José María Gil Robles. The CNCA was in effect controlled by landowners and the conservative Church hiearchy, but it could successfully mobilize thousands of poor Castilian farmers, proud of their status as landowners and fearful of attempts to ‘proletarize’ them. The CNCA’s cohorts of poor Catholic farmers were the backbone and base of the new right.

The republic also had enemies on its left. The CNT’s moderates, led by Angel Pestaña, were prepared to work with the republic but they found their attempts opposed by doctrinaire anarchists within the FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation, a radical 1927 split from the CNT) who were implacably hostile towards the new regime. The anarchists preached violence and rebellion in preparation for the final revolution. Those violent tactics forced the government into arresting a lot of them, but that did not prevent the FAI from winning control of the CNT by late 1931.

The republic, more specifically the Azaña cabinet in office since October 1931, was finally opposed from within the San Sebastián coalition itself. In the 1931 elections, Lerroux’s Radicals had emerged as the second republican force and largest non-Marxist party. But by 1931, Lerroux, already disliked by the Socialists who saw him as a demagogic crook, projected an image of himself as a moderate pragmatist and guarantor of a conservative republic. Lerroux’s ultimate goal was, of course, power, which he felt entitled to given his status as the boss of the largest non-Marxist republican party. In December 1931, when Azaña made it clear he would stay around for a while, Lerroux and the Radicals left the government.

In Catalonia, hours before the republic had been proclaimed in Madrid on April 14, Catalan republicans under Francesc Macià proclaimed the Catalan Republic within an Iberian federation. Macià and his lieutenant Lluis Companys ultimately backed down and agreed to take it easy. The Catalan government drafted a statute of autonomy which recreated the ancient Catalan government or Generalitat and a Catalan Parliament. The statute was approved in a referendum in Catalonia in August 1931 and approved by the Cortes in Madrid in September 1932. In November 1932, Macià’s coalition led by the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) won the elections to Catalonia’s new parliament by a landslide (67 seats to 18, including 17 for the Lliga).

Throughout 1931 and 1932 there were attempts in both Euskadi and Navarre to draft a common statute of autonomy for the two provinces. The conservative PNV and the Carlists were the driving force in the drafting of the Statute of Estella in June 1931 (before the Constitution of the republic had been approved). The Estella Statute, which was confederal in nature and covered both the three Basque provinces and Navarre, was rejected by the Cortes in September as anticonstitutional because it had devolved responsibility over church-state relations to the Basque government instead of Madrid as in the December 1931 Constitution. There was another attempt, within the framework of the constitution this time, in the summer of 1932, but in June 1932 it was ultimately delayed when Navarre’s municipalities voted against the proposed statute, far more centralist and far less conservative.

Macià found himself helped in his fight to have his statute approved by the Cortes by an unlikely ally. In August 1932, the conservative general Sanjurjo rebelled in Seville to counter the ‘revolutionary’ character of the republic. The coup was put down and Sanjurjo later exiled to Portugal. The coup had the effect of breaking the accidentalista’s attempt to filibuster the statute and an agrarian reform law. Both were approved in September.

The accidentalistas blamed the catastrofistas’s recklessness for breaking their success in stalling the legislative process for a month. In February 1933, the accidentalistas led by deputy and CNCA secretary José María Gil Robles founded a new right-wing mass party: the Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Rights (CEDA). The CEDA’s slogan was the defense of religion (against the anti-clerical republic), fatherland (against the concession of autonomy to regions, seen as breaking up Spain), law, order (against the perceived lawlessness, often caused by FAI) and property (against attempts at agarian reform). The CEDA’s ultimate goal is once again up for debate, but it seems clear that it wished to create an authoritarian, corporatist, Catholic Spain mimicking Hitler and Mussolini. The Alfonsine catastrofistas ultimately set up Renovación Española (RE), led by ex-minister José Calvo Sotelo. CEDA collaborated closely with both Calvo Sotelo’s party and the so-called “agrarians”.

The agrarian reform passed in 1932 was a flawed one, filled with vague clauses and clearly not a thorough reform. It didn’t go far enough for landless peasants, yet went (much) too far for landowners. Reform then moved very slowly, as the government showed itself incapable and in some cases unwilling to apply the law. Violent altercations between peasants and authorities increased in 1932, culmininating in a local rebellion in Andalusia led by the FAI in January 1933. It was crushed, but in the remote village of Casas Viejas, the rebels heldout. In the end, they were burnt out and executed by authorities. 19 peasants and one police officer died, sparking a wave of protest and disillusion. The government failed to recover from Casas Viejas.

The incident at Casas Viejas exarcerbated tensions within the PSOE. The old leadership was still led by Julián Besteiro, the moderate who believed in slow and gradual progress towards socialism. Besteiro had opposed the PSOE’s participation in government in 1931, believing that Socialists had no place in the achievement and construction of the bourgeois’ task. He had been outvoted on that front in 1931 by the two other wings, the one led by Indalecio Prieto and the trade-unionist wing led by Francisco Largo Cabellero. Prieto’s followers believed in the consolidation of the republic and the construction of a new progressive order. Largo Caballero supported the republic and was enthusiastic about the prospect of joining government. He knew that he could use the labour ministry and the state machinery to implement social legislation and to favour the UGT over the CNT. Both wings saw the Socialists as a crucial block in the consolidation of the republic, and they cooperated in ousting Besteiro from the leadership in 1932 in favour of Largo Caballero. But as times got tougher and the government sunk in direr straits, the solidarity between both wings foundered. Prieto still supported Socialist participation in government, but Largo Caballero, ear to the ground, did not. He was aware of widespread rural anger and disillusion, and the associated risk of losing ground to the CNT-FAI. In addition, the UGT-FNTT was radicalizing. Disillusionment was also spreading within the party: even if legislation was approved, there was little machinery to enforce it and the landowners and other elites were ignoring the decrees. This disillusion within the PSOE’s rank-and-file, combined with growing ideological polarization with a quasi-fascist CEDA encouraged a radicalization of the PSOE.

Simultaneously, Lerroux was aggressively trying to push the Socialists out of government and win power for himself. Galvanized by a right-wing victory in municipal by-elections of sorts in April 1933, Lerroux’s plans gained strength when one of the smaller governing party, Marcelino Domingo’s Radical-Socialists split over continuing the alliance with the PSOE. In the summer of 1933, Azaña’s cabinet only narrowly survived a Radical motion of no confidence. Alcalá-Zamora used that as an excuse to dismiss his government and appoint a Lerroux-led Radical government. Lacking a majority, Lerroux’s government lasted less than a month before it was brought down. Alcalá-Zamora called for general elections on November 19.

The Spanish Trojan Horse: 1933-1936

Now led by the Caballeristas, the PSOE decided to fight the general elections alone in most provinces. On the other hand, the right led by CEDA fought united and led an aggressive well-funded campaign for an election which they depicted as a choice between God/Catholicism and communism, and invoked that no good Catholic could vote for the left. In the first elections where women could vote, CEDA and its allied fronts warned women that communism (the left) would destroy their families, churches and villages. Allied with the Radicals in a number of provinces, CEDA emerged as the largest party with 115 seats (out of 473). Their closest allies won an additional 43 (including 30 agrarians), while 39 monarchists were elected including 20 Carlists and 14 from Calvo Sotelo’s RE. In the centre, Lerroux’s Radicals once again emerged as the second largest force with 102 seats to which could be added a smattering of seats for smaller conservative republican parties including Miguel Maura’s PRC and Alcalá-Zamora’s PRP. On the left, the ‘bourgeois republican’ parties were totally crushed returning only 13 members (only 5 for Azaña’s AR). The PSOE, while the second largest party in terms of votes with 21.7% of the vote, was destroyed by its strategy of fighting alone and won only 59 seats.

Party Seats
CEDA 115
Agrarians 30
Carlists (CTC) 20
RE 14
Falange 1
Other right 18
Right 198
Radicals 102
Lliga 24
PRC (Maura) 17
PNV 11
PRLD (Melquíades Alvarez) 9
Other centre-right (PRP etc) 12
Centre-Right 175
ERC 17
PRG (Galician republicans) 6
AR 5
Other republicans 9
Other left (USC, PCE) 4

Gil Robles attempted to form government, but the right lacked a majority on its own and Alcalá-Zamora would not entrust the formation of a government to him. However, Lerroux and the other centrist republicans were also unable to form a government on their own. Finally, in December, Lerroux was named Prime Minister and confirmed to that office with CEDA’s support, though CEDA did not participate in the cabinet.

While the Radicals would win power and the spoils of office, CEDA forced the government to introduce legislation it put forward. That meant dismantling most of the reforms, which further radicalized the left (and working-class) while polarization reached a peak in the context of a worsening economy during the Depression. The CEDA was the real power behind the series of short-lived Radical governments, held to ransom by CEDA who dropped them whenever the government did something which displeased them. For example, in March 1934, CEDA forced Lerroux to remove the moderate Interior Minister, Diego Martínez Barrio, and replace him with a right-wing Radical. A month later Lerroux’s government resigned when Gil Robles forced him to pass an amnesty covering the 1932 conspirators. Gil Robles’ goal was to foster enough instability to create a perfect storm where he would finally take over and CEDA would create an authoritarian corportatist regime.

The CEDA’s influence over government meant that in the countryside, the balance of power was restored in favour of the oligarchs. Salaries were cut, contracts broken, expropriated land returned, and the PSOE chased out of mixed-juries. When the Law of Municipal Boundaries was repealed in May 1934, the FNTT launched a general strike which was, however, not supported by the Caballerista-led UGT which showed how empty their revolutionary rhetoric had always been. In contrast, the government ruthlessly and violently put down the strike and arrested hundreds of Socialists activitists including four deputies.

In Catalonia, the Generalitat led by Lluis Companys (following Macià’s death in late 1933) introduced a law giving tenant wine-growers the right to buy the land they had cultivated after 18 years. The landowners, led by the Lliga, sued the Catalan government over the anticonstitutionality of the law, and Companys was compelled to withdrew it. But he reintroduced it a few months later.

In September 1934, Gil Robles and CEDA organized a mass rally in Asturias (at the spot where the Medieval reconquista had begun). In a rally evoking parallels with Nazi rallies, Gil Robles, hailed as the jefe turned even more belligerent. He threatened a new reconquest against the “Red atheist separatists”. In late September, Gil Robles withdrew support from the government and demanded ministerial participation. On October 4, Lerroux finally formed a government in which CEDA held three ministries.

Prior to October 4, the Socialists had threatened an armed rebellion if CEDA acceeded to cabinet. Parallels were drawn with Germany, Italy and Austria where dictatorial right-wing or fascist regimes had been installed even though its protagonists had accepted only a minority of cabinet positions at the outset. Perhaps the Austrian example, where Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, leader of a Christian-Social Party ideologically close to CEDA had staged a coup in 1933 and established a dictatorship, invoked the most fear for the left.

The unprepared Socialists found themselves leading an armed rebellion in October 1934, which, following the dismal pattern of such affairs in Spain, failed epically. The government moved in quickly and rounded up prominent left-wing leaders and shoved them into jails, while in Barcelona the military quickly gained the upper hand over the left-wing Generalitat which had proclaimed a Catalan Republic. The rebellion only succeeded in Asturias, where a left-wing front of miners armed with dynamite held out against the state. As the state of war was proclaimed, power passed into the hands of the military. Masterminded by General Francisco Franco, adviser to the war minister, and led by Colonel Juan Yaguë, the government sent in African troops and Moorish mercenaries. The revolt was put down, but it was a bloodbath. All kinds of savage atrocities were committed and torture used freely. Over 1300 people died in the events of October 1934, most of them in Asturias.

CEDA’s entry into government in October 1934 went hand-in-hand with the acceleration of the reactionary politics of reprisal inaugurated in 1933. In rural Spain, wages were cut, peasants evicted, mixed-juries overthrown and caciques returned to positions of prominence alongside the Church. In Catalonia, autonomy was suspended. Gil Robles and CEDA proved increasingly demanding on the government, all with the goal of increasing his power over Lerroux’s cabinets. In May 1935, CEDA emerged as the largest party in the shuffled Lerroux cabinet, with five ministries including the War Ministry given to Gil Robles. As War Minister, Robles used his power to purge the army of liberals and replace them with hard-line conservatives and africanistas while leading conservative officers such as Franco, Goded and Mola received juicy promotions.

By the summer of 1935, with the right clearly in control of government, it seemed as if Gil Robles’ gamble had paid off. The left was decimated with its prominent leaders in jail, the balance of power had shifted back towards the elites and the Church, and Gil Robles’ power was growing by the day. All came undone in the fall of 1935 with the surfacing of a series of scandals directly involving prominent Radicals and Lerroux himself. The largest scandal was the straperlo affair, involving collusion of prominent Radicals and Lerroux’s nephew with a gang of criminal international gamblers.

Gil Robles used the scandals as an excuse to topple the government in December. He compelled Alcalá-Zamora to appoint him Prime Minister, but Alcalá preferred to dissolve parliament and call on a political ally of his to organize elections for February 16, 1936.

The Popular Front: 1936

Polarization was at its peak in 1936, with the centre and Radicals lying in ruins following the scandals of the fall. Two blocks faced off in February 1936. On the right, CEDA and its allies formed a National Bloc. On the left, Manuel Azaña, his star power boosted by his months in prison (he was released, along with others including Largo Caballero for lack of evidence), dedicated himself to re-creating the winning coalition of 1931. Azaña’s program included a return to the legislation of 1931 and an amnesty for the rebels of October 1934. Quickly thereafter, he invited the divided PSOE to join him.

Indalecio Prieto still enthusiastically favoured participation in such an affair, but Largo Caballero remained deeply distrustful and disillusioned with the republic and resisted any attempt to integrate the party in a left-wing coalition. Ironically, Largo Caballero was pushed towards moderating his opposition by the small PCE. In 1935, the Comintern in Moscow had decreed a strategy of alliances with progressive bourgeois parties to halt the authoritarian fascist tide. The PCE, now a passionate defender of an alliance with Azaña and his progressive bourgeois allies, compelled Largo Caballero to give way. He finally did, though on condition of no ministerial responsibility for Socialists.

The Frente Popular (Popular Front) was forged in early January 1936 by a vast coalition of parties including the PCE, the PSOE, small liberal bourgeois parties and new small left-wing groups including Angel Pestaña’s Syndicalist Party and the anti-Stalinist Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM).

The election was extremely narrow. The Popular Front won 47% of the vote against 46.5% for the parties of the right. The gap between both blocs was roughly 75,000 votes. Centrist parties won a pitiful 3.5%. But the electoral system translated a close affair into a landslide victory for the left in terms of seats. The left won 265 seats to the right’s 185 seats. The Socialists took 99 seats, a few more than the 87 seats won by Manuel Azaña’s Republican Left (IR) – a new party including the old AR, Casares Quiroga’s Galician ORGA and Marcelino Domingo’s left-wing faction of the Radical-Socialists. Diego Martínez Barrio’s Republican Union (UR) won 37 seats. On the right, CEDA won 88 seats, the Agrarians took 10 seats and Calvo Sotelo’s monarchists won 12 seats. The Radicals won just five seats (most of them in coalition with CEDA), and Lerroux himself was defeated. After electoral results were invalidated in two provinces, new elections in May 1936 increased the left’s majority to 286 against 166 for the right.

Party Seats (final)
IR 87
UR 37
ERC 21
PCE 17
FP Regionalists 13
Other left (POUM, USC etc) 8
Other republicans 4
Frente Popular 286
BN-RE 12
Lliga 12
Agrarians 10
Carlists (CTC) 9
Other right 10
Right* 141
PCNR (Centre) 17
Radicals 5
Others 9
*many centrists and Radicals elected with the right

Gil Robles attempted to get Franco and other generals to stage a coup, and when that failed he desperately attempted to have the election results invalidated.

Manuel Azaña formed an all-republican administration in February 1936 with UR and IR ministers, while the Socialists remained on the sidelines. His administration attempted to set the agenda, but instead a series of strikes by frustrated workers demanding better wages and conditions set the agenda in his place. In the countryside, landless peasants and the FNTT took the initiative and began seizing estates.

On the right, CEDA was shattered by the defeat and its legalism outdated. Members of CEDA’s youth wing, the JAP, flooded the ranks of Primo de Rivera’s fascist Falange while the monarchist RE took the political leadership of the right away from Gil Robles and CEDA. Planning for a potential coup began in March. The plotters were bankrolled by powerful right-wing groups, and provided with a base throughout Spain by collaboration with the right-wing Spanish Military Union (UME) association.

Simultaneously, politicial violence escalated. Falangist and Carlist gangs attacked left-wingers, who retaliated by killing right-wingers; all creating a dangerous and slippery climate of anarchy and terror. The right seized on the climate of anarchy and terror to spin the situation into attacks on the left-wing republic’s anarchy and lawlessness.

In April, the left impeached President Alcalá-Zamora for abusing his power by dissolving the parliament twice within his term. The old man, in 1933 and 1935, had managed to antagonize both the right and left. In late April, Azaña was elected President. The original plan had been to promote Indalecio Prieto to the office of Prime Minister, but Largo Caballero blocked that move. Largo played up his revolutionary rhetoric, which hardly went beyond words, and in doing so he crippled the republic by preventing the formation of a strong government. Instead, the old and weak Santiago Casares Quiroga was named Prime Minister in May 1936. The government attempted to break the impetus for a coup by moving leading conservative generals, including Franco, Goded and Mola to distant outposts. But in doing so, it only allowed those generals to expand their network. Most significantly, General Mola, who from his outpost in the Carlist stronghold of Navarre emerged as the domestic leader of the plot, organized a powerful quasi-state with the help of the Carlists and their Requeté militia.

On July 12, a prominent left-wing officer of the republican Assault Guards was assassinated by right-wingers. A few hours later, a left-wing hit squad captured and killed Calvo Sotelo. The killing of Calvo Sotelo was the trigger to the coup. On the evening of July 17, 1936 the army revolted in Morocco.

The inevitability of Civil War?

Was the Spanish Civil War inevitable? Was the republic doomed to failure before it even started? Despite the euphoria which greeted the proclamation of the republic in April 1931, the reality was that a clash between the two opposing visions of Spanish society were bound to clash. Since 1812, Spain had become an increasingly fragmented, polarized and backwards society marked by a deep-seated opposition between two visions which was further accentuated by the plethora of problems faced by Spain.

Spain’s societal structure had evolved to create such violent antagonisms and contradictions.

Firstly, Spain’s governing elites had failed – unlike in France – to create a Spanish nation-state; a common vision or project of Spain with a founding history, myth or event to unify it (such as the Revolution in France). What emerged in its stead was a Spanish nationalism which was in reality Castilian nationalism, eternally confusing Castile with the whole of Spain. Efforts at centralization by Madrid ever since 1700 were driven far more by material concerns than by ideological objectives, and the result was a state marked by a total lack of national unity. In addition, often times, Madrid’s attitude towards regional differences and centralization efforts were governed by the government’s relations with those regions. Those regions which chose correctly in conflicts were rewarded with goodies such as special accommodations or laws. Those regions which didn’t choose correctly had those laws taken away from them though sooner or later they patched differences up and got some special advantages themselves.

Incomplete centralization since 1492, a patchwork of laws up until the late 1800s and unequal economic development between the regions of Spain were the causes of such a lack of national unity and the causes of the birth of peripheric nationalism. These nationalist movements opposed centralization from the centre and fought to preserve the interests and laws of their own turf. National unity and the constitution of a Spanish nation-state was impossible. Spain was a patchwork of regions, different in political attitude and different in socio-economic terms. Peripheric nationalisms sought to uphold those differences, and gathered strength to become a powerful ‘frustrators’ of any change in power relations between Madrid and the regions.

Secondly, Spain lacked a democratic tradition and its dominant institutions – the Church and army – were not democratic institutions. Spain had a long history of authoritarianism of various sorts, with little history of political mobilization. Up until 1875, governments were taken out by military coups, not elections. From 1875 to 1923, governments alternated in power based on an archaic illiberal system of sharing the spoils. There were elections, they were not entirely fraudulent affairs, but there could be no real political mobilization. It was in reality an undemocratic system propped up by the triple alliance of conservative undemocratic institutions: crown, Church and military. The crown under Alfonso XIII was deeply involved in political intrigues and short-circuited democracy constantly. The Church’s position of choice within Spanish society was threatened by democracy, and thus continued to closely support the backwards social order. The military had a bloated officers corp and couldn’t keep its head out of politics, because it increasingly saw itself as the non-partisan guardians of national unity against incompetent, corrupt civilian politicians which they had grown to hate since 1898.

When the Republic emerged in 1931, it attempted to transform Spain from a quasi-Medieval state into a modern, progressive liberal state of the twentieth century. The strong position of the Church and military within Spain was, however, not conducive to the creation of such a society. The Church’s close alliance with the crown and then Primo’s regime had turned it into a vicious, tyrannical bulwark of reaction in the eyes of the republicans. Thus you had deep-seated, ultramontane Catholicism against extreme anti-clericalism.

In the bulk of Spain’s countryside, social relations were quasi-feudal and led to vicious opposition between two uncompromising actors. Wealthy, oligarchic landowners in the south were opposed by dirt poor landless peasants and labourers; creating a climate of violent class hostility channelized, for most of the early twentieth century, by the anarcho-syndicalist CNT. Industrial development, furthermore, remained unequal. Catalonia, Euskadi, Madrid and Asturias emerged as the main and almost the only industrial poles in the country, while the rest of Spain (the south, Castile, Galicia and Navarre in particular) remained agrarian societies. Deficient transportation links had prevented industrial growth and the spread of wealth throughout Spain, and had also served to discourage mixing of the population or significant, large-scale modern urbanization.

Spanish society and the Spanish state were built in such a way that rendered the constitution of two diametrically opposed blocs inevitable. They represented two totally different visions of society, two different national projects. On one hand, there was the traditional, conservative, Catholic view of Spain. That vision viewed the Church as a fundamental actor within a country defined by its Catholic roots, and supported the established position of the elite (notably rural oligarchs). That vision viewed Spain as one and indivisible, incompatible with regional autonomy which was seen as breaking up the fatherland. In 1936, the traditional conservative vision saw their quest as an holy Crusade, a modern reconquista to rid Spain of the “red atheist separatists” who conspired with Moscow to destroy the unity of the fatherland and the Catholic Church.

On the other hand, there was the progressive, republican view of Spain. That vision was driven by the republicans and socialists, and they sought to build a secular, egalitarian Spain. It opposed the power of the Church and the established positions of the elite. Agrarian reform was indispensable for most of those who held that vision. The secular, republican vision was also more compatible with regional autonomy within a united Spain, and recognized the national diversity of Spain. In 1936, the progressive republican vision saw their quest as a final struggle against the reactionary elements within Spain, whose destruction was not indispensable in the construction of Spain as they saw it. For them, the military conspirators were thus reactionary fascists vying to overthrow a legitimate democratic government.

Spain by 1936 had evolved to the point where conflict between these two forces was practically inevitable. They represented two totally different things and had nothing or extremely little in common. The Spanish Civil War as the conflict between these forces was thus practically inevitable because of the political, economic and social evolution of modern Spain since 1875.

The Spanish Civil War: “Red atheist separatists” vs. “re

actionary fascists” (1936-1939)

The coup of July 17-18, 1936 turned out to be, by all measures, a failure. The coup succeeded only in the country’s conservative strongholds (Navarre, Old Castile, Galicia), Morocco and a handful of cities including Seville, Zaragoza, Oviedo and Grenada where local garrisons and commanding officers caught the government by surprise and took control of the city. In Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and most of the south, however, local workers and peasants swiftly defeated the rebellious officers. The rebel leaders in Madrid and Barcelona, Generals Fanjul and Goded respectively were captured and later killed. The republic kept control of the small navy, where sailors staged mutinies before the officers could act in favour of the coup; and the tiny air force, a traditionally republican unit. What had been intended to be a traditional pronunciamiento by the officers which would swiftly defeat any opposition and take the reigns of the state turned into the beginnings of a civil war.

As much as the generals failed in their attempt to stage a traditional coup, the government’s confused and bungled response in the next forty-eight hours prevented them from killing the entire operation. Casares Quiroga panicked on July 18, and resigned the next day. Diego Martínez Barrio took his place, and attempted to contact the top rebel officers in a last-ditch attempt to defuse the coup, with no success. Within twenty-four hours, he was replaced by José Giral who finally took the decision to arm the population. By that time, however, it was too late to kill the coup.

A brief note on the use of the various terms: the English terms for the warring sides are the republicans and nationalists. In Spanish, to contrast with peripheral nationalists, Franco’s rebels are called the nacionales. During the conflict, various terms were used on both sides to refer to their opponents such as “fascists”, “rebels” on one hand and “reds”, “separatists” and “communists”. I use the English term ‘nationalist’ in preference because it is used by the bulk of English-language (and French-language) literature on the subject. Please note that this analysis’ description of the conflict does not focus at all on the military aspects of it. It focuses, broadly, on the political and diplomatic aspects of the conflict.

The European Civil War: foreign involvement (1936)

The response by Spain’s European neighbors to the country’s civil war proved crucial, both in turning the conflict into a prolonged civil war and securing victory for the rebels.

Map of the Spanish Civil War

At the outset, the republic could only count of the wholehearted support of Lázaro Cárdenas’ Mexico. Mexico’s role and its ability to contribute was limited by its distance from Spain. Its contribution was largely limited to buying and shipping weapons, food, clothing and fuel. In other cases, it served as the republic’s diplomatic intermediary in those country where Spain’s diplomatic missions had defected.

In Europe, the republic’s hopes rested with fellow democracies, the most prominent amongst them, France, with whom Spain shares a 623km border in the Pyrénées mountains. A Socialist-led Popular Front government led by Léon Blum had won power in Paris in the spring of 1936, and Blum’s sympathies unmistakably laid with the republicans. In addition, it was in France’s interest to be bordered by a friendly nation to the south. So when the republic asked for help by July 19, France promptly agreed. However, Blum’s plans to help the republic were leaked days later by a Spanish defector to the nationalists, and in doing so transformed the issue into a political crisis. The French right mounted a media campaign against foreign intervention in the Spanish conflict, while Blum’s Radical allies, including Herriot, Daladier and Delbos, had second thoughts. The Radicals feared that French intervention would risk turning the conflict into a continental war spreading outside Spain’s borders. On July 25, convinced by Britain and internal opposition, Blum reversed his initial decision.

Great Britain maintained a semblance of neutrality throughout the conflict, but the sympathies of the Conservative government in London laid with Franco and the nationalists. Britain’s government was viscerally anti-communist and regarded with a bad eye the Popular Front victories in Paris in Madrid in 1936. They had much more in common with the nationalists, sharing their objectives and their anti-communism, and perceiving Franco as reasonable conservative nationalist. In addition, Great Britain feared for its widespread business interests (up to 40% of total foreign investments in Spain were British) in case of a republican victory. Britain could not openly side with the nationalists as they were not the legitimate government of Spain, but while maintaining a semblance of neutrality they leaned much more towards the nationalists than the republicans. They pressured France out of aiding the republic, and acquiesced to Franco’s request of closing the ports of Gibraltar and Tangier to the republican fleet.

The nationalists, on the other hand, could count on the warm support of Portugal from the outset and later on the military support of Germany and Italy. Salazar’s Portugal was ideologically close to the nationalists, and it provided a crucial rear base for prominent nationalist exiles (Sanjurjo the most prominent of them) as well as the link between divided nationalist zones. But Portugal could only provide so much. Germany and Italy were the ones with the power to contribute much more.

In the summer of 1936, Germany cared very little about Spain. Spain was way outside of Hitler’s eastern ambitions, and Germany had very little economic interests. Early requests for aid from Mola were rebuffed by German diplomacy. Instead, on July 22, Franco used his connections to two Nazi Party members in Morocco to appeal directly to Hitler, with whom Franco’s two German messengers met in Bayreuth on July 25. Hitler took the personal decision to support the nationalists and within a few days he shipped a handful of airplanes, bombers and weapons to Spain. Hitler calculated that a friendly regime in Spain, directly south of France, would be advantageous. In addition, Spain’s raw materials were key to Germany, which was progressively re-arming.

Mussolini cared far more about Spain than Hitler originally did in 1936. For Italy’s expansionist dreams, having an ally in Spain was quite important. Rome had greeted with dismay the proclamation of the republic in 1931, and had backed all anti-republican activities since then including the 1932 coup attempt. Primo’s Falange also benefited from monthly contributions from Italy. However, the Spanish conflict came at a bad time for Mussolini. He had just come out of the Abyssinian conflict tired and isolated, and Italy turned down Mola and Franco’s initial requests for help in late July. But Mussolini still hesitated. His ego had been stroked by the requests for aid, and he was anxious about the opportunity to help a potential ally in the region. Furthermore, Mussolini was told by diplomatic reports that the rebellion was on the verge of victory, and he was aware of London’s position regarding the conflict. On July 29, Mussolini dispatched several planes, bombers and fighters to Spain.

German and Italian support for the nationalists, combined with Britain’s silent support of Franco and France’s impotence boosted the nationalist morale significantly in August 1936. What had been a desperate rebellion in July was transformed by August into a fast-moving war machine. Thousands of troops from the African army, the Foreign Legion and the Moor mercenaries were airlifted from Morocco into Spain, and kicked off a rapid march towards Madrid in August 1936. The divided zones of nationalist control met on August 10, Badajoz was captured days later and by September the African troops had covered nearly 500 kilometres and were within reach of Madrid. Italy and Germany agreed to step up their contributions to allow their planes to engage in military missions.

The secrecy which had until then cloaked Italy (and Germany)’s intervention was broken when Italian planes landed by mistake in French Morocco. Blum, furious, believed that he should aid the republic. However, the Radicals violently objected to any participation and London warned France that it would leave it alone if war erupted over Spain. A frustrated and impotent French government instead came up with the idea of a Non-Intervention Pact and the introduction of an arms embargo on both sides.

Britain happily backed the idea of a Non-Intervention Pact, which would provide a nice facade for its apparent neutrality and a firewall against French aid to the republicans. All major powers adhered to the idea, and a working committee met in September 1936. In practice, it turned out to be a sham ridden with loopholes. It allowed Britain to maintain its official neutrality, blocked France from helping the republic, and did not keep Germany or Italy from actively participating in the war.

The governments of most western nations ignored republican pleas. Instead, it was up to civilians in individual countries to set up independent aid committees to raise money, food, medicine, clothing and other essential supplies for the republicans. Soon, a number of foreign volunteers attempted to go fight in Spain.

In Moscow, Stalin was embarrassingly watching the events unfold. Since 1934, Soviet foreign policy had been moderate with the goal of breaking its isolation and reaching understandings with western democracies against Germany and Italy. The Comintern’s instructions to communist parties around the world to come to terms with the bourgeois progressives was part of that strategy. Moscow unmistakably sided with the republic, as the emergence of another fascist regime in Europe, encircling France, was dangerous for Moscow. But a republican victory could mean a social revolution in Spain, which would hinder the links between Moscow and the Allies. The Soviets welcomed humanitarian efforts to help the republic, but initially shied away from military participation. However, with Germany and Italy openly breaching non-intervention, Stalin’s hand was forced and the Comintern organized the International Brigades in the fall of 1936. The International Brigades were cohorts of left-wing or communist volunteers from around the world who saw Spain as the ultimate battle against fascism and its triumphs in Europe. In October 1936, the Soviets also dispatched small numbers of Russian personnel and some material aid. They were under strict instructions to keep out of the front lines and push for moderation.

Yet, the arrival of the foreign volunteers alongside Soviet material aid in November 1936 boosted the republican morale and saved Madrid, widely expected to fall to the nationalists by October-November 1936. Soviet fighters meant that the nationalists lost control of the air and street fighting advantaged the republicans. By late November, the nationalists ended the offensive.

The failure of the Madrid offensive in the fall of 1936 pushed Germany and Italy to step up their aid and throw all they had into the conflict. The Germans sent the Condor Legion, a powerful air contingent of around 6000 men plus modern fighters, bombers, tanks and weapons. Hitler did not throw himself all in. Mussolini, on the other hand, did. Italy formed the CTV, an expeditionary force of 50,000-80,000 men sent to Spain in the spring of 1937.

Non-intervention was a sham which nobody followed. Italy and Germany both breached non-intervention in broad daylight: Italian troops on the ground, German bombing raids and even the participation of German warships supposed to be part of the non-intervention committee in the shelling of Almería in 1937. Britain was unwilling to act despite clear Italian and German provocations. France applied a policy of relaxed non-intervention, which meant turning a blind eye to the arrival of Russian weapon shipments and the smuggling of weapons across the border to the republic.

The Soviets stepped up their shipments of materiel to Spain, while France turned a blind eye to arm smuggling to the republicans. There were, at its peak, also 45,000 foreign volunteers fighting with the republic. However, the foreign volunteers needed to be armed, groomed and fed by the republican government. The Soviets, furthermore, were more cautious in their support of the republic than Hitler and Mussolini in their support of the nationalists. They kept low profiles, and they forced the republicans to pay them by shipping Spain’s gold reserves to the Soviet Union. In stark contrast, German and Italian troops were professional, trained soldiers who were re-equipped with optimal materiel at all times. The nationalists, lastly, were able to pay for the generous help they received by shipments of raw materials or by credit.

The Nationalists (1936-1937)

The rebels, nationalists, nationals or fascists were a rather heterogeneous coalition. However, most of them fell into the traditionalist conservative bloc of Spanish politics, and they were united much more than they were divided. Yet, they came from diverse social horizons and represented slightly different views of society. The two most organized factions backing the nationalists were the Carlists and the Falange. Other civilian supporters of the nationalist movement included the Alfonsist monarchists (powerful in the military), the remnants of CEDA, Catholics and conservative republicans.

Nationalist poster with the slogan 'Arriba España' ('Arise Spain')

The Carlists’ revival as a political and military faction had been prompted by the proclamation of the republic, and their paramilitary wing, the Requetés proved a fierce fighting force. The Carlists were ultraconservative nationalists whose hardcore base was distrustful of most other nationalists. Emilio Mola, stationned in the Carlist stronghold of Navarre, emerged as the unofficial leader of their military force.

The Falange had been founded in 1933 by Miguel Primo de Rivera’s son José Antonio and was Spain’s main fascist movement. It had merged with a smaller Nazi grouping, the JONS, in 1934. The Falange had been weak during the republic, winning only one seat in 1933 and winning less than 1% of the vote in 1936. However, the CEDA’s defeat in the 1936 elections and the aggravation of political violence in Spain boosted the ranks of the tiny Falange into a large party with vicious paramilitaries and thugs. José Antonio himself was a well-spoken, amiable and rather level-headed man, and, alongside the camisas viejas (old shirts) in the party, held “revolutionary” or vaguely progressive ideals such as anti-clericalism which were somewhat out of tune with the hard clericalism which united the rest of the nationalist faction. José Antonio did not personally support the July 17-18 coup and was rather compelled into supporting it. However, José Antonio had been arrested prior to that and later transferred to jail in Alicante. He was killed in jail in Alicante on November 20. Franco, for reasons which will become obvious later, did not lift a finger to save him.

The coup had been led by a cartel of generals, of which Francisco Franco was not the original leader. Emilio Mola was the domestic leader of the coup, and José Sanjurjo was the exiled leader of the coup. Other prominent generals included Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, who led the rebellion in Seville, and general Miguel Cabanellas from Zaragoza.

Franco’s rise to prominence so rapidly was due to stunningly good luck and fortune. Franco had been known in the past as a talented officer, who gained promotions young and rapidly. He was conservative, but enjoyed good relations with most factions and steered clear of most coups, notably the 1932 coup. He had been sent off to the Canary Islands by the government following the 1936 elections, where the conspirators had kept him informed. Franco, who was extremely cautious (a Spanish version of George McClellan), hesitated for a long time before supporting the coup – and only did so when assured of safe passage and a bank account in case of failure. He landed in Morocco only once the rebellion had succeeded there. He took charge of the crucial African troops.

The first stroke of luck came for him on July 20, when general Sanjurjo’s plane crashed on takeoff from Portugal. The leading coupist generals in Barcelona and Madrid had also been killed. There were no prominent civilian leaders for the rebellion. Slowly but surely, Franco rose to prominence. On July 23, the first unified command was formed, the Junta de Defensa Nacional, and led by General Cabanellas. But Cabanellas, perhaps a freemason and close to the Radicals, was disliked by most conservative generals who met in late September to choose a big boss, or Generalissimo. The top contenders were Franco, Mola and Queipo. Mola had been hindered by his inability to lead a successful coup in July, and Queipo was a lunatic and probably a madman. Franco, who was friendly with most nationalist leaders, and led the crucial African troops, became the obvious choice. Franco was proclaimed as the head of state on October 1, 1936.

Franco then worked to consolidate his position. His first move to do so was a publicity stunt. In late September, Franco diverted his attack on Madrid to relieve besieged nationalist rebels in Toledo. On September 28, the siege was broken and the besieged troops in the Alcázar freed. The troops in Toledo had become a symbol of nationalist resistance, and Franco keenly exploited it and successfully presented himself as the saviour of Toledo.

By diverting the drive on Madrid to save Toledo, Franco had given the republicans time to consolidate Madrid’s defenses. The offensive on Madrid finally failed in November 1936, but Franco turned the rout into a personal victory. Italy and Germany stepped up their contribution to the war, while Franco turned the conflict into a war of destruction and attrition. Instead of using his military advantages to smash through weaker republican lines, Franco wished to slowly annihilate and purge the republicans. His task was to clean Spain up, and the conflict was increasingly presented as a crusade against the “red atheist separatists”. This crusade was supported wholeheartedly by the Church (aside from the pro-republican Basque clergy).

The “white terror” which emerged became systematic terror aimed to scaring potential opponents into submission and eliminating all those suspected of being opposed to the coup. The most gory example of early nationalist terror in the war was the massacre of Badajoz, in which over 1000 republicans were rounded up and shot by General Yagüe.

As the conflict progressed, foreign support from Germany and Italy proved increasingly key. The Italians played a key role in capturing territory in the south and especially Málaga in February 1937. As the nationalists moved in on the encircled republican north (Asturias, Cantabria, Euskadi) in March 1937, the German Condor Legion’s bombing sprees were able to destroy fierce republican defense. The most famous example of such bombing was the April 26 bombing of the ancient Basque capital and symbolic heart of Basque nationalism, Gernika (Guernica). The utter destruction of Gernika, like the massacre in Badajoz, was far more symbolic than strategic.

Politically, Franco consolidated his position throughout 1937 and 1938. The nationalist coalition of forces and armies proved far too diverse and unorganized for Franco’s tastes. The Carlists especially were proving irksome with their demands to establish an independent Carlist army. Working alongside his brother-in-law and right-hand man, Ramón Serrano Suñer, Franco moved to unify the factions. This had been facilitated by Primo de Rivera’s assassination in November 1936 and the infighting which it wrought on the Falange. In April 1937, Franco decreed the unification of all groups into the Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FET-JONS) or “the movement”. The name FET referred to the historical Falange and the traditionalists, or Carlists. Franco played up on the fascist rhetoric and symbols a lot, and kept the historical symbols of the Falange attached to his regime, but in practice he quickly sidelined the camisas viejas within the old party and tamed the revolutionary rhetoric of old-timers in the movement, notably Manuel Hedilla, Primo’s successor, whom Franco had thrown in jail. Good luck struck again in June 1937, when Mola himself was killed in a plane crash.

Franco’s first cabinet, formed in 1938, with him at the helm and Serrano Suñer as interior minister, was a balancing act of all factions. The mix-mash of nationalist factions were all represented equally and convinced into accepting Franco as the man who would safeguard their interests within the mold of a personalist authoritarian regime.

The civil war within the civil war: the Republicans (1936-1939)

PCE poster

The nationalists presented a plethora of various factions, but they were broadly uniting into destroying the republic and most clearly subscribed to the traditionalist, Catholic nationalist view of Spain. Furthermore, the divisions were quickly silenced by authoritarian military leadership and Franco’s personal skill.

The republican factions never united under a single leader capable of leading a strong movement which could defeat the nationalists. The divisions of the republican movement proved fatal. At the outset, the governments were led solely by bourgeois republican parties such as the IR or UR, but they were quickly sidelined. The main actors were the Socialists (and the UGT), the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-FAI and later the PCE. The republic was also supported by the centre-right Basque nationalists in exchange of autonomy for Euskadi, which was granted in October 1936.

Giral’s decision in July 1936 to arm the population saved the republic but because of that decision, the conflict degenerated way over the heads of leading moderate republicans. The anarchists reached the apex of their power as they managed to seize land and lead a true social revolution, with collectivized landholdings and libertarian communes in rural Aragon and Catalonia. In other areas, workers committees or popular committees emerged as powerful actors acting over the heads of the government. It was this climate of chaos which led to the “red terror”, in which uncontrollable radicals murdered thousands of priests or nationalists.

The first months of the war on the republican side was marked by chaos, division and military weakness. Even the most motivated militias of workers could not match the trained, disciplined regular troops aligned by the nationalists. Furthermore, the republican war effort was a cacophonous affair, with no united command, common war consciousness or structured resistance.

Giral proved unable to structure a war effort and resigned in September 1936. Instead, a grand Popular Front administration led by Francisco Largo Caballero aimed to construct a united war effort under man who could channel revolutionary fervour. The Largo cabinet included all factions: six Socialists, four republicans, two communists and two regionalists (one ERC, one PNV). In November, four anarchists from the CNT-FAI joined the government’s ranks. Largo’s government focused on centralizing command and war efforts, restraining radical revolutionaries and the creation and conscription of a cohesive republican army.

Largo did not prove up to the task. The government’s decision to move to Valencia from Madrid hurt its image, the loss of Málaga in early 1937 was a major blow and old squabbles within the PSOE did not die out. Lastly, Largo’s relations with the PCE worsened while he failed to realize the movement which the PCE had grown into.

The Stalinist PCE, which had won only 17 seats in the 1936 elections, was transformed almost overnight from a small party of 20,000 members into a mass party of over 500,000. Part of the PCE’s rapid growth during the war can be attributed to the fact that the Soviet Union became the republic’s only real source of external support and its lifeline. But the PCE during the chaotic era of social revolution, infighting and confusing politicking became the only real cohesive, clear, disciplined party. Its regiments on the front were disciplined and powerful fighting forces. Most importantly, under orders from Moscow to remain as moderate as possible, the PCE became a conservative party appealing to smallholders, artisans, small businessmen and middle-classes scared by the revolutionary CNT-FAI and the seizure of private property. The PCE was in reality a conservative, some would say reactionary, force within the republican coalition which sought to create a inter-class alliance capable of saving the republic so that they could then eliminate internal rivals to transform Spain into a communist dictatorship.

The government was also crippled by the CNT-FAI’s refusal to subordinate itself to the state. Although a part of both the national government and the Catalan Generalitat, the CNT-FAI refused to relinquish control of the industries it seized or disband its anarchist squads. In Catalonia, the CNT-FAI’s position was opposed by the Unified Socialist Party (PSUC), created in 1936 from the merger of the weak local socialists with the local communists.

Clashes between the PSUC and CNT-FAI in Catalonia exploded in the May Days of 1937. The violence was sparked by the assassination, allegedly by the anarchists, of a UGT leader. The PSUC dispatched Assault Guards to the CNT-controlled phone exchange, sparking a war of barricades between the CNT-FAI, its anti-Stalinist POUM allies against the PSUC supported by the ERC. Hundreds died before the anarchist squads were convinced by their leadership to back down. The POUM later became the victim of the PCE’s violent tactics, as its membership and leadership – accused of being a fascist fifth column, were purged (with the support of NKVD agents).

The May Days proved the end of the road for Largo Caballero. The PCE banded with moderate republicans and moderate Socialists to remove him. Old squabbles were settled within the PSOE, as the party’s leadership staged a coup to evict him and his supporters from positions of power within the PSOE and later the UGT. Largo resigned in May 1937 and was replaced by another Socialist, Juan Negrín, a moderate close to Prieto and the man backed by the PCE – which has led to accusations of Negrín being a Stalinist stooge.

The collapse (1938-1939)

Negrín’s government continued Largo’s policy of centralizing power into the creation of a cohesive and centralized war effort capable of resisting nationalist offensives. Negrín focused on resistance. Negrín’s goal was to resist and survive long enough until the republican cause could be linked to a European war against the Axis or at least until France and Britain decided to be serious about non-intervention. Resistance, however, was difficult. Though the republic’s ability to hold out for so long despite numerous setbacks was quite some feat, it faced increasing hunger and supply problems. The nationalists controlled Spain’s agrarian heart, and, after 1937, its industrial northern regions. In 1938, Franco’s troops had managed to split the republican zone in half when he reached the Mediterranean coast. In addition, the republic was never on equal footing with the nationalists in terms of military might because they never received the amount of foreign support that the nationalists received from Germany and Italy.

Republican offensives in Aragon (Belchite and Teruel) in the winter of 1937 and on the Ebro in the summer and fall of 1938 were met with initial successes but eventually the republicans found themselves unable to exploit those small gains into long-term victories because the offensives soom became bogged down in battles of attrition. While Franco was re-supplied constantly and could exploit Spain’s agrarian and industrial heartlands, the republic could not be re-supplied on a permanent basis and invariably lost those battles of attrition.

The Czechoslovakian crisis in the spring of 1938 was a glimmer of hope for the republic, which prayed that the standoff between the Allies and Germany would somehow end in conflict in which the republic could tie itself to the Allies and be rescued by them. France in March 1938 had reopened its border (though closed again in June) and continued delivering Russian weapons. However, Britain and later France preferred a policy of appeasement with Hitler. Franco struck luck again with the signature of the Munich Agreement in the fall of 1938, because a war breaking out in Europe right then and there would have been crippling for Franco as it would link the republic to the countries (France and Britain) who had until then remained neutral (at varying degrees) in the Spanish conflict. Furthermore, with Munich, Stalin started losing interest in Spain and instead sought a deal with Hitler.

Hitler stepped up his participation in the winter of 1938, during which Franco launched his final offensive against Catalonia in December and captured Barcelona on January 26, 1939. The pitiful remnants of the republican forces coupled with refugees rushed to the French border before Franco reached the border in early February. On February 27, France and Britain recognized Franco’s regime as the government of Spain. President Azaña resigned on March 1. Negrín desperately held out in the last republican zone, which still controlled over 30% of the country including Madrid and Valencia. He help out quixotic hope for foreign intervention or at the very least a negotiated peace with Franco on the minimal condition of no reprisals. Franco, obviously, did not want peace without reprisals.

Negrín’s policy of resistance and holding out quixotically was opposed by many in the republican zone, wracked by low morale and war-weariness. His alliance with the PCE was now seen as hindering last-ditch efforts at a negotiated peace, and his hard-line resistance policy was opposed by those tired of war or realistic about the republic’s real chances. Together with several low-key civilians including former PSOE leader Julián Besteiro, a number of military leaders including Colonel Segismundo Casado and General José Miaja staged a coup on March 5 to remove Negrín and the PCE from power. Casado and Miaja’s Consejo Nacional de Defensa desperately sought to negotiate with Franco, but he had none of it. He resumed his offensive, with no opposition, on March 26. On April 1, 1939; Franco announced the end of the war.

The Spanish Civil War killed 500,000. Up to 450,000 fled the country.

Franco (1939-1975)

The face of Spain, 1939-1975

Franco proceeded to set up one of Europe’s most durable authoritarian regimes. Franco’s regime is often presented as a fascist regime, a fascist regime which managed to hold out until Franco’s death in 1975 because of his remarkable skill in intrigue. In reality, Franco’s regime was probably not fascist. It was rather a conservative, clerical military personalist-authoritarian regime. The revolutionary aim to transform society and the state which mark traditional fascism were largely absent from Franco’s regime, however, did play up on the fascist paraphernalia and rhetoric while his governing coalitions did include fascists.

Franco had little ideological anchors aside from staunch anti-communism. His regime mixed conservatism, ultramontane clerical Catholicism, anti-liberalism inherited from Ferdinand’s absolutism, nationalism, mythical invocations of a proud Christian past and centralism. The use of regional languages was banned, education was done solely in Spanish, and regional autonomy was, for the most part, forbidden (Navarre and the Basque province of Álava received special foral rights for their passionate support of Franco during the war). The Civil War was redefined as a mythical patriotic crusade by proud Spaniards against a conspiracy of godless communists. The Reconquista around the Catholic Monarchs and the glorious defunct Spanish Empire were constantly evoked. Franco was proclaimed Caudillo de España por la gracia de Dios, the leader of Spain by divine right.

The state was organized around the broad Movement (Movimiento Nacional) and the single-party, the FET-JONS. The Movement became the country’s top source of jobs, patronage and safety and it organized the country’s labour movement (through the sole legal union, the corporatist sindicato vertical) and politics (through the single party).

Within the Movement were the familias (or families) which were the factions, clans or lobbies within the regime. The most prominent families were the Falangists, who at the outset controlled most of the bureaucracy of the Movement; the traditionalists or Carlists; the monarchists; the military and finally the Catholics. The Falangists, by now purged of any truly radical elements, were the most inclined towards fascism, and broadly supported corporatism and national-syndicalism. The monarchist faction included a large number of senior officers who supported the restoration of the monarchy, and were more likely to view Franco’s regime as a temporary short-term affair. The Catholic or conservative family was a broad faction close to the Church and who had a national catholic ideology. The military faction was made up of officers and africanistas such as Franco himself. Franco was the figure who unified the families, who were all represented equally within his government. Franco always played a slick balancing act and went out of his way to ensure none were antagonized or too powerful. He further cemented his place within the system by presenting himself as integral to the survival of the regime and indispensable to stability.

World War II (1939-1945)

In April 1939, Spain was a decimated country. Large parts of the country was destroyed, and there was widespread poverty and misery because of critical shortages of food and fuel. Its economy was destroyed. Yet, Franco’s government took the road of autarky and massive state intervention in the economy. Spain became, once again, a highly protected economy with stringent control of wages, prices, exchange rate, agricultural and industrial yields. The production of wheat was fixed and marketed by the state, while the state also took responsibility for industrial development. The avowed goal was to make Spain self-sufficient and encourage national production without imports. In reality, it was an utter disaster given Spain’s backwards rural social structure and deficient technology. The peseta was also highly overvalued. The result was consolidation of wealth in the hands of landowners and industrialists, while the bulk of the population starved or lived in extreme misery.

Franco made no effort at reconciliation following the end of the conflict. Rather, he initiated a repressive regime of revenge. All those suspected of affiliation with the republic or suspected of holding left-wing, progressive, liberal or secular ideas were targeted by the state. The 1939 Law of Political Repressions was even retroactive all the way back to October 1934. Thousands had fled and continued to flee the country, but those who stayed were rounded up and shoved into jails, concentration/labour camps or executed. Between 100,000 and 200,000 were killed or otherwise victims of the white terror or counter-revolution which Franco kicked off in 1936. There was, however, no mass-murder or genocide on a scale comparable to Nazi atrocities.

When World War II began in September 1939, both Franco and Mussolini, while obviously supporting Germany, were caught off-guard and unready. Spain in particular was in position to join the battle, just recovering from the civil war with a weak economy and military. Following Germany’s whirlwind invasion of France in 1940 pushed Italy into the war on June 10, but Franco stayed on the fence though there was no doubt that he fully backed Germany.

Franco became increasingly determined to join the war in the summer of 1940. In June, he adopted Italy’s previous policy of ‘non-belligerence’ and days later seized Tangier. In October, he promoted his staunchly pro-Axis brother-in-law Ramón Serrano Súñer to foreign minister. However, he wanted to extract a ‘fair price’ from Germany in return for Spain’s participation in the conflict. That fair price included largely territorial claims including Gibraltar and land in Africa, in addition to massive aid. Hitler was, of course, not interested by Franco’s machinations in the slightest. If anything, Spain should be begging Hitler to join in. Furthermore, Spain’s territorial ambitions clashed with those of Italy and included land occupied by Vichy France.

Yet, Franco did not give up. In October 23, he met Hitler at Hendaye on the French border. Hitler made clear that he was not interested by Franco’s claims and hinted that they would not possible at any rate given the problems it would cause with France and Italy. Unlike what Francoist propaganda said, Franco did not fight off heavy German pressure to join in the conflict, instead he left Hendaye bitter and with his hands empty. Hitler found the experience extremely frustrating and left with a very low opinion of Franco (commenting, notably, that he’d rather have his teeth pulled than meet him again). Despite the rout which Franco had suffered at Hendaye, he hardly gave up. He remained friendly with Germany and signed the secret agreement for a potential German assault on Gibraltar. In June 1941, with the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Franco was powered up with pro-Axis enthusiasm. In the name of his anti-communist crusade, which he later used as an excuse for his alliance with Germany, Franco authorized sending 47,000 volunteers to fight in Russia with the Blue Division (División Azul). He also imprudently stepped up the pro-Axis rhetoric.

Britain, meanwhile, was concerned about Franco’s dangerously close links with Germany. Britain’s interest was in preserving the status-quo and making sure Franco did not take his alliance beyond the rhetoric and little shows. Britain, with American approval, granted Spain somewhat generous credits and sufficient supplies of food and oil to keep Franco from going over to the Axis.

The events of 1942 and 1943, less favourable to the Axis than in years prior, increased domestic tensions within Franco’s coalition. The Falange and Serrano Súñer remained staunchly pro-German, but the monarchist and military factions became increasingly opposed to both participation in the conflict and, internally, the Falange’s growing power and influence, notably with Serrano Súñer. Following a Falangist attack on a Carlist rally in August 1942, Franco formed a new government in September. Varela (army) and Galarza (interior), vocal opponents of the Falange, were sacked and replaced by pro-Axis stalwarts. However, Franco replaced Serrano Súñer with General Jordana, a moderate neutralist. Serrano Súñer’s dismissal was as much the product of growing Allied success as it was the product of internal tensions. Serrano Súñer, independent, powerful and deeply ambitious was becoming increasingly dangerous as a potential rival or shadow to Franco. Franco preferred to surround himself with stalwarts, tools and docile loyalists.

Following successful Allied landings in North Africa and Mussolini’s fall in 1943, Franco adopted a more measured tone of neutrality. In October 1943, he withdrew troops from Russia. German spy and sabotage activities in Spain were restricted. He shifted his message into one which asserted that the main fight, in which Spain participated in, was the crusade against communism. He started downplaying any fascist elements to his regime and played instead the Catholic/national Catholicism card.

Interestingly and ironically, Spain became an escape route and transit point for Jews fleeing Nazi tyranny and the Spanish government did offer some assistance to Jews who had escaped across the French border, despite Franco’s personal antisemitism. Conversely, Franco’s government did draw up a list of the few Jews living in Spain in 1941 and handed it to Hitler, while after the war Spain provided asylum for those who had participated in the deportation of Jews.

From isolation to economic miracle (1945-1973)

Despite last-minute attempts to patch-up links with the Allies, Spain came out the war shunned and isolated on the world stage. The western democracies saw Spain as an out-of-place fascist regime and political anomaly. Spain was shut out of the UN in 1945 (it eventually joined in 1955), the Marshall Plan in 1947 and NATO in 1949.

The west definitely wanted to remove Franco from power and strongly disliked his fascistic regime, but Franco came to the conclusion early on that the west was not interested in Spain enough to turn their verbal condemnations into military action against his regime. Indeed, he turned out to be correct. Spain was a thorn in the side and marginal problem, not a major earth-shattering crisis. Britain in particular was not interested in doing anything against Franco which could destabilize Spain (Britain, again, had large economic interests in Spain) and Europe further and further Soviet influence and designs on Europe, even though Stalin by this point did not care about Spain and harboured no ambitions on Spain. The United States and France proved more aggressive towards Franco, especially France, but under British pressure neither took the risk of going beyond rhetoric and little diplomatic games such as withdrawing ambassadors or meeting with opposition figures. The opposition, which included the Republic-in-exile and other politicians such as Gil Robles, was terribly divided amongst itself and terribly weak with no international support except for Mexico. Weak communist-led invasions of Spain were destroyed quickly, although the communists fought in the maquis until 1951 and the anarchists survived in the maquis until the 1960s.

Coat of arms of Francoist Spain

The weak communist maquisard operations did, however, give Franco a key PR element. He deflected growing monarchist pressure on his regime, led by the pretender Don Juan (Alfonso XIII’s son), by using the communist card and saying that a return to a liberal monarchy, as Don Juan demanded, would open the door to the evil left-wingers. Franco also undertook some cosmetic artificial changes to his regime as part of his PR offensive. In 1945, he drew up the Fuero de los Españoles, a cute little list of “rights” guaranteed to Spaniards (but with no enforcement mechanism).

Around the same time, he started sidelining the Falange and threw them out of positions of influence over the state and relegated them to control the labour machinery. Instead, the Church was given a position of choice in a regime which started to define itself as a national Catholic state, distinguishable from fascism. ACNP, Catholic Action and other Church leaders gained prominent positions within the new regime. The former boss of Catholic Action and Franco’s tool, Alberto Martín-Artajo, became foreign minister in July 1945.

To face the monarchist challenge led by Don Juan, Franco caved in just a bit with the 1947 Law of Succession which defined the country as a monarchy and created a Council of the Realm to deal with succession. However, Franco would be the regent (for life) and decide who would take the throne and when. He got this ratified in a 1947 referendum, rigged to give him a blowout victory. In 1948, Franco met Don Juan, who agreed that his son, Juan Carlos, aged 10, would be educated in Spain.

Franco had calmly and coolly bet on a destruction of the war’s east-west alliance, and he turned out to be correct as relations between the west (United States) and Soviet Union deteriorated between 1946 and 1950. The Truman administration faced mounting pressure from the Republicans to normalize relations with Spain, who they saw a key ally against Moscow. They failed to force Truman to extend the Marshall Plan to Spain, but did push through in 1950 a $62 million loan to Spain. The loan came at the right time for Spain, saving its economy from collapse. Starting in 1950, ambassadors returned to Madrid. In 1953, Spain signed a Concordat with the Vatican. More crucially, also in 1953, Spain signed a treaty with the United States whereby the US were granted use of several military bases in Spain in return for annual payments of development grants and military materiel. President Eisenhower visited Madrid and met with Franco in 1959. The Cold War, the necessity of allies against the Soviet Union and Spain’s strategic position had prompted Washington to abandon its policy of opposition to the Francoist regime in favour of a strategic alliance with him.

The 1950s became an era of normalization. Franco acted increasingly as an aloof, distant monarch who slowly withdrew from affairs of state in favour of personal relaxation and surveying his kingdom. The Church became the dominant actor within the regime, with control over marriages (civil marriages and divorces were illegal), education and censorship. The post-Civil War era of revenge slowly dissipated. During this time, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco rose to prominence. In 1951, he became Minister of the Presidency after having been named Undersecretary to the Presidency in 1941. During the war, Carrero Blanco had been a neutralist, as well as a loyal and discreet adviser to Franco.

In the cabinet shuffle of 1957, the economic portfolios were all granted to technocrats and civilian experts of the Opus Dei, the powerful secret Catholic order. Old Falangist and ACNP cadres were sidelined progressively in favour of the technocrats. Though there was industrial growth and increased foreign trade, though there was no sustained growth. Autarky rendered economic modernization impossible. The enclosed domestic market had a low purchasing power and Spain could not produce or import raw materials and other goods. Inflation was ballooning in 1956, and the deficit in balance of payments worsened. Rising prices with static wages threatened social tensions. The economically liberal (and politically authoritarian) Opus Dei technocrats sought economic growth and modernization.

Autarky was abandoned progressively in favour of economic liberalism. Spain joined the OECD and IMF in 1958. In 1959, a Stabilization Plan aimed at controlling inflation and encouraging foreign investment and trade was introduced. It included public spending cuts, a rationalization of state controls, a massive devaluation of the peseta and various incentives to liberalize trade and foreign investment.

What followed was the Spanish Miracle or desarrollo, which started in 1959. Spain abandoned the ranks of developing countries to join the club of developed countries as its per capita income increased dramatically. Industrialization allowed Spain to truly join the industrialized world, and Spain enjoyed the second highest growth rate in the world after Japan: Spain’s GDP grew by 7.5% between 1961 and 1973. The primary sector (agriculture) declined dramatically, with 25% in of the active labour force in the countryside and agriculture accounting for only 15% of the GDP. Millions of Spaniards in rural areas moved to urban areas (or abroad) to seek jobs. To add to good fortune, Spain faced no balance of payment problems. There was a huge increase in tourist earnings, emigrant remittances and a renewal in foreign investment. Cheap labour, state incentives and the lure of a new market attracted much foreign investment, most of it American. Tourism increased dramatically from a little over one million in the early 50s to over 33 million in the 1970s, creating jobs in the impoverished south and stimulating infrastructural growth.

Politically, the miracle totally sidelined the old guard of the Falange, who failed to influence the drafting of a quasi-constitution, the Law of the Principles of the Movement (1958) which defined Spain as a Catholic and social monarchy. At the same time in the late 60s, Franco’s health slowly deteriorated. In 1967, Carrero Blanco became First Vice President of the Government. In 1969, he named Juan Carlos as his successor upon his death. The goal was to build an authoritarian monarchy with Juan Carlos as a figurehead while Luis Carrero Blanco would allow for the continuation of the authoritarian state and Francoism without the Caudillo.

The slow demise (1959-1975)

As in most authoritarian regimes which witnessed rapid economic growth and economic liberalization without accompanying political reform and liberalization, the contradiction between the new economy and new society and old regime proved to be a catalyst for at least significant political movement and opposition. In Spain, economic growth had opened Spain’s economy to the west and its ideals of democracy and freedom, but at home the regime remained anchored in the rhetoric of the ‘crusade’ of the 1930s. For those Spaniards socialized to the new society of the post-war era, the Franco regime was an anachronism and a bulwark against progress.

Between the Stabilization Plans of the mid-1950s and Franco’s death on November 20, 1975, the Franco regime found itself opposed from the outside by a new labour movement, a new kind of peripheral nationalism and from certain factions within the Church. Within the regime itself, there were growing rifts between the old families.

The regime’s control over labour started diminishing in the 1950s. Industrialization, emigration, poor living conditions served as the catalysts for the organization of an independent, radicalized labour movement. Later, the 1973 oil crisis which brought the miracle to an end and boosted inflation created an even tenser climate.

The first independent expressions of grassroots labour were Catholic associations (HOAC and JOC). The HOAC and JOC were safe places for discussion of labour issues, organization or support of strike actions, and criticism of government policy. The young Catholics who formed the rank and file of both movements, while at odds with Church hierarchy, played a key role in the strike movements of the late 50s and early 60s and participated in the development of the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO). While the UGT and CNT were crippled by official repression, the communists (PCE) adopted the strategy of ‘entryism’ or infiltration of the official unions. The communist-influenced CCOO, after legalization of collective bargaining in 1958, became committees for negotiating settlements with employers. The success of the CCOOs gained them the support of the working-class. When in 1966, after discovering their infiltration by the PCE, the state moved to destroy the CCOO, it was too late. The CCOO had become too entrenched everywhere within the Spanish labour movement to be destroyed, and repression only swelled its ranks and radicalized its aims. The aim now was overthrowing the regime, an aim met by violent state repression including martial law and a 1973 trial of ten trade unionists.

Economic growth had swelled the ranks of the previously small and silent Catholic middle-classes. New young professionals: doctors, teachers, white-collar employees or engineers became a block of opposition to a regime which was not anymore key to stability but which was rather an obstacle to economic expansion, social peace and European integration. Economic growth had injected these new economic elites and business leaders with new values and ideas, all of which were counter to the archaic ideals of the regime.

University campuses became strongholds of dissent, as students embraced pop culture, forbidden Marxist texts and rebellious fashion. Assemblies, sit-ins and activism were met by police repression and increasing use of violence by the state.

The Franco regime was defined by the national motto, ¡Una, Grande y Libre!. The words expressed the centralization of Spain under the regime, Spain being perceived as “one” and indivisible. Regional nationalisms were repressed, the use of regional languages such as Catalan, Basque (Euskara) or Galician banned and independent regionalist cultural activities banned. The 1960s saw a loosening of the laws on the use of regional languages.

In Catalonia, the rebirth of the nationalist movement was largely cultural. Intellectuals and artists defended a Catalan identity, while Catalan culture and symbols served as rallying points for a vast majority of the population. The opposition in Catalonia was united, from left to right, in demanding regional autonomy, democracy and political freedoms.

The Catalan language has always been far more secure and entrenched in Catalan society than the Basque language in Basque society. The Franco regime’s linguistic policies threatened Basque with extinction in the 1960s. A long history of emigration from other parts of Spain had reduced the use of Basque, and, unlike in Catalonia, the dominant economic elites had long preferred Spanish over Basque. The uniqueness of the Basque language made it, and still makes it today, difficult and unappealing to learn. Thus the re-emergence of Basque nationalism as a serious political force in the 1960s took a vastly different form from the re-emergence of Catalanism in Catalonia.

The Basque government-in-exile, led by the PNV’s José Antonio Aguirre until 1960, had laid its hope, like the republican exiles, with the international community in the belief that they would move to overthrow Franco quickly after Germany’s defeat in 1945. When the international community instead moved increasingly closer to his regime, the PNV’s moderate position became the focus of much criticism from young Basque nationalists, mostly middle-class students. In 1952, a group of students in Bilbao founded Ekin, which at the outset enjoyed close links with both the PNV and the PNV’s youth wing, EGI. In 1959, most of Ekin went on to create Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Country and Liberty, ETA). ETA was created in an era of decolonization movements in the Third World, and the movements of national liberation in places such as Algeria and Vietnam had a major influence on ETA’s cadres, who compared Euskadi’s situation to that of African or Asian countries colonized and occupied by a major power.

By its Third Assembly in 1964, ETA had cut all bridges with the PNV and redefined itself as a secular, left-wing movement seeking the liberation of Euskadi (which, for ETA, also included Navarre and Iparralde, the 3 Basque provinces in France). ETA denounced Sabino Arana’s thesis as racist and discriminatory, and instead defined the “Basque nation” by the Basque language (instead of ancestry, race and ethnicity like Arana had). At the Third Assembly, ETA also adopted the armed struggle as a method for the achievement of its aims. But in the early 1960s, until 1968, ETA’s activities were limited to largely symbolic acts of disobedience such as printing literature or painting nationalist symbols on walls.

As a left-wing movement influenced by Marxism, the ETA has always been faced by the problem posed by the role working-class in its activities and in an hypothetical independent Euskadi. In the post-war era, Euskadi was the recipient of a major flow of internal immigrants from other provinces of Spain, and most of these immigrants formed the Basque working-class, especially in Bilbao’s suburbs. The presence of such a large number of non-Basquophones in Euskadi proved to be a major headache for ETA, which theorized at lengths about the class struggle and the participation of the working-class in the struggle for national liberation.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, ETA was not a homogeneous organization. First of all, it was spread out in cells both within the Spanish Basque provinces and abroad, mostly in the French Basque provinces. But most importantly, it was divided as early as the IV Assembly in 1964 into three streams: the ‘culturalists’, who gave priority to cultural activities and national liberation; the ‘workers’, who prioritized the class struggle and cooperation with workers all across Spain in the context of the eruption of working-class opposition to the regime; and the ‘third-worldlists’, who closely linked the Basque struggle to the struggles for national liberation and decolonization in the Third World. The culturalists and third-worldists both had in common an emphasis on Euskadi and the Basque movement, while the ‘workers’ were accused of being traitors and ‘españolistas‘. At the V Assembly in 1966-1967, the nationalists expelled the ‘workers’, who went on to create ETA-Berri (New ETA) which went on to join the national Communist Movement. The nationalists became known first as ETA-Zaharra (old ETA) within which the militarist wing became the dominant ‘front’ (there were 4 ‘fronts’ within ETA following the V Assembly). ETA-Zaharra readopted the name ETA shortly thereafter. In 1970, ETA suffered another split at the VI Assembly between, again, the ‘militarists’ who advocated a full armed struggle and the ‘workers’ which subordinated armed struggle to class struggle. The ‘workers’, who were a majority at the VI Assembly, decided an end to the armed struggle, which pushed the militarist minority to create ETA-V which continued the armed struggle. ETA-VI, the name adopted by the ‘workers’, would go on to suffer another split later on, part of which went on to form a pan-Spanish party, the LCR.

The first ETA victim was José Ángel Pardines Arcay, a civil guard killed in a 1968 shoot-out which also claimed the life of an ETA activist, Txabi Etxebarrieta. That same year, ETA scored another major success when it killed the police boss in San Sebastián, the vicious Melitón Manzanas. ETA’s influence grew with the 1970 Burgos Trial, which it exploited into a marketing opportunity and a generator of worldwide sympathy with the opponents of Franco’s regime. Those condemned to death had their sentences commuted to 30 years in the face of international disapproval.

For Franco, the most shocking turn around came from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church in Spain had fully backed Franco from the outset in 1936 and had seen its prominent role in society entrenched in the 1953 Concordat. The first breaks came from the Church’s grassroots, as young Catholic militants or ‘worker-priests’ organized movements such as the HOAC or JOC in the 1950s. But the Spanish Church’s ultra-conservative hierarchy soon found itself sidelined in Rome at the Second Vatican Council. The new more progressive Church leadership criticized the Spanish Church’s hierarchy. Within Spain, parishes increasingly served as refuges for opponents of the regime and Catholic publications voiced their disapproval of the regime. The liberal Enrique Tarancón was appointed Cardinal Primate of Spain in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

With the increasingly tense social situation as backdrop, the regime started fracturing into two broad factions. The most reformist elements of the regime, the aperturistas, were pushing for the regime to gradually liberalize and democratize the regime, in part to better protect against violent social revolution in the future. The most prominent of the aperturistas was Manuel Fraga, the Minister of Information and Tourism between 1962 and 1969, and the author of the 1966 Press Law which significantly relaxed censorship. At the other extreme was the Búnker or inmobilistas, a tiny but influential group of doctrinaire reactionaries who opposed even the slightest hint of liberalization. Their ranks included former FET-JONS boss Raimundo Fernández-Cuesta, former labour minister José Girón and editor Blas Piñar. The Búnker held influence and power disproportionate to its size, largely because of its ability to form gangs of thugs and permeate Franco’s inner circle, the military and intelligence services.

The man who could hold the factions together was Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, Franco’s strong man and key architect of the continuista plan which sought to make Francoism outlive Franco under a figurehead Juan Carlos following Franco’s death. Carrero Blanco was in practice quite close to the Búnker, save for the hardline rhetoric. He responded to disturbances and opposition with brutality, while turning a blind eye to the activities of far-right thugs who did the regime’s dirty jobs for it. In June 1973, Carrero Blanco was named President of the Government.

There wasn't much left of the Admiral.

On December 20, 1973 ETA committed its most spectacular attack ever. A commando placed a huge amount of explosives in a tunnel dug under Carrero Blanco’s car, parked right outside the Church where he was attending mass. His car jumped five stories and created a large crater. Needless to say, there wasn’t much left of the Admiral after it. Carrero Blanco had been the man who had held the regime tightly together in the last few years, and he was the only man who had the drive to make it last beyond Franco’s lifespan. His assassination proved a fatal blow for Franco and the regime.

Franco replaced Carrero Blanco with Carlos Arias Navarro, a sanguinary hard-liner but largely a dumb tool. Arias Navarro attempted to introduce some reforms to shore up the fledgling regime, in early 1974 he announced a reform package including local elections and tolerance for political groups within the limits of the law. However, a wave of arrests and dismissals of moderates by the government in 1974 destroyed any reformist inklings from Arias Navarro. The social climate became increasingly violent with the energy crisis and inflation: industrial militancy increased, student movements intensified, and worst of all, terrorism increased with attacks from ETA (19 victims in 1974, 16 in 1975), far-left and far-right groups. The government’s brutal response to opposition: torture, indiscriminate beatings, prison and death sentences, diplomatically isolated the Francoist state just like in 1945.

In October 1975, Franco suffered a major heart attack and his situation quickly worsened. Abroad, Spain was facing a crisis in Western Sahara, its last colony. King Hassan of Morocco had ordered civilians to ‘invade’ the mineral-rich Spanish territory, which Spain had originally sought to turn into a friendly puppet state and mineral supplier. The panic-stricken Spanish government instead chose to give up entirely and split Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania.

Franco died on November 20, 1975. He had probably been plugged in artificially to die symbolically on the day that José Antonio Primo de Rivera had been killed in jail in 1936. Carlos Arias Navarro made a fool out of himself that evening when he a threw a hissy fit and proved that he was certainly not up to the task which was ahead of him. With Franco’s death, nobody knew what would come next.

The transition (1975-1982)

Franco’s death on November 20, 1975 was greeted with a mix of joy, hope, fear, uncertainty and apprehension. It was unclear what would come next. It was uncertain if violence and, in the worst of cases, a second civil war, would result of the vacuum left by Franco’s death. Although his regime had been fledgling in its final years, Franco had become a familiar figure both in Spain and abroad and he had been, in some regards, the glue who held the increasingly feeble regime together.

A small minority hoped that Francoism and the authoritarian state could continue without Franco, but the likelihood of that happening was probably always very low. In 1975, the world and western Europe in particular was very different place than it had been in 1936. In Europe, democracy, freedom, equality and peaceful dialogue were universal values. In Spain, the economic growth of 1959-1973 had created a modern affluent consumer society and civil society which increasingly demanded democracy. In 1974, the Carnation Revolution had toppled the authoritarian regime in Portugal which had been in power since 1933. The fall of that regime, which had been a close ally of Franco, had been a major blow to Franco and the regime shortly after ETA had killed Carrero Blanco, Franco’s cunning and able right-hand man.

There were many encouraging signs for Spain in 1975. Authoritarianism as a political option in western Europe was dead. Within Spain, a vast majority of the population and even a sizable portion of the regime supported democracy or at least democratization. The international community also supported Spanish democratization. The stark political polarization of the 1930s had abated at least somewhat, and the Catholic Church was not the reactionary bulwark it had been in 1936.

But at the same time there were many roadblocks to a smooth transition to democracy. A small but very influential minority of the regime’s top echelons, the Bunker, steadfastly opposed any liberalization whatsoever. Those reactionaries held prominent positions with the regime’s institutions, the military and the intelligence services. Those elements within the military presented a constant threat as they could stage a coup at any time. Several key issues in the transition process, most notably regional autonomy and the legalization of the PCE, were extremely touchy and quite likely to set off a coup by the Bunker elements within the military. Furthermore, it is to be remembered that the transition would take place initially within the old institutional structures of the regime: a Cortes packed with Movement tools, a Council of the Realm known to be a Bunker stronghold, a head of government who was himself of reactionary past, and a monarch who had been appointed and educated by Franco. Thus, any liberalization was prone to be slow, measured and gradual. However, at the outset, the opposition parties clamored for a ruptura – a clean break with the past with the election of a constituent assembly. To make matters even more touchy, Spain was wracked by several terrorist activities: far-left groups, far-right groups suspected of being in cahoots with the intelligence services, and ETA in Euskadi.

Democratic transition within authoritarian institutions (1975-1977)

Juan Carlos was duly crowned King of Spain on November 22. Juan Carlos, born in 1938, had been hand-picked by Franco to be his successor and he had been groomed by him as such. Since his nomination as king-in-waiting in 1969, Juan Carlos had publicly praised Franco and his regime for their contributions to Spain. In 1975, he was not highly regarded by most in the opposition, and was not thought to be extremely intelligent by any measure. But Juan Carlos would go to prove them all wrong, and emerge as a competent and intelligent monarch, enthusiastically backed by the vast majority of Spaniards. Already prior to Franco’s death, Juan Carlos had held secret meetings with leaders of the opposition and had shored up support abroad for democratization. Though he pledged allegiance to the Principles of the Movement, Juan Carlos was determined to gradually build a liberal constitutional monarchy. In this feat, he was closely advised by Torcuato Fernández Miranda. Fernández Miranda had served as interim Prime Minister in 1973 and had been a prominent member of the Movement, but he was above all a reformist.

The opposition to Franco’s regime was represented mostly by two old forces: the PCE and the PSOE. The PCE, the best organized opposition party and a party with a key base within the domestic labour movement through the CCOO, had moved away from its Stalinism of the 1930s and adopted Eurocommunism and moderation under the leadership of Santiago Carrillo. The PCE formed a coalition with smaller groups, including professor Tierno Galván’s Popular Socialist Party (PSP), styled Junta Democrática. The PSOE had until the 1970s been in open decline thanks to the archaic state of the party and its leadership, led by the old Caballerista lieutenant Rodolfo Llopis, who was viscerally anti-communist. However, in 1972 and 1974 at the XII and XIII Congresses of the PSOE, Llopis’ old leadership was challenged by young Spanish-based reformists, including Felipe González, Alfonso Guerra and Manuel Chaves. At the 1974 congress held in Suresnes, France, González won the party’s leadership. The PSOE formed the Plataforma de Convergencia Democrática with small hard-left or centrist groupings in 1975. Both the Junta and Plataforma called for total amnesty and elections to a constituent assembly which would decide on the nature of the new regime.

The opposition’s poor opinion of Juan Carlos hardly approved when he kept Carlos Arias Navarro as Prime Minister. Retaining Arias Navarro, whose incompetence and low level of intelligence was hardly a secret, was prompted by the very thin line on which the monarch was walking. He had to be very careful of not alienating the most conservative members of the regime. Arias’ cabinet included a good number of aperturistas including notably Manuel Fraga (interior), José Maria de Areilza (foreign affairs) and Antonio Garrigues (justice) though the defense portfolio was held by conservative General Fernando de Santiago. The young reformist Adolfo Suárez was made Secretary-General of the Movement.

Arias moved with much timidity, constantly invoked the past in his speeches and was vague about what he meant by “reform”. He talked about legalizing political groups except for the PCE and separatists, and about legalizing the freedom of assembly. His government was crippled first in March by a strike in Vitoria (Euskadi), where the police’s intervention (ordered by Fraga) killed five workers hiding in a church. The strike in Vitoria prompted the merger of the Junta and Plataforma into a common front, the Coordinación Democrática (or Platajunta). Later in May, gunmen acting on orders from SECED (the secret police) killed two Carlists (supporters of a new left-wing autogestionary wing of the movement) at an event in Montejurra. Then in June, the Cortes passed the government’s law legalizing political associations but voted down an amendment to the Criminal Code which would have made membership in such organizations legal. That gave Juan Carlos his excuse to dismiss Arias, on top of his inability to manage both reform and public safety (the Vitoria and Montejurra events, ETA terrorism).

Juan Carlos surprised observers when he picked the young reformist Secretary-General of the Movement, Adolfo Suárez to be Prime Minister. Suárez’s nomination was another careful move by the monarch, still needing to appease the reactionaries within the old institutions of the Franco regime. Suárez was rather unknown, had impeccable Falangist credentials but was overall a young pragmatist with no ideological convictions to defend like Arias. Suárez would move gradually towards reform, not too fast to alienate the Bunker and risk a coup and not to slowly to alienate the opposition. Within days of his nomination, Suárez presented his package: a Law of Political Reforms and elections to a constituent assembly before June 1977.

Suárez’s Law of Political Reforms, alongside an amnesty for political prisoners in July 1976, included the legalization of political parties (except the PCE), the construction of a state based upon popular sovereignty, laying the blueprints of the current bicameral legislature, and granting constituent powers to that legislature. The law was debated by the Francoist Cortes, which was being asked to commit mass suicide. After a debate tightly controlled by the President of the Cortes, Torcuato Fernández Miranda, the Cortes voted 425-59 in favour (with 13 abstentions). In December 1976, voters approved by referendum the political reform: 94.2% in favour and 2.6% against. In February, political parties were legalized for elections on June 15, 1977.

UCD poster, 1977

The transition could not be complete and the elections of June 1977 could not legitimate without the PCE’s participation. Carrillo’s return to Madrid in December and rapid arrest put the issue on the agenda. But Suárez had promised the military in September that he would never legalize the PCE. In January 1977, the Atocha massacre in which five lawyers linked the PCE were killed by far-right terrorists sped up the process. Suárez met with Carrillo, who proved a very conciliatory negotiator, and agreed to legalize the PCE in return for Carrillo accepting the monarchy, the flag and support for a post-electoral social contract.

Alongside the old parties (PSOE, PCE, PNV) a whole slew of new parties were formed all across the political spectrum in the run-up to June 1977. On the far-right, Blas Piñar’s Fuerza Nueva emerged as the main party for the remaining Bunkerists. On the right, Manuel Fraga and other prominent figures of the old regime formed the Alianza Popular (AP), a modernized neo-Francoist coalition of small parties which nonetheless accepted the democratic process. Around Suárez a plethora of small micro-parties ranging from christian democratic to regionalist to social-democratic sprang up,  ran by old apparatchiks or politicians seeking to profit from Suárez’s popularity. Those groupings formed the Unión de Centro Democrático (UCD). In Catalonia, the prominent anti-Franco resistance fighter Jordi Pujol led the creation of the Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) and a makeshift coalition called PDC.

The Constituent years (1977-1979)

The elections on June 15 were marked by a triumph of moderate parties at the expense of the more radical parties both on the right and the left. Suárez’s UCD won 34.5% and 166 seats, while the PSOE won 29.4% and 118 seats. Carrillo’s PCE did relatively poorly, winning only 9.4% and 19 seats while Fraga’s AP won 8.2% and 16 seats. The far-right parties, meanwhile, were badly routed, with no party winning over 0.4% of the vote. The elections in Euskadi, and, to a lesser extent, Catalonia, were marked by the dominance of nationalist parties: in Euskadi, the PNV took 29.4% of the vote and a smaller nationalist party on the left, EE, took 6.1%. In Catalonia, Pujol’s coalition (the PDC) won 16.9%, a right-wing regionalist coalition won 5.7% and the ERC 4.7%.

Party % vote Seats
UCD 34.52% 166
PSOE 29.39% 118
PCE-PSUC 9.35% 19
AP 8.23% 16
PSP-US 4.47% 6
PDC* 2.82% 11
PNV* 1.62% 8
EDC (FPD-ID) 1.18% 0
UDCiDCC* 0.95% 2
ERC* 0.79% 1
Others 6.68% 3 (2 ind, 1 EE)

The task of the Constituent Cortes was to draft a new constitution. The committee directly in charge included 3 members of the UCD, and one representative each from the PSOE, PCE, AP and PDC. The task of the fathers of the constitution was to draft a document which would please everybody, from the conservative Spanish nationalists in the AP to the locally dominant Catalan and Basque nationalists who clamored for autonomy.

In the backdrop of the transition in Euskadi since 1975 was ETA. Many armchair observers say that while ETA’s struggle during the Francoist era was justified to an extent, the advent of democracy in 1977 meant that ETA should have dissolved. However, for ETA, the transition from authoritarianism to liberal democracy meant extremely little. To them, the reality remained that Euskadi was still a state occupied by foreign forces and that the new democratic regime in Madrid was not any different from Franco’s authoritarian regime. The police brutality, torture and initial government tolerance of far-right hit-squads in Euskadi confirmed in their eyes that nothing had changed for Euskadi with Franco’s death. Their goal remained full and total independence for their country. They aimed to severely disturbed the already chaotic transition years to force Madrid to cave in or to step up its repression of terrorism in Euskadi, which, in ETA’s theory (action-repression-action) would mobilize the entire Basque population behind it and spark a ‘revolution’ of ‘national liberation’. However, ETA in these years was not a united, cohesive movement – as if it had ever been a cohesive homogeneous movement to begin with. Following the internal divisions of the late 60s and early 70s over the question of labour struggles within the movement’s strategy, ETA-V (which would re-adopt the name ETA a few years after the 1970 split) would be divided over the role of armed struggle within ETA’s strategy. Those not directly involved in the armed struggle wished for the subordination (albeit not elimination) of the armed struggle to the political/labour struggle with the aim of forming political groupings which would represent left-wing Basque nationalism in the new democratic system.

The military front of ETA had started acting increasingly independent without consulting the non-military factions. Internal tensions boiled over at ETA’s VI Assembly after the militaries carried out the movement’s first indiscriminate attack, a September 1974 bombing of a cafe in Madrid which killed 12 civilians. Following that attack, the non-military faction split to create ETA-politico-military (ETA-pm) which would, while not abandoning armed activities, give greater emphasis to political activities. The military faction would form ETA-military (ETA-m) who would continue a full, unabated violent struggle for independence. Both would initially continue the armed struggle on their own, with ETA-pm notably abducting and murdering a Basque industrialist (linked to the PNV), Ángel Berazadi. But simultaneously, ETA-pm would create a political party – EIA – in 1977 which would participate alongside the Communist Movement of Euskadi (the old ETA-Berri of 1966) in the 1977 elections under the name Euskadiko Ezkerra (Basque Left, EE), winning one seat in both houses. ETA-m would create, or rather a plethora of radical nationalist parties would create in 1978 its own party, Herri Batasuna (HB). HB, unlike EE, rejected any participation or negotiation with Spanish parties and served as the political arm of ETA-m within a broader movement (the MLNV, Basque Movement of National Liberation) which included a union (LAB) and allied fronts.

Between December 1976 and May 1977, both wings of ETA entered separate secret negotiations with the government in which ETA-pm demanded a full amnesty for prisoners and legalization of all parties (including the most radical of the plethora of parties emerging from ETA’s ranks). The unofficial truce during those negotiations was broken by the murder of two etarras. But in May 1977, the government would grant a partial amnesty to ETA prisoners not convicted of violent crimes.

The contradiction between political struggle and armed struggle within ETA-pm proved those doctrinaire radicals within ETA-m correct. Quickly, internal divisions between those who immersed themselves in the political struggle though the EE coalition (which included Juan María Bandrés, Mario Onaindia and initially Francisco Letamendia) and the berezis, ETA-pm’s military wing deepened. They might have gone to the point where a fringe of radical berezis kidnapped and disappeared ‘Pertur’, the political leader of ETA-pm in July 1976. In 1977, a large number of ETA-pm members went on to join ETA-m. Nonetheless, both wings of ETA abated their terrorism in 1977, when only 10 people were killed by ETA.

For Spanish political leaders on all sides, there was a broad consensus that the constitution should take precedence over other issues, such as the economic situation, despite the high inflation. On October 25, 1977 the government, the opposition, the employers organization, UGT and CCOO signed a social contract, the Pacto de la Moncloa. The pact, agreed to by the PSOE and PCE, included a wage ceiling of 20% (when inflation was 29%) and measures restricting public spending and credit. In return, the government promised of major structural reforms (pensions, unemployment), improvements in education, health and housing, and a more progressive income tax. Most promises would go unfulfilled.

The Constitution was approved by both houses in October 1978, with 325 in favour and 6 against with 14 abstentions. On December 6, the constitution was ratified by referendum with 88.5% in favour, 7.9% against and 67% of voters turning out. All major national parties called on voters to vote in favour, as did both leading unions and the Catalan nationalist parties except for ERC. The PNV supported abstention, while EE supported a negative vote. Crucially, abstention was 55% in Euskadi, which leads to claims by Basque nationalists that the constitution holds little legitimacy in Euskadi as a result of that.

The Constitution’s success lays in its ambiguity which pleased all factions. Spain is defined as a “social and democratic State, subject to the rule of law, which advocates freedom, justice, equality and political pluralism as highest values of its legal system.” Article 16.1 states that while “no religion shall have a state character”, “the public authorities shall take into account the religious beliefs of Spanish society and shall consequently maintain appropriate cooperation relations with the Catholic Church.”

The most touchy aspect of the Constitution in 1978 and to this day remains its concessions to regions and the “nationalities” of Spain. Here again, the drafters were ambiguous. The Basque, Catalan and other peripheral nationalist movements have claimed that they are a “nation” within the Spanish “state” which is distinct from another nation, the Spanish or Castilian nation. The españolista parties (for lack of a better term) claim that there is only one “nation” in Spain, the indivisible and unique Spanish nation. The constitution’s preamble refers to a “Spanish nation” and Article 2 states “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards.” A sentence later, however, it uses the word ‘nationality’ – which means membership of a nation – in the plural, contradicting the previous sentence! That key sentence states that “[…] recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed”. In a shout-out to Euskadi and Navarre, additional provision one states that the constitution “protects and respects the historic rights of the territories with fueros.”

Map of Spain's autonomous communities, as established in 1983

Section VIII, articles 137-158 deal with the territorial organization of the nation. It allows provinces to form self-governing autonomous communities, but establishes two processes for attaining such autonomy – a fast way and a slow way. Article 151, which is expressly designed for the three communities which held referendums on statutes of autonomy during the republic (Catalonia in 1932, Euskadi and Galicia in 1936), allows them to form communities and gain access to all competences devolved to communities immediately after attaining autonomy. Article 143 reads that “bordering provinces with common historic, cultural and economic characteristics, insular territories and provinces with a historic regional status may accede to self-government and form self-governing communities.” Such autonomy was initially designed to be limited, and attained progressively after five years. Article 143 (slow track) places authority for the creation of communities in the hands of provinces and two-thirds of municipalities in a province representing over half of registered voters. Article 151, which was as as previously stated designed for the three special regions, required the approval of provincial institutions as well as three-quarters of municipalities representing over half of registered voters.

The first steps towards autonomy were taken before the constitution was approved, with the creation of ‘pre-autonomous’ institutions in all but three of the current 17 regions which would draft autonomy statutes. In September 1977, following a massive demonstration in favour of Catalan autonomy (1 million persons in Barcelona), Suárez re-established the Generalitat and negotiated the return of ERC’s leader-in-exile and representative par excellence of Catalanism, Josep Tarradellas, who returned home in October 1977. Catalonia’s statute would be approved by referendum in October 1979. In Euskadi, the problem of ETA created a process which was tarred by violence on both sides and a Suárez government whose response to ETA alienated even the PNV, which felt a certain affiliation with ETA although disapproving of its means. The PNV had already opposed the constitution in 1978 because it did not recognize the historic rights of the Basques to self-determination (EE had also opposed it for similar reasons). However, in January 1978, a provisional institution was set up. The nationalist parties wanted to integrate Navarre into an autonomous Basque community, as they had tried to do in 1932, but they needed to accept transitional provision four of the constitution which placed that question into the hands of a Navarrese parliament, elected in 1979 which ultimately rejected integration into Euskadi. Nonetheless, the statute was approved in late 1978 after talks between the PNV president of the pre-autonomous institution, Carlos Garaikoetxea, and Adolfo Suárez. As in Catalonia, the statute would be approved by referendum in October 1979. Galicia’s statute was approved in 1981.

Collapse and 23-F (1979-1982)

Following the ratification of the constitution, elections were called for March 1979. The elections confirmed the UCD and the PSOE as Spain’s two largest parties, obtaining roughly the same amounts of vote as two years prior. The PCE did slightly better, but the AP lost 6 seats. The far-right Unión Nacional won the Spanish far-right’s only deputy to date, Blas Piñar. In Euskadi, the PNV remained the largest party with 27.6% but ETA-m’s political wing, HB, won 15%. EE won 8%. In Catalonia, Convergència i Unió (CiU) – the new coalition formed by Pujol’s CDC and a smaller right-wing party (UDC) – did rather poorly with roughly 16% of the vote.

Party % vote Seats
UCD 34.95% 168 (+2)
PSOE 30.5% 121 (+3)
PCE-PSUC 10.81% 23 (+4)
CD (AP) 6.07% 10 (-6)
CiU* 2.7% 8 (-3)
UN 2.11% 1 (+1)
PSA* 1.82% 5 (+5)
PNV* 1.65% 7 (-1)
PTE 1.08% 0 (nc)
HB* 0.96% 3 (+3)
Others 7.35% 4 (1 ERC, 1 EE, 1 UPC, 1 PAR)

The approval of the constitution in 1978 would mark the peak of Suárez’s political career. From the 1979 elections until 1981, it was a rapid trip downhill for Suárez and the UCD. The downhill trip was marked by disenchantment and pessimism with regards to the Spanish political system on the behalf of most Spaniards.

The economic situation had turned sour in 1979 following the second oil crisis, sparking a drop in domestic demand, a rise in inflation, and industrial closures. Unemployment increased to over 15% by 1981.

The terrorist situation degenerated to reach a peak during the term of the first legislature. The far-left GRAPO claimed roughly ten victims, while ETA killed 76 in 1979, 92 in 1980, 30 in 1981 and 37 in 1982. ETA-pm hardened its campaign of violence, but struck mostly at clear political targets: attacks on the UCD,  the kidnapping of UCD deputy Javier Rupérez, kidnapping of foreign consuls and businessmen, or a bombing campaign against tourist hotspots on the Andalusian coast to force the government to negotiate. ETA-m’s most spectacular action was the 1981 kidnapping and murder of a nuclear engineer (José María Ryan) at the Lemoniz nuclear power plant. ETA-pm’s goals in their violence was to extract concessions and force negotiations, while conversely ETA-m’s goal was to provoke the repression necessary, in their theory, to spark a national revolution in Euskadi. At the same time, far-right terrorist groups (such as Triple-A or BVE) targeted and murdered left-wingers or Basque nationalists, often with the connivance of the police or security forces. The government’s perception of ETA as a purely law-and-order problem and the continued free reign of police brutality, torture and systematic arrests played into the hands of ETA and continued to assure them of significant support from a part of the Basque population. In the first elections to the Basque Parliament in 1980, HB won 16.5% and emerged as the second strongest party with 11 seats to the PNV’s 25 and the PSOE’s 9.

The regional autonomy process quickly spun out of control. In 1978, the original idea had been that the three special regions would be granted special autonomy by Article 151 within a state which would remain largely centralized. The other regions were not intended to have parliaments with law-making powers. The Suárez government was thus taken by surprised by a monster demonstration in Andalusia in December 1977 by 1.5 million persons demanding that Andalusia be granted the same autonomy as the Basques or Catalan, that is through fast-track process (Article 151). This popular movement was widely supported by the provinces and municipalities, which endorsed fast-track full autonomy and finally was able to win from Madrid a referendum on autonomy for February 1980. Though the Suárez coalition included a plethora of regional parties and Suárez’s own culture minister, the Andalusian Manuel Clavero supported regional autonomy for his region, the UCD was very cool about the whole idea. The government feared that the process would spin out of control and ‘infect’ all other regions (which is effectively what happened). They did their best to derail Andalusian autonomy: a vague question, tougher referendum rules requiring approval by 50%+1 of registered voters in each province and so forth. In the referendum, all provinces gave a plurality to the ‘yes’ and 55.8% of registered voters supported the yes overall, but in Almería, only 42% of registered voters voted in the affirmative. Ultimately, under the PSOE’s pressure, the UCD would be forced to back down and grant full autonomy by Article 151 to Andalusia whose statute was approved in late 1981. Clavero’s phrase, café para todos (coffee for all) is the most popular way of describing what Andalusia wrought: the Andalusian movement encouraged all other regions to seek full autonomy. Everybody wanted in, because if the Basques and Catalans could have it, so could everybody else.

Within the military’s right-wing factions, conspiracy for a military coup (golpismo) increased. Though Juan Carlos had slowly begun a clean-up of the military by compelling the most right-wing elements to early retirements, there remained significant anti-democratic factions within the military. Tensions had been brewing since the legalization of the PCE in 1977, and continued growing with the concession of regional autonomy and the peak in violence by ETA. In 1980, a military plot named ‘Operation Galaxy’ and led by Civil Guard Colonel Antonio Tejero was broken up but the government was reluctant to punish the plotters: Tejero was sentenced to seven months and promptly released.

On the backdrop of the worsening economic situation, the unabated campaign of terrorism and deafening rumours of a military coup in the works, Suárez became increasingly isolated. The UCD was losing steam: in the 1980 regional elections in Euskadi and Catalonia, it won a paltry 8.5% and 10.5% respectively while the PNV and CiU rather shockingly won absolute majorities in their respective regions. Furthermore, the UCD had been born in 1977 as a disparate coalition of small parties and politicians seeking to bask in Suárez’s glory, but when that glory faded, the UCD disintegrated into bickering and antagonistic factions. Clavero himself had quit the party following the UCD’s opposition to Andalusian autonomy, later the social democrats led by Francisco Fernández Ordóñez split off to later integrate the PSOE, conservatives led by Miguel Herrero y Rodríguez de Miñón joined the AP, the christian democrats founded their own party (the PDP) as did the social-liberals. A depressed and bitter Suárez resigned on January 29, 1981. His finance minister, the dull and bland Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo. Calvo-Sotelo’s cabinet failed to obtain a majority in its first confidence vote on February 20, so another vote was scheduled for February 23.


23-F, as it became known, was the moment chosen by the military plotters to stage their coup. On the evening of February 23, a pistol-waving Colonel Tejero and 200 Civil Guards stormed the Chamber of Deputies where the vote was taking place. He ordered all deputies to lay on the floor. Among those who resisted were PCE leader Santiago Carrillo, outgoing Prime Minister Suárez and defense minister General Gutiérrez Mellado who demanded explanations from Tejero, who proceeded to fire in the air while Civil Guards wrestled with the elderly defense minister. Simultaneously, the commanding general of the Valencia military district, General Jaime Miláns del Bosch, rolled his tanks out into Valencia and took control of the streets.  However, the plot was in fact two plots. Tejero and Miláns del Bosch were part of a Pinochet-like plot to stage a coup and take power. General Alfonso Armada, close to the King, led a ‘de Gaulle’ plot to form a government of national unity. At midnight, Armada showed up in the Chamber and told Tejero he would be taking charge and forming a government, but Tejero, bewildered, expelled him.

The plotters had assumed that they had the backing of the King, and stated that they were acting in his name. Armada had been the former head of the royal military household and Miláns del Bosch was a staunch monarchist. However, at 1:00am, the King, in full military regalia, appeared on television to announce that he would not tolerate any movement against democratic legality. The plotters, who were in vast majority staunch monarchists acting in his name, were taken aback. The other officers all stood back and declared their allegiance to the king’s orders. Miláns del Bosch went back to the barracks. Finally, at noon the next day, Tejero released the parliamentarians and gave himself up. The main plotters all got the maximal sentence of 30 years.

Calvo-Sotelo was confirmed by the Chamber on February 25. A movement of support for democracy and adulation for the king sprang up. But it would prove a very short hurrah for the UCD and Calvo-Sotelo. The coup compelled the government to slow down and re-organize the autonomic process. In 1982, with the PSOE’s support, the UCD government passed a law “harmonizing” the process (LOAPA), which would confer autonomy via Article 143 to all remaining regions, including all devolved powers after five years and the creation of legislatures and executives for all regions. The government’s intervention into the process created the current map of the 17 autonomous communities. Certain aspects of the LOAPA were later struck down by the courts after the PNV and CiU took the law to court. In May 1982, without much debate, Calvo-Sotelo negotiated the entry of Spain into NATO despite the PSOE’s opposition.

At the same time, the UCD’s disintegration continued slowly. In July 1982, Suárez formed his own party, the Centro Democrático y Social (CDS). Conversely, Felipe González was emerging as the most attractive alternative. Under his leadership, the PSOE had emerged in 1977 as the main opposition force while relegating the PCE into a distant third place. It slowly absorbed smaller socialist groups, such as Tierno Galván’s PSP in 1978. At the party’s XXVIII Congress in May 1979, González proposed that the PSOE officially abandon Marxism and adopt European social democracy to align itself with other European parties, specifically the German SPD. However, the left-wing of the PSOE managed to defeat that proposal. González promptly resigned, while his right-hand man Alfonso Guerra organized his revenge behind the scenes. A special congress was called that fall, in which Guerra organized the congress so as to give González’s dominant Andalusian federation the most weight within the party. The strategy worked and the extraordinary congress approved the move away from Marxism and towards democratic socialism. González was confirmed as the party’s leader by a wide majority.

The PCE was also coming apart at the seams. Though the PCE had embraced Eurocommunism under Carrillo’s leadership, it had not for that matter abandoned good old democratic centralism. Carrillo ruled his party with an iron fist and expelled those who disagreed with the party’s ideological path. In Catalonia, the PSUC split in 1981 following a split between the eurocommunists and the orthodox pro-Soviets, who went on to found a small spin-off party (PCC). In Euskadi, the split was over Basque nationalism. The largest sector within the Basque Communists went on to merge with EE, against orders from the Central Committee. In 1981, Carrillo defeated all opposition at the party’s X Congress. The outward flow of members continued, as the orthodox pro-Soviets left the PCE to form small fringe parties.

Building modern Spain (1982-1996)

Calvo-Sotelo called for a general on October 28. The result was pretty much a foregone conclusion. González’s PSOE had emerged as the only viable alternative, while the UCD and PCE had collapsed almost entirely. The PSOE won a landslide, with a huge majority and a record 202 seats. On the right, the AP took most of the UCD’s votes and emerged as the main opposition force with a distant 107 seats and 26.5% of the vote. The UCD collapsed and lost a whole 157 seats, while the CDS failed to gain a foothold with a mere two seats. The PCE suffered a rout, losing all but four seats and losing most of its voters to the PSOE. The CiU and PNV strengthened their positions with 22.6% and 31.9% of the vote in their regions. The far-right was shut out, as were the Andalusian regionalists (who won 5 seats in 1979).

Party % vote Seats
PSOE 48.34% 202 (+81)
AP 26.48% 107 (+97)
UCD 6.80% 11 (-157)
PCE-PSUC 4.04% 4 (-19)
CiU* 3.69% 12 (+4)
CDS 2.88% 2 (+2)
PNV* 1.89% 8 (+1)
HB* 1.01% 2 (-1)
ERC* 0.66% 1 (nc)
FN 0.52% 0 (-1)
Others 3.70% 1 (EE)

González’s long mandate was marked by the construction of “modern Spain”, a modern, affluent democratic country fully integrated within the European community of nations. Spain emerged as a key player in Europe but also abroad, prospering in Latin America by taking an independent line from that of the United States. The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the world expo in Seville and the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage were the crowning symbolic successes of González’s tenure. However, terrorism in Euskadi remained a major headache for Madrid throughout the fourteen year socialist mandate, and Spain’s economy, despite growing rapidly, remained structurally weaker. Scandals of all types gave the PSOE government a final black eye in its final years.

When the PSOE assumed office, Spain’s economy was weak. Unemployment was 16% and would keep rising, hitting highs of 20% during the mid-1980s. Inflation remained high at 15% and the public deficit remained high. Furthermore, the oil crisis of 1979 had precipitated a whole slew of factory closures and rendered industrial re-conversion a necessity. Spain’s steel, textile, shipbuilding and other manufacturing industries were outdated and uncompetitive on the world market. When the PSOE took power in 1982, the international trend was away from Keynesianism and socialism and rather towards neoliberalism. State control and intervention, wealth redistribution, nationalization of key sectors and demand management had gone out of style.

In March 1983, the government expropriated and nationalized Rumasa, a huge holding company owned by José María Ruiz Mateos. The government claimed that Rumasa, on top of tax fraud, was on the verge of bankruptcy and the government needed to protect the savings of depositors and over 60,000 employees. Ruiz Mateos, arrested in Germany and later extradited to Spain, sued the government in court. The case was settled in the government’s favour in 1986.

With the failures of Mitterrand’s left-wing economic policies in France as a backdrop, the government chose the path of liberal pragmatism. The government’s priorities were sound finances, cutting inflation, modernizing infrastructures and improving competitiveness. This included closing or selling old and inefficient steel, iron and shipbuilding industries. The original electoral promise of creating 800,000 jobs was entirely forgotten, instead the industrial reconversions increased unemployment which would rise to 20%, the highest in western Europe. The government, which took lots of heat from unions including the socialist UGT, tried to cushion the unpopular job-cutting measures with some social goodies including a 40-hour workweek, social security reform and strengthening of the welfare state.

Initially, the reconversion proved successful. Spain’s industrial competitiveness increased, inflation was reduced and Spain enjoyed a mini-boom with 5% GDP growth in 1985. Spain’s economy benefited from an influx of foreign capital and a housing boom after Spain finally entered the EEC in January 1986.

PSOE poster, 1982

In the 1982 election, the PSOE had promised to hold a referendum on Spain’s withdrawal from NATO before 1986. However, as always in the history of the PSOE, overblown rhetoric was one thing and action was another. González’s government, prompted by realistic political and diplomatic calculations, did a 180 on the issue when it called a referendum on Spain staying within NATO in March 1986. In that referendum, the Socialists instead of calling for a vote against continued membership, called on voters to vote in favour of continued membership. 52.5% voted in favour of staying in NATO, while 39.8% rejected continued membership. NATO membership was part of the government’s plan to reform the armed forces. It consolidated the three branches into a common ministry, purged the remaining hardliners in favour of democrats and high defense spending. NATO membership would not only please the military, but also democratize it thanks to international contact.

Some in Euskadi had initially hoped that a Socialist government would prove more open to dialogue and less repressive than the UCD governments had been, but largely to no avail. In 1981, following 23-F, ETA-pm, judging that there existed a real risk of regression to authoritarianism, decreed an unconditional cease-fire and in September 1982 dissolved itself. Some members continued into politics within EE, while others, such as Arnaldo Otegi, joined ETA-m which would become ETA. Between 1983 and 1987, ETA would take, for some, the role of the victims as 28 Basques, some related to ETA and others not related, were killed by the Grupos Antiterrorista de Liberación (GAL). The GAL’s ranks included renegade Spanish police officers, far-right activists and French mercenaries with past links to the OAS. The GAL’s precision in most of its attacks raised eyebrows about its potential links to the Spanish state, links which would become clearer in the 1990s. In other regions, the government also proved reluctant to transfer more powers to the autonomous governments of every region.

On the left, the PCE slowly re-emerged from its 1982 rout. Santiago Carrillo resigned the PCE’s leadership following the rout and was replaced by Geraldo Iglesias, who would slowly shift the balance back towards the orthodox Soviets within the party. In 1985, the PCE’s new leadership expelled the carrillistas and Carrillo himself from the party. The PCE’s refoundation, however, would come through the formation of a permanent coalition with smaller left-wing forces. A 1986 civic platform against NATO membership was the starting block for the creation later that year of Izquierda Unida (IU). The PCE has since been the dominant force behind IU, providing roughly 80% of its membership.

González called for early elections in June 1986. The PSOE was reconfirmed with an absolute majority, despite losing 18 seats and 4% of the vote. However, AP, the main opposition, stagnated at its 1982 level. Most gains were made by Suárez’s CDS, which won nearly 10% of the vote and 19 seats. Suárez’s CDS advocated policies – such as a more egalitarian economic policy and an independent foreign policy – which struck a chord with more left-wing voters. In Catalonia, the CiU increased its vote share by nearly ten points (22.6% to 32.1%), while in Euskadi HB and EE won their best results to date (17.8% and 9.1%).

Party % vote Seats
PSOE 44.33% 184 (-18)
AP 26.13% 105 (-2)
CDS 9.27% 19 (+17)
CiU* 5.05% 18 (+6)
IU 4.66% 7 (+3)
PNV* 1.54% 6 (-2)
HB* 1.15% 5 (+3)
MUC 1.14% 0 (nc)
PRD 0.97% 0 (nc)
EE* 0.53% 2 (+1)
Others 5.22% 4 (CG, PAR, AIC, UV)

The PSOE’s second term in office was marked by growing labour unrest. The job-cuts and high interest rates were unpopular with both the UGT and CCOO, which united to call a general strike on December 14, 1988. The 14-D strike mobilized over 90% of the active workforce and paralyzed the country for 24 hours, forcing the González to negotiate with the unions and withdraw an unpopular bill at the root of the strike. The strike, in which the UGT’s leader Nicolás Redondo, a former ally of González, allied with the CCOO, marked an historic break between the PSOE and UGT. Under González and Guerra’s leadership, the PSOE progressively abandoned its old roots as a working-class party. It became increasingly centralized, and its leadership largely made up of middle-class professionals. In power, the PSOE was perceived as aloof, arrogant and soon increasingly ridden by corruption, patronage and clientelism.

Though the GAL’s actions ended in 1987 and two police officers were charged and conviction of creating the GAL in 1988, ETA’s violence continued. Its terror claimed 52 lives in 1987 and 43 in 1986. Its most violent attack on civilians, a car-bombing at a Barcelona shopping centre killed 21 in June 1987. Following the Barcelona bombing, all parliamentary parties except for HB signed in November 1987 the Pact of Madrid, denouncing ETA and calling on it to lay down its weapons. In January 1988, all Basque parties except for HB signed the Pact of Ajuria Enea, which again denounced ETA and urged it to disarm. Secret negotiations in Algeria between the government and ETA in 1988 and 1989 amounted to nothing, and ETA resumed its armed campaign.

On the right, the opposition AP had apparently stagnated in the 1986 elections. Still led by Manuel Fraga, the AP proved unable to surmount latent distrust of an essentially neo-Francoist party closely associated with the past. It was unable to conquer the centrist electorate which had entrusted the reins of the country to the PSOE in 1982 and still largely sided with the PSOE. In 1986, Fraga resigned the AP’s leadership and Antonio Hernández-Mancha, backed by Fraga, took the party’s leadership until 1989, when, wracked by lack of internal support from the emerging AP’s regional leaders, gave up the reins to Fraga. That year, Fraga led the refoundation of the AP as the Partido Popular (PP). The PP was an attempt, which proved successful, to create a new party uniting conservatives, liberals and christian democrats. Fraga’s new leadership team included José María Aznar, President of the region of Castilla y León (1987-1989) and Francisco Álvarez Cascos.

González again called for snap elections for October 1989. The new PP’s candidate for the presidency of the government was José María Aznar, although Fraga remained for now the PP’s leader. The PSOE won a third term, taking exactly half of the 350 seats. It again shed some 4% support, which almost exclusively benefited the IU – now led by Julio Anguita, the former mayor of Córdoba. The new PP stagnated again while Suárez’s CDS lost support after peaking in the 1987 regional and EU elections. The PNV lost support in Euskadi, to the benefit of a new nationalist party, Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity, EA) which had emerged in 1986 when the then-lehendakari (premier of Euskadi), Carlos Garaikoetxea, walked out of the party following a bad spat with the PNV’s old boss Xabier Arzalluz and divergences from the PNV’s centre-right ideology. That split had forced early Basque elections in 1986, which ended in a deadlock: 19 PNV, 17 Socialists, 13 EA, 13 HB, 9 EA, 2 AP and 2 CDS. After the failure of a deal with EA and EE, the PNV’s José Antonio Ardanza had been compelled to form a pact with the Socialists in order to govern.

Party % vote Seats
PSOE 39.88% 175 (-9)
PP 25.97% 107 (+2)
IU-IC 9.13% 17 (+10)
CDS 7.95% 14 (-5)
CiU* 5.07% 18 (nc)
PNV* 1.25% 5 (-1)
Ruiz-Mateos 1.08% 0 (nc)
HB* 1.07% 4 (-1)
PA* 1.05% 2 (+2)
Verdes 0.77% 0 (nc)
UV* 0.71% 2 (+1)
EA* 0.67% 2 (+2)
LVE 0.67% 0 (nc)
EE* 0.52% 2 (nc)
Others 4.21% 2 (PAR, AIC)

The prominent event of the third term was 1992, the “year of Spain” which saw Spain successfully host the Olympic Games in Barcelona and the Universal Exposition in Seville. The organization of the events of 1992 had also resulted in the construction of high-speed rail (AVE) between Madrid and Seville, and major investments in infrastructure including highways and railroads. But although 1992 proved a resounding success, it was largely one of the few bright spots for the PSOE in its third term in office. A recession hit Spain in 1992, with -1.1% growth in 1993 and unemployment breaking 20%.

Most significantly, an avalanche of corruption started hitting the PSOE. There was the issue of ‘reserved funds’ in José Barrionuevo’s Interior Ministry, funds used to pay for the GAL’s actions or line the pockets of prominent Socialist officials. Then there was the Juan Guerra case, where the brother of Alfonso Guerra – the government’s Vice-President was accused of influence-peddling, tax evasion, bribery and other shady deals from his comfy position with the Andalusian PSOE. Finally came the Filesa case, where the PSOE was accused of having set up fake empty consulting firms to pay for its 1989 electoral campaign.

ETA’s violence continued, with a peak at 46 victims in 1991 and roughly 25 in 1990 and 1992. However, ETA was under increasing strain. In the past, ETA had been allowed to use France as a free back-base. The French government had initially treated ETA’s members as freedom fighters against Franco, and later tolerated their presence on French soil as to prevent ETA’s violence from spreading into France’s Basque provinces. However, with the friendly relations between the two socialist leaders of France and Spain after 1982, France stepped up its police cooperation with Spain and in 1992 arrested the whole of ETA’s leadership in France. Weakened but not crippled, ETA, to maintain its presence within Basque society, was compelled into adopting a strategy of attrition. Youth ‘gangs’ devoted to the kale borroka (street fighting) attacked and burn property and infrastructure, while the ETA started turning to local councillors from non-nationalist parties such as the PP or PSOE. Even municipal councillors from outside Euskadi were targeted, mostly in Navarre but as far south as Andalusia. ETA’s strategy was now largely to create a climate of fear and restricting the free expression of opinions or open participation in electoral politics. That was of limited success, however, as ETA victims started organizing into organizations for victims of terrorism and holding silent, peaceful protests. Those organizations became increasingly influential politically, in opposing any negotiations with ETA or any release of ETA prisoners. It could seem as if the ETA-MLNV’s dominance of the streets born out of a climate of fear was being seriously challenged.

In June 1993, new elections were held. González ran again, despite the economic recession, and promised to crack down on corruption. To show his commitment to eradicating corruption, judge Baltasar Garzón received the second spot on the PSOE’s list in Madrid behind González himself. On the right, Fraga finally retired in 1990 to become President of Galicia, his native region. Aznar became the leader of the PP with Fraga’s full backing. Yet, Aznar suffered from his cold, uncharismatic and humourless demeanor.  However, with corruption fresh in the mind of urban centrist voters who had backed the PSOE since 1982, the PP was finally able to break past the 26% barrier it attained in 1982. Though the PP lost and González was reelected to a fourth term, the PP picked up 9% of the vote and 34 seats – largely from the CDS, which had collapsed into bickering left and right factions following Suárez’s resignation in 1991. It lost all its seats. The CiU and PNV held their ground, while HB fell back significantly, losing half of its seats. EA also fell back. It was unable to benefit from a final split in EE in 1993, with a division between social democrats who joined the local Socialists (now known as PSE-EE) and nationalists who formed a small party (EuE) allied to EA.

With the PSOE reduced to a minority, González was forced to sign a pact with the CiU and PNV to stay in power.

Party % vote Seats
PSOE 39.10% 159 (-16)
PP 35.04% 141 (+34)
IU-IC 9.63% 18 (+1)
CiU* 4.98% 17 (-1)
CDS 1.77% 0 (-14)
PNV* 1.25% 5 (nc)
CC* 0.88% 4 (+3)
HB* 0.88% 2 (-2)
ERC* 0.81% 1 (+1)
Verdes 0.79% 0 (nc)
PAR* 0.62% 1 (nc)
EA-EuE* 0.55% 1 (-1)
BNG* 0.54% 0 (nc)
Others 3.14% 1 (UV)

The fourth term was a trainwreck. Spain, in recession, was further hit by more news of PSOE corruption. The GAL case re-emerged in 1994, when Garzón (who had quickly resigned his seat in parliament, angry at the PSOE), reopened the case. The two officers convicted in 1988 and serving jail time had spoken, under pressure. The two turned out to be scapegoats, paid 500,000 pesetas monthly, promised a pardon and given a bank account in Switzerland. When they spoke, they implicated top guns: interior minister José Barrionuevo; interior ministry #2 Rafael Vera; the leader of the PSOE in the province of Biscay; the Civil Governor of Biscay and the chief of police in Bilbao. Many of those names, including Barrionuevo, received jail time though were later released early. González was never directly implicated, and has denied any involvement though questions remain about how much he knew about the activities of the GAL. Other scandals would also come out during the fourth term, including the Roldán case – the former civilian head of the Civil Guard who received kickbacks and embezzled public funds.

The PSOE lost the 1994 European elections to the PP by nearly 10 points, while IU received a record 13%. The PSOE was badly trounced in regional and local elections the next year. With the situation falling apart at the seams with corruption, the GAL case and the recession (although slowly recovering), the CiU abandoned the government by refusing to support the budget. Snap elections were called for March 1996.

Modern Spain (1996-2011)

Aznar in power (1996-2004)

González remained at the helm for the 1996 elections and proved to be a formidable campaigner, taking advantage of Aznar’s cold personality and cleverly exploiting memories of the Franco era. He denied any corruption and claimed to be the victim of smear tactics. However, Aznar found some charisma on the campaign trail and led a moderate campaign in which he promised to attack corruption. He represented, above all, change after nearly 14 years of PSOE rule, and the PP – the old guard of Fraga now absent from the spotlight and replaced by newer figures – now was a viable alternative. In an election which marked the end of a long era where voters associated progress and stability with the PSOE, the PP won a narrow victory with only a small lead over the PSOE in votes and a barely wider lead in seats. For IU, the results were pleasing, but the party fell far short of meeting Anguita’s long-shot goal of supplanting a decadent PSOE as the dominant force on the left. In Euskadi, HB reached its lowest point yet (12.5%) while EA continued its long decline into irrelevance. In Catalonia, voters were showing signs of fatigue with Pujol’s CiU as the party slumped somewhat from 32% to 29%, while the Socialists spiked from 35% to 39.6% despite losing nationally. Aznar’s victory was incomplete as he was left forced to pact with the regionalist and nationalist parties which the PP was so allergic too. In May, Aznar took the presidency after coming to an agreement with the CiU, PNV and Canarian regionalists (CC).

Party % vote Seats
PP 39.17% 156 (+15)
PSOE 38% 141 (-18)
IU-IC 10.64% 21 (+3)
CiU* 4.64% 16 (-1)
PNV* 1.29% 5 (nc)
CC* 0.89% 4 (nc)
BNG* 0.89% 2 (+2)
HB* 0.73% 2 (nc)
ERC* 0.68% 1 (nc)
PA* 0.54% 0 (nc)
EA* 0.47% 1 (nc)
Others 2.06% 1 (UV)

As Aznar took power, the recession which had affected Spain since 1990 or so was in its final stretch. After negative growth in 1993, growth recovered to 2% in 1994. Inflation fell from 5% in 1993 to 3.5% in 1996, while unemployment fell from nearly 22% to 20% in 1996. In office, Aznar’s government privatized a number of public firms and liberalized notably the telephone, oil, gas and electricity sectors. The economic reforms of Aznar’s government were successful and placed Spain as one of Europe’s better students on macroeconomic terms and won, in 1997, the right to adopt the Euro in 1999. Inflation was a low 2%, interest rates were cut to 5%, the deficit fell below EU limits, higher-than-average growth, a decline in public debt (thanks to profits from privatizations) and a 7% decline in unemployment (20% in 1996) during the term of the legislature. In achieving such economic success, Spain was undoubtedly helped by the EU. It was one of the largest beneficiaries of Cohesion Funds and the second largest beneficiary of the CAP after France. The economic growth, lower deficit and the rapid rate of job creation during Aznar’s first term proved to be his top success.

However, the bright economic picture hid other realities. Jobs were created in low-wage sectors such as construction or tourism, wages rose less than 3% while corporate profits rose by over 30%. As the price of housing bubbled by 28% in just over four years, the purchasing power of workers fell by 4%. The minimum wage in Spain remained only 34% of the average salary in the country, far from the 60%-of-average-salary benchmark recommended by the EU. Tough tax increases during the first term were progressively distributed between low and high earners, social spending was cut by 9% to the point where Spain’s spending on social programs as a percentage of GDP was lower than the EU average.

In Euskadi, ETA initially continued its strategy of spreading fear through its murders and kidnappings of those people it considered “traitors” or “bad Basques”. Of ETA’s actions in this period, the two most memorable were the 532 day detention of prison official José Antonio Ortega Lara and the kidnapping and subsequent murder of PP councillor Miguel Ángel Blanco in June 1997. The kidnapping and murder on June 10 of Miguel Ángel Blanco, a 29-year old councillor in Ermua, was subsequently remembered as one of ETA’s most callous actions and sparked an outburst of solidarity and anger against ETA. It would certainly be one of ETA’s actions which would cause it to slowly lose the support of the few Basques who still supported it.

However, in September 1998 ETA declared a truce. ETA’s truce had been preceded in August by the signature of the “Ardanza Plan” by the Basque governing parties, PNV and EA in which they called for negotiations with ETA after a truce. In September, all Basque nationalist forces (PNV, EA, HB, EB-B, the LAB and ELA-STV unions and other organizations) signed the Pact of Estella-Lizarra in which they agreed to negotiations between all Basque nationalist forces in the absence of any ETA violence. In contrast to previous plans, such as the 1988 Pact of Ajuria-Enea, the Lizarra Pact excluded the ‘Spanish’ parties such as PP and the PSOE. Their exclusion had likely been one of ETA’s pre-conditions, while the PNV and EA increasingly felt that both Spanish parties were locked into their positions which rendered any solution to the conflict impossible. Through the Lizarra Pact, the PNV and other Basque parties agreed not only to break all relations with the PP-PSOE but also to work together to unite all Basque territories – including Navarre and Iparralde (which is in France). ETA’s pipe-dream was the election of a constituent assembly of all seven Basque provinces (of which three are in France) and breaking all links with the Spanish state. In this, it hoped to get the PNV’s support, though the PNV fell short of supporting such a deal. The Lizarra pact instead engaged the parties into negotiations in which the question of reunification of ‘Euskal Herria’ would be discussed.

Simultaneously during the truce, the PP government engaged in secret negotiations with ETA in 1998-1999 and showed its good will by making moves to relocate dispersed Basque prisoners closer to their home.

Electorally, ETA’s truce proved favourable to both ‘extremes’. In the 1998 Basque elections, HB – refounded as Euskal Herritarrok (EH) stopped its slow decline and won 17.9%, up over 1% since 1994 and gaining 3 seats. In the 1999 Navarrese elections, EH won a record 15.6%, up from 9% in 1995. On the other end, the PP, which had made its name in Euskadi as the most vocal opponent of ETA, won second place with 20.1% up from 14.2% in 1994. In 1998, Ardanza’s successor as lehendakari, the PNV’s Juan José Ibarretxe was confirmed in office with the support of EH, which, in a break with HB’s past attitude, took its seats in the legislature (HB was abstentionist).

ETA broke the truce and announced that it would resume the armed struggle in December 1999. In a communique, ETA laid the blame on the PNV for breaking the Lizarra agreement and acting as if Lizarra meant the start of a “pacification” process instead of a “normalization” process supported by ETA. ETA claimed 23 lives in 2000.

The Lizarra pact was broken, but the PNV abandoned its institutional links with the PP and PSOE and instead drove further into nationalist territory. For Ibarretxe, it was intolerable that ETA conditioned the end of violence to the obtention of its goals, but it was similarly democratically intolerable that negotiations on Euskadi’s institutional future be made conditional to the end of violence.

Aznar’s economic success played a major role in the 2000 election, in which the PP won an historic absolute majority. A divided and weakened PSOE was no match to a popular PP. The PSOE’s leader in 2000, former cabinet minister Joaquín Almunia had been the candidate backed by González in the first primary elections in 1998, but he had been defeated in the primaries by Josep Borrell, who would later resign, bitter at the lack of internal support. IU had since 1996 followed a confused strategy. Under Anguita, who would leave active politics in 1998, the IU focused its attacks on the PSOE as part of its long-shot hope of displacing it as the main left-wing party, a strategy which had the PP’s silent support. In 1998, however, IU’s new leader, Francisco Frutos, moved closer to the PSOE and signed a pre-electoral deal with the Socialists promising IU support to Almunia if he had been elected. In the backdrop of IU’s confused strategy, the coalition was becoming increasingly fractured. Moderates close to the PSOE left the party and allied with the PSOE, while in Catalonia the Initiative for Catalonia (IC) split between a pro-Anguita communist faction, which became known as EUiA. The result was that IU lost roughly half of its support. In Catalonia, the CiU also continued shedding support, after losing its absolute majority in the Catalan Parliament in 1995 and being forced to govern with the PP after the 1999 elections in which the PSC emerged as the largest party in terms of votes (though not seats). In Euskadi, the radical nationalists had been barred from participating, something which likely helped the PNV a bit. The PP won a record high 29% in Euskadi, only a few points behind the PNV.

Party % vote Seats
PP 45.24% 156 (+27)
PSOE 34.71% 125 (-16)
IU-EUiA 5.54% 8 (-13)
CiU* 4.25% 15 (-1)
PNV* 1.55% 7 (+2)
BNG* 1.34% 3 (+1)
CC* 1.09% 4 (nc)
PA* 0.9% 1 (nc)
ERC* 0.85% 1 (nc)
ICV* 0.52% 1 (+1)
EA* 0.44% 1 (nc)
Others 3.56% 1 (CHA)

Economically, Spain’s economic success continued as growth remained over 3%, the deficit fell and unemployment was further reduced. However, as inflation increased, workers lost even more of their purchasing power. Housing prices rose between 10 and 15% during the second term, thanks to real estate speculation, mostly along the coast. Wages could not keep up with the rapid rise in housing prices. The government’s reforms to unemployment benefits and collective bargaining in 2002 led to a general strike while a controversial education reform which notably made religion a mandatory subject in secondary schools led to student protests.

The Spanish government and the Galician government, led by Manuel Fraga, was criticized over its poor handling of the Prestige oil spill in 2002 off the Galician coast. The opposition criticized the government’s decision to tow the sinking tanker off the coast, in doing so allegedly spreading the oil spill. The opposition would have rather preferred that the tanker be allowed to dock in a harbour and limit the spill. Later, it was up to independent activists and citizens to clean up the largest environmental disaster in Spanish history while both Spain and Galicia’s governments sat on their hands.

In foreign policy, Aznar maintained a close alliance with George W. Bush and largely followed a neo-conservative agenda. The most famous aspect of Aznar’s second term, to foreigners at least, is Spain’s participation in the Iraq War. Aznar aligned closely with the Bush-Blair axis in favour of the invasion and committed Spanish troops to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Aznar and the PP decided this policy over the objection of the PSOE and more importantly over 80% of public opinion. There was massive demonstrations in Spain against Spanish participation in the conflict, and Aznar’s approval ratings dropped rapidly and polls gave the PSOE a lead over the PP. However, the PP would quickly regain the lead in polls.

Aznar's smile is rather creepy.

The struggle against terrorism was pursued with much intensity under a PP majority government. No longer needing PNV support (the PNV voted against Aznar in 2000, though the CiU and CC continued to support his government), the central government took a far more aggressive line to the point that critics accused the PP of using terrorism to increase political polarization and confrontation in Euskadi. The struggle against ETA, after September 11, was also marked by increased European but also American cooperation with the Spanish government. The tough strategy had much success: 15 victims in 2001, 5 in 2002, 3 in 2003 and none in 2004.

In the wake of the end of the 1998-1999 truce, the PP and PSOE moved closer together as the Basque nationalist parties bonded to exclude them from any hypothetical dialogue. In December 2000, both parties in Euskadi signed an anti-terrorism pact where it defined ETA as a Spanish problem and criticized the PNV and EA for breaking the 1988 Pact of Ajuria Enea. The PP and PSOE in Euskadi agreed to cooperate politically in the fight “against terrorism and for democracy”. In the 2001 Basque elections, the PP and PSOE formed a kind of “constitutionalist” coalition against the “nationalist” coalition led by Ibarretxe. The PNV-EA common lists increased their vote from a combined 36.7% to 42.4% in 2001, while the PP again gained votes – from 20.1% to 22.9% – while the PSOE stagnated. EH, which had won 17.9% in the 1998 elections thanks to the truce, saw ETA’s actions punished by losing half of its seats and winning 10%, the lowest result ever. The failure of the common “constitutionalist” front in Euskadi between the PP and PSOE and the PSOE’s bad position within a coalition which benefited only the PP led to the ouster in 2002 of the PSOE’s local boss, Nicolás Redondo Terreros, who had favoured such alliances, in favour of Patxi López, favourable to a less “Spanish” orientation and a positioning between the Basque nationalists (PNV) and Spanish nationalists (PP).

To target HB, refounded in 2001 as Batasuna (unity in Basque), the government first proceeded by shutting down its newspaper and having its top leadership arrested. In June 2002, with the support of the PSOE, the government passed a tough Law on Political Parties which gave courts power to ban parties linked to terrorist organizations or encouraging or supporting terrorist organizations, or parties which threaten “democracy and liberty”. The Law on Political Parties was used in 2003 to ban Batasuna, HB and EH and later to ban all subsequent ETA fronts: EAE-ANV, EHAK-PCTV and so forth.

Relations quickly became strained between Madrid and the Basque government, presided by the PNV’s Ibarretxe. One of the main causes of the spat between Aznar’s PP and Ibarretxe’s PNV was the Ibarretxe Plan, announced in 2003. The Ibarretxe Plan, or Political Statute for the Community of Euskadi, sought to create a state of Euskadi freely associated to Spain. This proposal would have given Euskadi exclusive control over a handful of powers it does not currently hold, such as justice, finances, social security or labour laws, while leaving the Spanish government with the “hard” stuff like defense, Spanish nationality or foreign immigration. Most controversially, the plan spoke of “Basque citizenship” as different from “Basque nationality”. All residents of Euskadi would be citizens, but not all citizens would hold Basque nationality, which is ambiguously defined but seems to be related to ancestry and mastery of Euskara. The plan’s life cycle would include ratification by the Basque Parliament, the Spanish Cortes, and ratification by Basques (not all of Spain). The PP, and to a lesser extent the PSOE, clearly opposed the plan as unconstitutional, similar to ETA’s objectives and divisive (the citizenship-nationality distinction).

In 1996, Aznar vowed to retire after two terms. He lived up to his word, but he was the person who got to handpick his successor. The three top candidates for this honour were Rodrigo Rato, 2nd Vice-President and Economics minister; Mariano Rajoy, 1st Vice-President; and former interior minister Jaime Mayor Oreja. In the end, Rato won the leadership of the IMF while Aznar picked Rajoy, his right-hand man and long-time confidante within the PP. Like Aznar originally, Rajoy suffered from his lack of charisma and general coolness.

In 2000, following its landslide defeat, the PSOE’s leader Almunia resigned. The XXV Congress in July 2000 opposed José Bono, the establishment favourite and president of Castilla-La Mancha since 1983; and the young José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, deputy since 1986 and leader of the León federation of the PSOE. Zapatero ran as a third-way kind of candidate, close to the line of social democracy expressed by Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder. According to Zapatero, the modern left means a well-managed economy with surpluses, moderate taxation and a rational public sector within a society which advances civil and social rights. Zapatero had never been a cabinet minister or held any executive position, which opened him up to criticism of inexperience but he emerged as the reformist candidate needed to re-organize a weakened and divided party. He won by a mere 9 votes over Bono, 414 to 409.

The 2004 elections, which would oppose Rajoy and Zapatero were held on March 14. Polls indicated that the PP would likely lose its overall majority but remain the largest party. However, in the morning of March 11, a series of bombs exploded in commuter trains during rush hour. 191 people were killed. Immediately, the government blamed ETA. The initial accusations seemed justified given that police reported that the explosives used were ETA’s traditional explosives, and the police had caught ETA in months prior in possession of large amounts of explosives. All other political leaders such as Zapatero and Ibarretxe also initially blamed ETA. However, as investigations continued, and police found Arabic recordings of Koranic verses and later arrested several North Africans, it became obvious that ETA was not responsible. ETA itself formally denied participation in the attacks, and many found that such a huge-scale attack was unusual for ETA whose bombings were traditionally limited and had, since the late 1990s, targeted individuals rather than large groups.

What hurt the PP was that it steadfastly refused to deviate from the ETA hypothesis. Interior minister Ángel Acebes and Aznar himself stayed with the ETA accusation until the very last minute even when evidence was suggesting otherwise. The government might have known from the outset that ETA was not behind the attacks, but decided to blame it on ETA anyhow. If ETA had been responsible, the attacks would have been favourable to the PP’s electoral chances given that Aznar had made much of his second term about his fight against ETA’s terrorism. If Al-Qaeda was responsible, it would be unfavourable to the PP given that it would be linked to Spain’s unpopular participation in the Iraq war. As it became clear that the government had misled the public, silent solidarity and national unity turned to anger on March 13. Protesters showed their anger at their government, which they claimed lied to them, and angrily congregated in front of PP offices.

From miracle to disaster (2004-2011)

The 14-M election results came as shock remembered around the world. The PSOE, which had been trailing in polls, defeated the PP by a decisive 5 points and won a 16-seat advantage over the incumbent government. Crucial in the PSOE’s victory was a decisive increase in turnout, from 68.7% to 75.7% in 2004. What seems to have caused the PSOE’s victory was not as much a massive switch in allegiance from the PP to PSOE (some last polls showed that the PSOE had closed the gap by 14-M), but rather an increase in turnout from Basque nationalists (where turnout jumped over 10%) and disaffected left-wingers who turned out in 2004 to express their disavowal of Aznar and the PP. The Socialists polled their second best result since 1977 in Euskadi (27.6% against 34.2% for the PNV and a bad 19.2% for the PP). In Catalonia, the CiU, which had lost the Generalitat in 2003 to a tripartite coalition of PSC, ERC and ICV, collapsed from 29.2% to 21% while the ERC experienced a surge in support from 5.7% to 16%. The ERC had already won 16.5% in the 2003 Catalan elections. The CiU’s slow demise from power and its support for an unpopular PP government, as well as the ERC’s slow refoundation since the 1990, were factors in this phenomenal ERC surge. Zapatero was confirmed with the support of the ERC, IU, CC, BNG and the Aragonese nationalist CHA.

Party % vote Seats
PSOE 43.27% 164 (+39)
PP 38.31% 148 (-35)
IU-ICV 5.04% 5 (-3)
CiU* 3.28% 10 (-5)
ERC* 2.56% 8 (+7)
PNV* 1.65% 7 (nc)
CC* 0.92% 3 (-1)
BNG* 0.82% 2 (-1)
PA* 0.71% 0 (-1)
CHA* 0.37% 1 (nc)
EA* 0.32% 1 (nc)
Others 2.75% 1 (NaBai)

The wider macroeconomic policies hardly changed, as the PSOE and especially Zapatero’s finance minister, Pedro Solbes, were committed to low inflation and balanced budgets. The only major departure from the PP’s previous policy was, in line with the PSOE’s electoral promises, a promised hike in the minimum wage from €460 in 2004, one of the lowest in the EU, to €600 by 2008. The minimum wage increase saw a confrontation between Solbes and the labour minister, the former being concerned by a hike’s potential effect on inflation. The latter favoured a moderate 5% increase per year, with which the €600 would be reached later than 2008. Economically, the first term also saw a politicized conflict after Gas Natural, a Catalan-based company, attempted to buy shares of Endesa, Spain’s largest private electricity firm. The PP saw the takeover as some sort of Catalan plot to gain control the country’s largest electricity provider.

The housing bubble, with continued rapid housing price increases, 17% between 2003 and 2004, became an increasingly important issue. A Housing Ministry was created upon Zapatero’s electoral victory, entrusted to María Antonia Trujillo and later to Carme Chacón. Issues of construction rights corruption became important, the most famous case was in Marbella in which a corrupt maverick mayor lined his pockets, leading to the extraordinary dissolution of council by the state in 2006.

Zapatero had made the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq one of his campaign’s cornerstone. Despite American opposition, he quickly fulfilled his promise and started pulling out Spanish troops from Iraq by the end of April. However, he increased Spain’s military presence in Afghanistan. As much as Aznar’s foreign policy had been marked by a close alliance with George W. Bush and the United States, Zapatero’s relations with Bush were icy and he generally pursued a far more independent and far less pro-American course. Zapatero, alongside Turkey’s Erdogan, promoted the “Alliance of Civilizations” initiative in regards to Islamist extremism. He pulled closer to Cuba, but also to Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. Under Aznar’s second term, relations with Morocco had been very confrontational. Under Zapatero, the relations with Spain’s southern neighbor were slowly normalized.

Zapatero’s vision of social democracy heavily promotes civil and social rights. The government reformed the divorce law and in 2005 with the legalization of gay marriage over the PP-held Senate’s opposition. Gay marriage along with a repeal of the Aznar law which had made religious education mandatory led to a long-term spat between the PSOE government and the Catholic hierarchy in Spain, leading to major protests organized by the Church against gay marriage, the educational reform, the equal standing of other religions in public education and euthanasia. Zapatero, whose grandfather had been murdered by the nationalists during the Civil War, also passed in 2007 the Historical Memory Law which promotes “historical memory” through removing remaining statues of Franco, measures for recovering bodies in mass graves, rejecting the legitimacy of trials or laws passed during the Franco regime, and providing aid to the descendants of victims. The PP opposed the law, Rajoy claiming that it opened up old wounds and that the government was playing political games with the Civil War. Indeed, since the transition, Spanish politics had been marked by a “pact of forgetfulness” in which all parties agreed to remain silent on the regime and ‘forget’ the crimes committed by the regime and crimes committed during the Civil War. Zapatero’s laws went against this old pact of forgetfulness and was prone to open a can of worms.

Peripheral nationalism and ETA proved major points of debate during the first term. The Ibarretxe plan was approved by the Basque Parliament by a narrow majority (with the support of the PNV, EA, some Batasuna deputies and EB-B – IU’s local affiliate), and Ibarretxe himself spoke in front of Congress in 2005 to defend his plan. However, in January 2005, the Congress overwhelmingly rejected the plan 313-29 with the support only of the PNV, CiU, ERC, NaBai and BNG. Though relations between Madrid and the lehendakari improved with Zapatero’s willingness to dialogue, Zapatero and the PSOE had already made clear that Ibarretxe’s plan was dead on arrival. In 2008, the courts would block Ibarretxe’s plan to hold a referendum on self-determination.

The Islamist terrorist attacks of 11-M weakened ETA, as did a wave of arrests in both Spain and France. Increasingly, dissident voices within ETA, Batasuna and the ETA prisoners began rejecting violence as counterproductive and calling to the leadership’s attention the increasingly feeble nature of ETA. In 2004 and 2005, ETA, while continuing a campaign of low-intensity violence, postured itself in favour of “dialogue” and “negotiations”. Zapatero took up ETA on its words and in 2005 passed a resolution in Congress agreeing to negotiations with the Basque separatist organization if it laid down its weapons. In March 2006, ETA finally announced a cease-fire and entered public negotiations with the Spanish government by June 2006. Madrid showed its good will through various promises to recognize Basque identity, promote inter-community relations with Navarre, create a Basque Euroregion or respect “decisions taken by Basque citizens in the absence of violence”, which could be interpreted very liberally. However, for ETA this all fell quite short of its ultimate time-honoured goal of independence, and they broke their cease-fire on December 30, 2006 with a car-bomb explosion at Madrid’s airport, killing two. It declared an official end to the cease-fire in March 2007. However, ETA was by this point quite severely weakened. French and Spanish police raids had succeeded in continuously arresting its leaders and ETA was losing the last bases of social support it still had. ETA killed 2 people in 2006 and 2007 and 4 in 2008.

In Catalonia, the tripartite coalition led by the Socialist Pasqual Maragall had in its 2003 electoral campaign, promised to reform Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy. The reform of Catalonia’s statute was the most important and controversial in a string of statute reforms, which also included the Valencian Community and Andalusia. The problematic aspects of the Catalan statute reform were financing, justice, language and especially the definition of Catalonia as a nation. The final draft was more conciliatory than various proposals put forward, with Article 1 talking of Catalonia as a “nationality” but the preamble reads that “the Parliament of Catalonia, recognizing the sentiment and will of the citizens of Catalonia, has defined, with an ample majority, Catalonia as nation. The Spanish Constitution, in its second article, recognizes the national reality of Catalonia as a nationality.” In November 2005, the Parliament approved the Statute, with the support of Zapatero but the opposition of the PP, which opposed notably the definition of Catalonia as a nation, but also the ERC which broke with its allies claiming the reform didn’t go far enough. In a June 2006 referendum, 73.9% of Catalan voters approved their new statute over the PP and the ERC’s opposition.

A struggling economy, with rising unemployment and the first signs of the housing crisis, played a major role in the 2008 campaign. The election again featured Zapatero and Rajoy. The PP had come out of the 2007 local and regional elections tied with the PSOE, and it slowly closed the gap with the PSOE. In the end, both parties increased their vote and seat share, but Zapatero was re-elected. Crucial to the PSOE’s victory were record-high results for the Socialists, higher even than 1982, in Catalonia in Euskadi. In Catalonia, the PSC won 46.1% to the CiU’s 21.3%, while ERC collapsed to a bit under 8%. In Euskadi, the Socialists won by far their strongest result, with 38.9% to the PNV’s 27.6%. Strategic considerations came into play in both these regions, but the Socialists benefited from their reform of the statute in Catalonia and their conciliatory pragmatic attitude in Euskadi. It compensated for PP gains in Madrid and Andalusia. IU, with 3.8%, won its worst result ever and was left to two seats, one of which is held by the Catalan ICV.

Party % vote Seats
PSOE 44.36% 169 (+5)
PP 40.39% 154 (+6)
IU-ICV 3.81% 2 (-3)
CiU* 3.06% 10 (nc)
PNV* 1.20% 6 (-1)
UPyD 1.20% 1 (+1)
ERC* 1.17% 3 (-5)
BNG* 0.84% 2 (nc)
CC* 0.69% 2 (-1)
CA (PA-PSA)* 0.27% 0 (nc)
NaBai* 0.25% 1 (nc)
Others 2.76% 0 (EA -1)

Zapatero’s second term revolved around the economic crisis, which originated in the United States and hit Spain extremely hard in the form a severe housing crisis. Since the 1980s, Spain had been in a perilous housing bubble which saw prices increase rapidly between 1984 and 1992, a stagnation until 1997, followed by a huge spike between 1997 and 2008. By 2008, prices started dropping. In a classic speculative bubble, Spain would currently be in the ‘bull trap’ phase before the utter collapse of the bubble. Spain’s housing crisis was fueled by low interest rates, loose conditions on house mortgages, high household indebtedness, urbanistic corruption, speculative acquisition and preservation of large areas of land, and a culture which favours buying rather than renting. Initially, the PP had warned of the first signs of the crisis during the 2008 campaign, but the voters had been convinced by the PSOE that it was fear-mongering and that all would soon be fine. Throughout 2008, Pedro Solbes maintained optimistic growth projections for 2008 and did not believe unemployment would increase significantly. The PSOE was found wanting in its initial response, which consisted of various handouts to workers and a stimulus package. However, the growth rate in 2008 was a paltry 1.1% and Spain had entered recession in the end of 2008. Unemployment increased from 9.6% in the first quarter of 2008 to 17.4% in the first quarter of 2008, leading Spain to place on top of the Eurozone in terms of job loses. By the end of 2009, the unemployment rate was 18.8%. In addition, the deficit reached 9.5% of the GDP in 2009 and growth was -3.6% that year.

Zapatero was pushed by events to adopt a policy of austerity. His first move was to increase the VAT by 2% to 18%, a move opposed by the PP and most trade unions. Congress approved the VAT hike narrowly, with the PNV and CC supporting the government. In May, the government announced a public sector paycut of 5% to be followed by a wage freeze in 2011. The government’s austerity plan also included cuts in public investment, elimination of a ‘baby-check’ given to families on the birth of a child, and cut spending on development aid. The PP, somewhat hypocritically, said that the government was making the weakest pay for the crisis and that the government’s policy was makeshift, unfair, insufficient and improvised. It was only with the abstention of the CiU, CC and UPN that the government, without any support from outside PSOE ranks, managed to pass this package. In September, a tough reform of the labour law which included a shorter term for severance pay was met by a general strike led by the UGT and CCOO. 2010 closed with unemployment at 20.3%. In February 2011, a pension reform to be implemented between 2013 and 2027 will push the normal retirement age to 67 and require workers to pay in to social security for 38.5 years to retire early, at 65.

On the front of Basque terrorism, the second term was marked by the demise (or not?) of ETA. In 2008, while ETA killed 4, Spanish and French authorities proceeded to arrest a large part of ETA’s leadership. ETA killed 3 in 2009 and only one in ETA, a French gendarme. By the end of 2010, ETA had become increasingly isolated and without any social support. Its leadership had been canned so often by French and Spanish police raids. Even within the organization, the political wing – Batasuna – and ETA’s prisoners – were pressuring the ETA military nucleus towards disarming and to allow Batasuna to participate in elections. In September 2010, pushed by EA and Batasuna, ETA declared a truce. It affirmed its commitment to the democratic process, to political change and the construction of Euskal Herria within the limits of democratic involvement and its openness to dialogue and negotiation with Madrid. In January 2011, ETA announced a permanent, comprehensive and verifiable cease-fire. However, Madrid has not accepted ETA’s offer to dialogue. The government expressed doubts about ETA’s sincerity. In 2010, the Constitutional Court gave the green-light to Bildu, a new left-wing Basque nationalist coalition which the government and opposition had demanded the court to ban for alleged links to ETA. Bildu would go on to win a record 25% in the Basque municipal and provincial elections in May 2011.

In Basque elections in March 2009, Ibarretxe’s PNV gained one seat but the main winner of the vote was Patxi López’s PSE, which won the strongest result for Basque Socialists in regional elections, taking 30.7% and 25 seats. Because Batasuna’s latest creation was banned, its supporters voted invalidly (8% of invalid votes) and gave non-nationalist parties a majority of seats. Following a pact with the PP, López was elected as the first non-PNV lehendakari with the votes of the PP and UPyD. In Catalan elections in November 2010, the tripartite coalition was thrown out in favour of a CiU minority government led by Artur Mas, while the PSC suffered its heaviest trouncing in history. Regional and municipal elections across Spain in May 2011 resulted in a PP landslide, leaving no region untouched except perhaps Euskadi.

In April 2011, Zapatero announced that he would not seek a new term in general elections still planned for 2012. The two top candidates were Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the establishment favourite and incumbent Vice-President and Interior Minister; and the young Carme Chacón, the first woman to be Defense Minister. Following the heavy defeat of the PSOE in May, the establishment signaled it wanted only one candidate – Rubalcaba. Chacón acquiesced and pulled out, giving Rubalcaba the crown.

The clamor for new elections grew louder and louder after May. The PP and most of the opposition demanded new elections as soon as possible, claiming that the economy could not stomach any more and needed a strong government. Rubalcaba led the PSOE faction which wanted early elections, over Zapatero’s head, believing he could benefit from a post-nomination momentum, corruption within the PP and declining (ever so slowly perhaps) unemployment which dropped from 21.3% to 20.9% from 2011-Q1 to 2011-Q2 (but reached a new high of 21.5% in 2011-Q3). Zapatero gave in on July 29, not enough to save Spain’s credit rating but enough to make me write all this.

Political Issues in Spain

The economy, unemployment and the Spanish housing bubble

For most Spaniards, the economy and unemployment is pretty much the only issue which really matters to them in this election. It will be, by far, the issue of the election, and the economy has been the issue of Spanish politics since 2009 or so as well as the root cause behind the indignados movement of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

Spain’s current crisis is the result of the explosion of the Spanish housing bubble, the origins of which can be found as far back as Franco’s economic liberalization in the 1950s or more recently the liberalization and growth of the Spanish economy within the EEC after 1986. Construction of huge skyscrapers with condos or construction of large villas along the coast of Spain: from Catalonia to Valencia to Murcia to Andalusia’s Costa del Sol started with the growth of tourism in Spain post-1950s and then lifted off with Spain’s entry in the EEC in 1986. Places like Benidorm in Alicante province or Marbella in Málaga are symbolic of this kind of massive, uncontrolled urbanization of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. It is in these regions where most of the growth was concentrated (Madrid and the insular provinces as well).

The present bubble started in 1986, with house prices rising constantly but not especially dramatically until 1992, when the still-small bubble entered its usual first stagnation or “bear trap”. In around 1997 and especially after 2000, house prices in Spain increased by astronomical amounts and peaked at nearly €3000 per square metre in 2008, at which time prices dropped although not dramatically as of yet, which indicates that the typical collapse to normal levels is yet to come, a bad sign for Spain.

The government encouraged the growth of the bubble and denied the existence of a bubble. Instead, they saw it as a lucrative and sustainable economic model. One of the reasons why the bubble burst so badly is that successive governments refused to take any action to counter it and instead encouraged it.

The Spanish bubble has been helped by what was then a perfect storm and what is now a recipe for disaster. Firstly, there is a strong push towards house ownership in Spain since the 1960s or so, and it has been promoted by the government’s policies. Though most Spanish banks have remained soluble and did not dive into subprime-type deals, they granted very loose and favourable mortgage without too much oversight. Fiscal policies have also helped here: 15% of mortgage payments are deductible from personal income taxes. As house prices increased after 1997, household debt in Spain increased to some of the highest levels in the EU. With big mortgages to pay on new houses with a big price tag, Spaniards became more and more heavily indebted to unhealthy levels.

Poor oversight of urban development by municipal, regional and central government in Spain has resulted in widespread “urbanistic corruption”, mostly along the Costa del Sol. Developers and speculators were given blank checks by authorities to carry out urban development projects with little regard for the local environment or regional regulations. Oftentimes, the authorities themselves connived with fraudulent developers and speculators, and sometimes the fraudsters were elected officials themselves. The most famous case is that of Marbella, where voters elected in 1991 Jesús Gil, president of Atlético Madrid football club and leader of a personalist right-wing outfit, the GIL, something of a mafia. Gil used his office to line his pockets and used public funds to fund his football club (which he presided until 2003), but also developed huge urban projects over the objection of regional authorities. That Gil was a crook was well known, but he was re-elected with majorities in 1995 and 1999. He was arrested in 2002, succeeded by a string of crooks who all ended up in jail. The GIL administration was reelected in 2003, but as the council was bankrupt in 2006 and the mayor arrested, the government used its extraordinary power to dissolve the local council in April 2006.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate of all EU-27 countries and one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Europe. In the second quarter of 2011, over 4.8 million Spaniards are unemployed (20.89%). That is down 0.4% from earlier this year, and the IMF predicts that unemployment in Spain, after peaking at 20.1% in 2010 will decline to 19.4% this year and to 14.8% by 2016. Those aged 16 to 30 are the most likely to be unemployed, with 42.46% of those aged 20-24 currently unemployed. Unemployment is higher in those regions hit hard by the bubble: Andalusia (29.7%), Canaries (29.8%), Valencia (23.7%) and Murcia (24.5%). Euskadi has the lowest unemployment rate, at 11.6%. In the third quarter of 2011, unemployment rose to 21.52% with 4.9 million unemployed.

Spain has a long history of structural unemployment, with the country’s unemployment always considerably above the EU average. Unemployment over 20%, which would be armageddon for countries such as the United States, is not unusual in Spain which last saw such numbers in the mid 1980s and late 1990s. Spain reached its lowest unemployment in decades in 2007, when it stood at 8%. It had progressively declined under the Aznar governments and the first Zapatero government.

Historically, Spain’s structural unemployment was caused by widespread temporary or seasonal employment. Landworkers in southern Spain worked seasonal shifts and spent up to six months of the year unemployed, though not looking for additional employment. Unemployment in this crisis is caused directly by the implosion of the housing bubble. The construction and tourism sector grew into two major sectors of activity, and when the bubble burst in 2008, the total stop in construction meant that many workers needed to be laid off. As unemployment rose, the government needed to pay more and more in unemployment benefits, decreasing its revenue and worsening Spain’s deficit.

The regional dimension of the crisis

Spain is a heavily decentralized country, with the seventeen autonomous communities accounting for some 40% of total spending in the country. The autonomous communities in Spain provide most public services such as health and education. However, all but two of the 17 regions (Navarre and Euskadi) do not have tax-raising powers and get the bulk of their revenue from tax transfers from the state or from a central compensation fund which equalizes the revenue of all regions. With the central government having a large deficit (roughly 9% of the GDP), it has less revenue to transfer to the regions which must continue paying for essential public services while living on less revenue from Madrid (which also has to spend more itself, a lot on unemployment benefits).

Financial fights have been at the heart of relations between Madrid and the 17 regions since the 1980s. Madrid is pushing the autonomous communities to severely cut their deficits. The autonomous communities’ combined deficit is 2.8%, which increased from 1.9% in 2009, while the central government managed to cut its deficit from 11% to 9% in the same period. Madrid is now urging regions to cut their deficit to 1.3% of the GDP, which has prompted regions such as Catalonia to accuse Madrid of wanting to transfer its deficit onto the communities and to force the regional powers to make major cuts. The Catalan Generalitat led by Artur Mas has already implemented tough austerity medicine to reduce Catalonia’s deficit by 10% or from a deficit of 3.8% to 2.6% of the GDP. Catalonia claims that it would be unreasonable to expect it to cut its deficit by even starker amounts when Madrid owes it money and when Catalans already give 9% of their GDP every year to help fund poorer regions. Other communities, such as Castilla-La Mancha, have discovered larger deficits than planned following the change in power in a lot of regions following the May elections. In Castilla-La Mancha in particular, where the PP’s María Dolores de Cospedal took office from a Socialist in May, Cospedal has claimed that she discovered a deficit (6.5%) which was much higher than what the outgoing administration has predicted (roughly 4%).

According to a graphic from the ABC newspaper, all but one region (Madrid) currently overshoot the government’s 1.3% deficit target.

Spain’s autonomous communities can issue bonds to cover their spending, and under the good years of the bubble, a lot of communities borrowed and spent like there was no tomorrow and experimented with ‘creative accounting’ to say the least. The autonomous governments have debts of €121.4 billion, an increase of more than 26% since the end of 2010. In percentage terms, Valencia (17.4% of GDP), Catalonia (17.2%) and Castilla-La Mancha (16.9%) have the highest debts. Catalonia’s debt,  €34.3 billion, is the highest in absolute terms and accounts for 28% of the total debt of autonomous communities.

Madrid is concerned about the deficit and debt levels of its autonomous communities because it knows that markets fear that the high deficits of indebtedness of the regions could hinder the central government’s goal to reduce Spain’s deficit. All three credit rating agencies, which have recently downgraded Spain’s rating, have placed the country on “negative” watch due to the high levels of regional debt. It has led to fears that Spain might be the next Eurozone country to need a debt bailout.

Regional autonomy and peripheral nationalism: the nation vs. nations debate

The Spanish state has been challenged since the late nineteenth century with vibrant peripheral nationalist movements demanding autonomy or independence. Spain is the EU country which has the most vibrant peripheral nationalist movements, and one of the few in which regional clamers for autonomy have taken a violent direction with ETA. Regional autonomy, the nature of the Spanish state and terrorism have been key political issues in Spain since the transition. There is a third dimension to political ideology in Spain which goes beyond the left-right axis. That dimension is the fight between the Spanish nation-state vision and the plurinational vision. Spanish politics is one area where you can’t get away with not knowing the differences between a state, a nation or a nation-state. A nation is a community of people, united by language, race, descent or history which share a common territory. A nation is not necessarily sovereign. A state is a political institution, which, according to Max Weber, has a monopoly on the use of violence within its territory. A nation-state is a modern concept which refers to a state in which the vast majority belong to the same nation. The United States, France, Germany, Japan or Portugal are strong nation-states.

Regional nationalists, in particular those who do not seek independence, view Spain as a plurinational state, that is a state which is made up of various nations. The Catalan nation, the Basque nation, the Galician nation, the Castilian nation and so forth all within the framework of a Spanish state. They do not see Spain as a nation-state like France, because to them there is no “Spanish nation” to speak of. Spain is a state of many different nations. Their opponents, which are called by their detractors “Spanish nationalists” or españolistas, reject the claim that there is no “Spanish nation” or Spanish nation-state. They claim that Spain forms modern nation-state, just like France does, and that the Catalan or Basque people do not form a separate “nation” within Spain.

The fathers of the Constitution of 1978 needed to balance these two interests within the constitution, and so came up with intentionally vague, ambiguous and contradictory language to appease all sides. It talks about both the “people of Spain” and the “peoples of Spain” several times in just a few lines, and talks about both the “Spanish Nation” and the “right to self-government of nationalities” in the same breath. The term “nationality” or “historical nationality” has emerged as the compromise term which has been adopted by regions such as Catalonia, Euskadi, Galicia or Andalusia.

As you will have seen through Spanish history, the Spanish state has failed to build a unified nation-state such as France and attempts to do so often took the form of Castile trying to impose itself by force on other regions (or nations, depending on your perspective). The core reason for this is that the Spanish-Castilian throne maintained foral privileges and regional peculiarities until the late nineteenth cenutry in most cases, and early ruling dynasties such as the Hapsburgs were more interested in building a vast empire than a smaller but cohesive nation-state like the French monarchs did.  Until at least the 1930s, Spain was a country divided between a dominant archaic agrarian oligarchy and a more-or-less progressive industrial bourgeoisie concentrated in isolated regions poorly linked to the rest of country. These two factors collided to create strong expressions of regional nationalism, though not necessarily separatism (especially not in the Catalan case).

The phenomenon of café para todos in the transition era meant that the original system of autonomy for Catalonia, Euskadi and Galicia turned into every single region clamoring  for its own piece of the cake. The government was compelled into granting a similar level of autonomy and law-making powers to every region, though Spain is not quite a federal state. For starters, the Spanish Senate – unlike the Bundesrat or the American Senate – does not entirely represent the autonomous communities. Secondly, not all regions have the same powers. Though successive governments have always ended up granting the same financing schemes or devolved the same powers to all regions, there are differences.

The major one is in the financing of regions. Fourteen (or maybe fifteen) of the seventeen communities receive the bulk of their funds from tax transfers from the central government. Some taxes like inheritance or donation taxes or more recently taxes on some hydrocarbons are transferred in their entirety. Some taxes, like income taxes, the VAT or duties on products such as wine, alcohol or some hydrocarbons are transferred in part, and the percentage transferred to the communities has increased consistently over the years. The autonomous system is founded upon the principle of solidarity, enshrined in article 2 of the constitution. This means in practice a commitment to equality between all regions, thus the existence of a Sufficiency Fund which gives regions additional funding to cover differences between expenditure and fiscal capacity or other stabilization mechanisms like the Inter-Territorial Compensation Fund which has a similar function. Similar to the existence of “have” and “have-not” provinces in Canada with equalization payments, the wealthiest regions of Spain – Catalonia, Madrid, Valencia and the Balearic Islands have claimed that they are giving their money to poorer regions. Catalan nationalists in particular have claimed that the money they give to poorer regions, which have less incentives to cut their deficit or debt, would be enough to cover Catalonia’s financial problems. The Canaries, as an isolated insular region, has negotiated specific arrangements which means that certain taxes and certain custom duties do not apply to the islands. Ceuta and Melilla have a similar system to the other communities.

Additional Provision one of the constitution “protects and respects the historic rights of the territories with fueros.” Following the Carlist defeat in 1839, Navarre had been granted in 1841 the ley paccionada which compensated Navarre for its integration within the Spanish monarchy with certain political and fiscal advantages. Franco upheld the 1841 law as a reward for supporting the nationalists in the Civil War, meaning that Navarre has been a foral territory since 1841. Franco also granted fiscal advantages as a ‘thank-you’ card to the Basque province of Álava. During the transition period, Navarre did not adopt a statute of autonomy, it instead adopted a “Law of the Reintegration and Improvement of the Navarre foral regime” (LORAFNA) which recognized Navarre’s foral rights. The Basque statute of 1979 also recognized the region’s foral rights. In practice, the Basque and Navarrese foral regime means that, unlike in other regions, it is the regions themselves which collect taxes (to be exact, it is the three Basque provinces, each with popularly elected foral assemblies which do so), part of which are later given back to Madrid to cover the services offered by the central government in those regions. Navarre and Euskadi have prospered well under the foral regime, in fact they occupy the third and first place respectively in terms of per capita income.

Conflicts over the financing of autonomous communities (those with the ‘common system’) have taken various forms. The major conflict is over the form negotiations with the central government should take. Catalonia would like bilateral negotiations, between one community and the central government, while poorer regions prefer the current multilateral negotiations where all communities negotiate the financing system. They fear that bilateral negotiations between wealthy Catalonia and the central government would only benefit the interests of Catalonia and weaken them. The success of the foral regime in Euskadi and Navarre has led to Catalan demands for the extension of the same foral regime (or concierto economico) to Catalonia. Once again, the special advantages of some have led to the rebirth of café para todos.

The 2006 Catalan statute, whose first article reads “the Parliament of Catalonia, recognizing the sentiment and will of the citizens of Catalonia, has defined, with an ample majority, Catalonia as nation” sparked much debate. The PP, which is the party closest to the vision of a single Spanish nation-state, opposed the statute reform in part because it recognized Catalonia as a nation and by consequence insinuated that there was no single Spanish nation. Catalonia’s push to recognize itself as full-blast nation came after a string of regions which had acquired their statute through slow-track Article 143 defined themselves as nationalities. Aragon (1996), the Balearics (1983 and 2007), the Canaries (1996) and the Valencian Community (1982 and 2006) are four regions which got Article 143 autonomy (though the latter two wanted Article 151 autonomy) who recognized themselves as nations. Others such as Murcia or Extremadura defined themselves as holding historical regional identity or forming historical communities.

The current system is not a federal system, but it is not entirely asymmetric. The Catalans and Basques do not want to see Spain transformed into a federal state, because a federal Spain would dilute their claims to nationhood and separateness and integrate them as parts like every other part of a federal Spain where all regions are equal. Instead, the Basques seek to preserve their foral regime and increase their autonomy (for some, as a first step towards independence) while the Catalans want to expand their autonomy and be granted a foral regime like the Basques.

The autonomic model of Spain is popular and widely accepted by all political forces. Contrarily to what most people believe, the percentage of Basques and Catalans who want independence for their region is rather low (in the 30-40%) range and does not constitute an absolute majority in either region. Constant demands by all 17 regions for more power constitute a long-term challenge to its existence in its present form; while the present economic crisis challenge all autonomous communities and show that despite the popularity of café para todos, few regions are willing to pay the bill and instead prefer to pay parts of the bill and make sure the central government pays the rest.

Water policy in Spain

Spain is divided between a temperate north and more tropical Mediterranean south, with rainfall abundant in the north but rather scarce in the south and Andalusian interior. The Mediterranean coastal regions and the Andalusian interior suffer from periods of severe droughts and a general scarcity of water and it is believed that droughts will only become more common with climate change. It also happens that these regions are also the ones which are quite thirsty, because of tourism, agriculture or business. Water and irrigation have long been important in Spain, and water became, for regenerationist thinkers, a way of radically transforming Spanish society and economy. Over a thousand dams were built in Spain starting under the Primo regime in the 1920s and then under Franco.

The agricultural diversification of the Spanish south from sober crops such as olives or wheat to more water-demanding foodstuffs as well as the tourism boom along the Mediterranean coast have dramatically increased the demand from water from the dry regions. The surface of arable land which is irrigated is in constant increase since the 1950s, and irrigated land – especially in the south – has much higher productivity yields than dry unirrigated land. But the water to irrigate these fields and furnish the tourism industry must come from somewhere if the dry regions don’t have the sufficient level of water to be auto-sufficient.

Water transfers from rivers to rivers have been a political reality since the 1930s when the republican government first developed the policy, with the argument that northern rivers have more water than southern rivers and that irrigation of dry regions leads to more profits than irrigation of wetter regions. The first transfers in the Franco era concerned a transfer of water from the Tagus to the dry Segura and Júcar rivers in Murcia and Valencia. The results were rather mediocre, but they did not stop the development by 1985 of a National Hydrological Plan (PHN) by the González government. The PHN, unveiled in 1993, aimed to create a uniform, national system of water transfers from basin to basin. At the centre of the plan was the Ebro River, whose “excess” of roughly 3 billion m³ per year would be used to relieve the Catalan, Segura and Júcar basins which lacked water. In 1997, a new PHN presented by the PP government reduced the volume of transfers though added more transfers from the Ebro to Catalonia.

The PHN came up against the strong opposition of the regions which would “give” waters while being strongly supported by those who would receive it. Aragon and Castilla-La Mancha strongly opposed the PHN, as they would be giving water, while the plan was demanded and upheld by Valencia, Murcia and Catalonia who would receive water. More than just receiving water was at stake in the disputes which opposed the regions, because the regions which would be giving water claimed that the PHN would exacerbate regional inequalities and advantage booming regions at the advantage of poorer regions. The water transfers also transferred development and most importantly economic and political power. Opposition to water transfers from Aragon to Catalonia as early as the late 1970s led to the creation of the regionalist Aragonese Party (PAR), while in 1995 the PSOE president of Castilla-La Mancha José Bono gained fame and regional prestige when he took the fight which opposed him to his Socialist counterparts in Madrid and Valencia to court.

The PHN and the Spanish water policy until the 1990s perceived water as a largely economic commodity to be given out and transferred to facilitate and help economic growth and prosperity. Indeed, the PHN was pushed by both left and right-wing governments to benefit the Spanish housing bubble which governments falsely defined as a sustainable economic model. That view, however, started to be challenged in the late 1990s by a group of academics, environmentalists and grassroots activists who founded a Foundation for a New Culture of Water (FNCA). The FNCA denounced the transformation of water into a rather cheap commodity available to farmers and speculators, the deterioration of the natural environment and the creation of the PHN as a tool to mask other problems such as speculation or the housing bubble. Indeed, the water transfers often masked another aspect – that these transfers would profit mostly to speculators or private business interests, especially along the Valencian coastline. Conflicts of interests were plenty: in one case, the person who presented a transfer project in Valencia from one basin to another was none else than the person who had come up with the plan for a large construction project. Instead, the FNCA called for a “new culture of water” which defined water as a resource to protect and cherish. They claimed that irrigation was not required for economic growth and prosperity, and that water transfers were a ridiculous idea.

In 2004, the new Zapatero PSOE government and its environment minister, Cristina Narbona,  influenced by the FNCA’s activism, scrapped the PHN and abandoned the policy of water transfers. Instead, the government ordered the construction of more desalinization plan to desalinize water from the sea. The policy was opposed by the PP and PP governments in Valencia and Murcia. The PP supports a new PHN and claims the PSOE’s policies would create a national disaster in case of a severe drought.

Immigration and Islam

Spain used to be a country of emigration until the 1960s, but with the fall of Franco and the construction of an affluent society in Spain, emigration ended. However, immigration to Spain remained rather low until the late 1990s – in 1998, only 1.6% of the population was foreign born. It has since grown pretty dramatically until the recession for the first time stopped the rapid flow of immigrants. Yet, Spain’s foreign-born population now stands at 12.2% or 5.7 million. Only ten years ago, it stood at 3.3% or 1.3 million. The main sources of immigrants in Spain are three-fold: North African, Latin American and British. North Africans, especially Moroccans, are attracted to Spain as the closest port of entry to Europe – just over the Strait – and by historical links between the two countries. Latin Americans are attracted to Spain because of the long-standing linguistic, cultural and historical links between the two. Finally, the British are attracted to Spain’s hot and dry summers along the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean. In recent years, there has been another unusual source: Romania. The Romanian population in Spain has grown by a huge 2632% in ten years and Romanians now make up the largest foreign population in Spain with over 860,000 people.

Latin Americans as a whole form the largest group, with 1.5 million and 36.2% of the total foreign population. The largest sources are the poor nations of Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia but also Argentina, Peru and Brazil. Western Europeans, with over 870,000 and 21% of the total foreign population are the second largest group, with British and Germans being by far the main sources. Eastern Europeans make up 17.8% of the total foreign population, with Romania being the top source by far. North Africans, almost entirely Moroccans, are the fourth largest whole group with 14.8% of Spain’s total foreign population. Moroccans, overtaken by Romanians for first place, are the second largest national community in Spain with nearly 770,000 people or 1.3% of the total population.

Moroccans are primarily concentrated in Barcelona and Andalusia, Latin Americans are primarily concentrated in Madrid, the Brits are heavily concentrated in Alicante and Valencia, while Romanians are found in Madrid and Castellón. Northern Spain and Old Castile have the least immigrants, while the Mediterranean coast and Madrid account for most of the foreign population.

North African immigration is only the fourth-most important source of immigration, yet the small minority of illegal migrants from Morocco or sub-Saharan Africa who try to reach Ceuta, Melilla, Andalusia or the Canaries are the most mediatized cases of immigration in Spain. 81 bodies were found on Spanish beaches in 2004, in 2003 there were 13,757 arrests. To counter illegal immigration, Spain has erected a 6-m high barrier around Ceuta and installed an advanced system of radars along the entire coast of the Straits.

There is no far-right party in Spain like in France, Scandinavia, the UK or Italy which serves as a recipient of protest votes from anti-immigration voters. The only major exception is the Platform for Catalonia (PxC), which has a strong base in a handful of Catalan cities and accounts for 1-2% of the vote in Catalonia. Yet, controversies related to immigration are not absent from Spanish politics. Plans to build mosques in Spanish cities are contested by grassroots groups of citizens, who also organize parties or organizations which demands most of what the European far-right demands. Many Spaniards are attached to the defense of Spain, Spanish values and culture and the country’s Catholic tradition. There is also rising fears surrounded to criminality or youth delinquency.

Some of the main differences with the situation in France are the nature of immigration, the role of religion and the Spanish support of the European project. In Spain, as noted above, the largest source of immigration is Latin American. Latin American families speak Spanish, are generally better integrated, are devoutly Catholic and often find work as housekeepers. There is little animosity between Spaniards and Latin Americans. Secondly, in France, Islam pits itself against a long-standing and entrenched secular (laïque) society to which a vast majority of France is attached. In Spain, the Catholic Church has always played and continues to play a much more important role. Three in four Spaniards still define themselves as Christian. Finally, Spain is marked by profound attachment to the EU and the Eurosceptic movement in Spain is rather limited. The EU has contributed a lot to Spain’s economic development since 1986 through cohesion funds or the CAP. Thus, Spaniards are generally supportive of the EU: turnout in European elections is low but higher than average, and Spain voted heavily in favour of the EU Constitution of 2005.

Spain is officially a secular state, though the role of the Catholic Church is recognized by the constitution. Indeed, the Church has always been a key institution in Spanish society and politics for centuries, and its influence – though diminishing – remains important. The state still pays priests and bishops, as well as Catholic religion teachers in schools. Latin American immigration has strengthened the Church’s role in education at the expense of secular activists. The PP, furthermore, which finds its roots in traditionally clerical Spanish conservatism, is also closely concerned with the defense of the Catholic faith – something which explains in part the lack of major far-right parties in Spain.

Only 0.6% of the Spanish population is Muslim, most of which are Moroccans. In 1992, the Socialist government signed a deal giving special advantages to Muslim and Jewish students to respect their holy days, and in 1996 the same government agreed to pay Muslim religion teachers, though the PP government blocked the law’s application. Muslim associations in Spain, which include a lot of former Catholics who converted to Islam, are moderate. Their goal is a devout religious society within the Spanish nation.

Yet, the 11-M attacks in which 191 were killed by Islamist extremists has influenced the popular perception of Islam in Spain. For many conservative Spaniards such as PP deputy Gustavo de Arístegui, Islam is perceived as a religion of conquest. Conservative authors in Spain such as Arístegui hold that Muslims have loathed “western civilization” ever since their expulsion from Spain in 1492. According to Arístegui then, the ultimate goal of radical Islam is to invade the mythical Al-Andalus and reclaim it for a greater Islamic empire. A view shared by the most radical Muslims, but obviously not the view of anything close to a majority.

Corruption and Spain’s political system

The indignados who have taken to the streets of Madrid protest not only the incumbent government’s austerity policy but also the Spanish political system and widespread political corruption in Spain. As you have seen and will see in the profile of Spanish parties, Spanish politics is heavily polarized between the PP and the PSOE though the current level of two-party competition to the exclusion of parties such as IU or the centre is recent. It remains that, outside Catalonia, Euskadi, Galicia and the Canaries the main contest is almost exclusively between the PP and the PSOE. The two parties totally dominate Spanish political life, but neither party is wildly popular or led by especially popular figures. Zapatero is unpopular, Rubalcaba is more popular but isn’t winning a popularity contest anytime soon and Mariano Rajoy is almost as unpopular as Zapatero which is pretty hard. Like in the United States, even though the two parties are rather badly perceived, no other party has been able to emerge to compete against them. Like in the United States, the electoral system is a major block and it drives to much strategic voting. And again as in the United States, the present “third-parties” at a national level do not tack much to the centre. The IU is a pretty old-style communist party, while UPyD’s excessive centralism means that it cannot appeal to even the moderate autonomists in Spain and is limited, mainly, to a base of anti-nationalist liberals.

Corruption is also pervasive in Spain, with a 6.1 in the 2010 corruption index (30th place). This makes it more corrupt than France (25th), as corrupt as Portugal (32nd) but far less corrupt than Italy (67th). No party can claim the ‘clean card’ as both parties have been hit with corruption scandals. In the 1990s, the PSOE was crumbling under the weight of an avalanche of corruption cases. The PP in the Balearic Islands was hit with fraud and embezzlement cases. Since 2009, the PP has fought off a major corruption case which recently led to the resignation of the president of the Valencian community. In Andalusia, the PSOE has also been hit recently by corruption cases. Spain has a strong judiciary, a famous activist judge (Baltasar Garzón) and a vibrant press to unveil corruption. The right-wing daily El Mundo can be counted on to attack the PSOE for corruption – it notably unveiled the GAL case, while the left-wing daily El País can be counted on to attack the PP for corruption – it unveiled the Caso Gürtel.

Current corruption cases

There is a great Google Map of all corruption cases by party in Spain here.

The PP has been hit hard since 2008 by two major corruption cases. The first, in the Balearic Islands, canned the island’s former PP president Jaume Matas for embezzlement, bribery, tax fraud and illegal financing of the PP. The most current is the famous Caso Gürtel which is centered in Valencia and in July 2011 led to the resignation of Francisco Camps, the president of the Valencian Community and close ally of Mariano Rajoy. The case involves Francisco Correa, a businessman and crook close to the Valencian and Madrid PP, who benefited from favoritism in the award of entertainment contracts in Valencia and Madrid. Correa has been accused of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion. Camps benefited from regular donations of clothing and suits (not of particularly huge value) as well as monetary donations. Other figures such as Valencia mayor Rita Barberá and the former secretary-general of the Valencian PP.

In Andalusia, the regional PSOE government finds itself embroiled in EREgate. EREgate involves the subsidization of early retirement in government-funded companies by the PSOE. In this case, around 3% of early retirement cases were found to be fraudulent and involved roughly €9 million. The government paid excessive early retirements or paid early retirements to employees who never actually worked for a particular company. The PP and IU in the Andalusian parliament have seen their calls for a commission of inquiry refused by the PSOE majority, which claims that claims are being investigated by the Employment Ministry alongside the courts. The PP claims that the PSOE is covering up a wider case which involves the current president of the community, José Antonio Griñán. The PSOE suffered from the scandal in the May elections, when the PP ran ahead of the PSOE in a region which had voted PSOE in all but one election since 1979. The PP is far ahead of the PSOE in polls for regional elections due next spring.

Spanish Political Parties

Spain has two major dominant parties at a national level: the PSOE and the PP, complimented by two much smaller parties which both run nationally: the IU (and its regional branches like ICV or EB-B) and UPyD. Because of the plethora of regionalist and nationalist movements within Spain, most parties currently represented in parliament are regional parties. The main regional parties with a significant presence in their community are the CiU, ERC (Catalonia), the PNV (Euskadi), the BNG (Galicia), the UPN and NaBai (Navarre) and the CC (Canaries). This list is far from exhaustive: all regions but Murcia and Madrid had regional parties run in the last regional elections (either in 2009, 2010 or 2011). Some of those parties, such as the PAR or CHA in Aragon, the Andalusian Party (PA) or the PSM-EN in the Balearic Islands are quite important regionally though none of them currently hold seats in the Cortes.

Spain’s political spectrum is a bit odd in the European continent because it has no major far-right, green or centrist parties. The Spanish far-right won only one seat in the ten elections since 1977, and received only 0.2% of the votes in the 2008 elections. The main forces of the Spanish far-right are old-style fascist parties, notably the refounded FE-JONS, or parties mixing nationalism with clerical Catholicism. The far-left is equally weak, the main force is currently the PCPE (0.08%) which is made up of various orthodox communist outfits which split from the PCE during the Carrillo era. Green parties can account for 1% or more of the vote (unless you count the ICV as a ‘real green’ party), but their existence has been marked by their division and weakness. In some regions, the greens have allied to the regionalists or IU as junior allies. Lastly, the Spanish centre has been in-existent since the 1990s in a country deeply polarized between left and right. It isn’t because Spaniards all concentrate on the extremes, like in every other country most voters are more or less centrists. Rather, the Spanish centre has been swallowed up by the PSOE and PP which both win the middle-ground voters. Then again, there is the matter of “the centre doesn’t exist, and if it exists it is on the right.”

The following snippets define the parties ideologically, pinpoint their bases of support, their major leaders and their main factions. The history of each party is dealt with in the history section.

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) is the largest party in Spain, the incumbent governing party and since 1977 something of a natural governing party. It has governed for 21 years since the first democratic elections and won six out of ten elections held since 1977. The PSOE was founded in 1879 by Pablo Iglesias as a Marxist socialist party, a run-of-the-mill party of the working class. The PSOE has traditionally been linked to or close to the General Union of Workers (UGT), founded in 1988. The PSOE emerged as the main party of the left during the Second Republic (1931-1939). During this era, the PSOE was divided between the moderate reformist followers of Indalecio Prieto and the more Marxist revolutionary followers of Francisco Largo Caballero. In 1974 at the Suresnes Congress, after years of decrepitude in exile under the exiled archaic leadership of anti-communist caballerista Rodolfo Llopis, the PSOE assumed a new direction with the election of Felipe González, a young Andalusian reformist. González would re-define the PSOE as a social democratic party, abandoning Marxism in 1979, and rule Spain between 1982 and 1996, when he emerged as the man behind Spain’s transformation from European backwoods to prominent member of the European community. Defeated in 1996 and 2000, the PSOE won the 2004 elections under the leadership of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

The PSOE has, like the German SPD or British Labour, chosen the route of the pragmatic, moderate and ‘social liberal’ Third Way. It has paid off for the PSOE, but for many workers the ‘O’ in the name PSOE hardly means anything. González adopted policies closer to the right than to the traditional left, and his policies laid off many steelworkers or dockers around Spain. The Zapatero government has adopted tough austerity policies including VAT hikes, increases in the retirement age or a public sector wage cut. It must be remembered, however, that the PSOE has rarely matched rhetoric with action. Ever since its foundation, the PSOE has used overblown Marxist or socialist rhetoric promising first revolution and then lots of jobs for everyone. In practice, however, the PSOE has always been pragmatic. The UGT did not like to resort to strikes during its first years in existence, Largo Caballero governed as a reformist and González did the opposite of what he had won on (that is, creating jobs). This is perhaps common to most of the left in the world, who need to speak in traditional tones to appeal to its social base, but the reality of governance forces them to pragmatism and policies which are more right-wing than left-wing.

The PSOE includes some more centrist and some more left-wing elements. Zapatero was elected to the leadership in 2000 as a more centrist, reformist figure opposed by the old figures of the opposition. Rubalcaba strikes a more left-wing tone in his speeches and proposals, and some say he is seeking to bury zapaterismo.

A main division within the PSOE is over the nature of the Spanish state. The party as a whole is more favourable than the PP to a decentralized Spain and some elements support a federal Spain, but other elements of the party strike a far more centralist tone. The Catalan Socialists (PSC) reformed the statute of Catalonia in 2006 and support a Catalan nation within a federal Spain. The Basque Socialists (PSE-EE) have historically oscillated between cooperation with the regionalists (PNV) as they did until 1998, or with the PP as part of an anti-nationalist front. The PSE-EE has, however, managed to appeal to moderate autonomists as a reasonable, pragmatic party between the nationalist PNV and Spanish PP, though the radical nationalists perceive it as a centralist party. It integrated EE, the old political arm of ETA-pm, in 1993. Under the leadership of lehendakari Patxi López, the PSE-EE has tacked the middle ground between PNV and PP though López currently governs with the support of the PP. Galician and Balearic Socialists have both governed regionally in coalition with regionalist parties. In opposition to the Catalan Socialists, Socialist leaders in southern Spain have been far more centralist. Southern Spain is poorer and sees from a bad eye the PSC’s autonomist inklings and its proposals for things such as bilateral financing negotiations. Prominent Socialists such as Manuel Chaves, Alfonso Guerra, Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra and José Bono are known for their pronounced opposition to regionalism and the PSC’s autonomist derive. Rubalcaba himself is closer to the centralist elements, while Zapatero was closer to the PSC-federalist elements.

The PSOE’s electoral base is heavily dependent on Andalusia and Catalonia, which have voted Socialist in every general election since 1979. They are also the two most populated regions in Spain and compensate heavily for the PSOE’s weakness in Madrid and Castile. Other regions where the PSOE is usually strong are Extremadura, Asturias and, to a lesser extent, Aragon and Castilla-La Mancha. Zapatero in 2008 added Euskadi, the Balearic Islands and the Canaries – three regions which have seldom voted Socialist – to the sheet. The PSOE currently governs only two regions: Euskadi and Andalusia. They are the junior partner in Navarre (to the UPN) and the Canaries (to CC). Generally speaking, as in the rest of Europe, poorer voters and working-class voters are reliably Socialist voters.

The PSOE has 169 deputies, 103 Senators (plus 10 PSC Senators sitting in a separate caucus), 21 MEPs, 395 deputies in the parliaments of autonomous communities and 21,767 local councillors.

The Popular Party (PP) is Spain’s second largest party and the party of the Spanish right. The PP was founded in 1989 but its roots lie in the Popular Alliance (AP), the right-wing party founded by reformist Francoist minister Manuel Fraga in 1977 and the party of liberal democratic neo-Francoism and later Spanish conservatism. The AP accepted the democratic state, decentralization and political reforms but its growth by the late 1980s, when it had stabilized as the PSOE’s distant rival with roughly 25% support, was impeded by Fraga’s role as a Francoist apparatchik and the AP’s perception as a neo-Francoist party. In 1989, under Fraga’s direction, the AP was transformed into the PP, which was envisioned to be a party capable of uniting conservatives, liberals and Christian democrats. José María Aznar emerged as the PP’s leader with Fraga’s blessing and won the 1996 and 2000 elections. The PP returned to opposition in 2004 following Aznar’s retirement in favour of his loyal right-hand man, the Galician Mariano Rajoy who has led the PP into the 2004 and 2008 elections without success.

The PP defines itself as a “centrist reformist” party, heir of the Spanish liberal tradition – a nice sign of sinistrisme if I ever saw it. However, it is widely perceived in Spain as a right-wing party and a lot of detractors define it as a fascist party or refer to it as “the Falange”. The Aznar government privatized many public companies, liberalized the resource sector, reformed unemployment benefits, kept the deficit low, reduced unemployment, kept interest rates low and encouraged the growth of the housing sector with the consequences we know today. It also aligned closely with the Bush administration over the Iraq war. The contemporary PP, like most of the European right, supports low taxes, balanced budgets, controlled immigration and boosting economic growth. However, when compared to the UMP, CDU or even the British Tories, the PP is quite right-wing and conservative by European standards. It is closely linked to the Catholic Church and fought against gay marriage in 2005. Its rhetoric often invokes Spanish nationalism and some of its members have rather right-wing positions on things such as immigration, nationalism or the gays. It is, however, strongly pro-European though it is keen on advocating for Spain’s interests and views within the EU and is less conciliatory in pan-European dialogue than the PSOE. The PP supports the current regional model, but seeks to uphold it rather than change it like some Socialists and regional nationalists want. It is adamant about Spain being a single nation-state and opposed recognition of Catalonia as a nation in 2006. Under the Zapatero government, the PP was starkly opposed to any negotiations with ETA, claiming that there can be negotiations with terrorists. The PP in Euskadi has often been seen as the one which offers the strongest opposition to ETA’s violence.

Mariano Rajoy, to put it frankly, is a bad leader. He has lost two elections in a row and is perceived as incompetent and utterly devoid of talent or charisma. It surprises outsiders used to turnover in leadership following an electoral defeat to see Rajoy at the helm. His position is increasingly stable with the PP’s victory in May and likely victory in November, but after his defeat in 2008, Rajoy faced heavy criticism in the runup to the XVI Congress in Valencia. Rajoy has needed to balance the hardline of the party with the moderate wing of the party, and also the ‘old guard’ with the ‘new guard’. Following his defeat, Rajoy faced opposition from the party’s right-wing, led by Madrid Community president Esperanza Aguirre and backed by Aznar, former interior minister Jaime Mayor Oreja, Basque PP leader María San Gil, former interior minister Ángel Acebes, Catalan MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras and former public works minister Francisco Álvarez-Cascos (who always complains that nobody likes him or asks him anything). Aguirre did not run, but a fellow ‘hardliner’, Juan Costa tried to run but did not gather enough support. Rajoy was thus reelected with roughly 16% of blank votes against him. Rajoy’s entourage includes moderates and newcomers. He is supported notably by Madrid mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón (the prominent moderate/liberal within the PP), the PP’s new secretary-general María Dolores de Cospedal, the young spokesperson of the PP in the Congress Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría but most importantly the PP’s regional ‘barons’ who see Rajoy as a stable leader. These include the Valencian Francisco Camps, the Murcian Ramón Luis Valcárcel, the Castilian Juan Vicente Herrera, the Andalusian Javier Arenas and the Galician Alberto Núñez Feijóo. Rajoy’s new team attempts to portray a younger, more liberal and more centrist party. With the right-winger and staunchly anti-nationalist María San Gil resigning from the party with a bang, Rajoy put the far more moderate and conciliatory Antonio Basagoiti as her successor as leader of the Basque PP. In Catalonia, the PP has attempted to portray itself as moderate and in line with the regionalist aspirations of a vast majority of Catalans.

The PP is strong in Spain’s conservative heartlands of Old Castile and Galicia, and has since expanded its base to Madrid, Valencia, Murcia, the Balearic Islands, La Rioja, Cantabria and New Castile. The PP has won a plurality of provinces in all elections since 1993. However, the party is historically weak in Andalusia and perennially weak in Euskadi and Catalonia. In both Euskadi and Catalonia, the PP’s message of Spanish nationalism is out of sync with the local regionalist mood. Furthermore, in both of these regions, the PP’s traditional electorate in Spain: rural folk and the affluent are in both cases strongly regionalist. In Euskadi, the PP did well between 1994 and 2004 as the main rival to the PNV by taking the most diametrically anti-ETA/anti-nationalist line, but it has since weakened considerably. In Catalonia, the PP’s best result was 22.8% in 2000 and has since polled between 11 and 18%. In both regions, the PP performs much better in general elections than regional or local elections. The PP currently governs all regions except Asturias (governed by Francisco Álvarez-Cascos’ attention whoring party), Euskadi, Navarre (governed by the PP’s ex-ally UPN), Catalonia, Andalusia and the Canaries.

The PP has 152 deputies, 125 Senators, 23 MEPs, 526 deputies in the parliaments of autonomous communities and 26,499 local councillors.

The United Left (IU) is a the largest political coalition to the left of the PSOE, dominated by the Communist Party (PCE). Following the heavy defeat of Santiago Carrillo’s PCE in 1982, under Geraldo Iglesias’ leadership, the PCE shifted back towards orthodox communism and the eurocommunist carrillistas were expelled. A 1986 civic platform against NATO membership during that year’s NATO referendum was the starting block for the creation later that year of IU, which included the PCE, the Catalan PSUC and smaller left-wing parties. As the PSOE progressively weakened over the course of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was at the outset almost exclusively to the IU’s benefit which was able to win strong results in 1989, 1993 and especially 1996 when the IU won 21 deputies and over 10% of the vote. During these years, the goal of IU’s leader Julio Anguita was to surpass an allegedly crumbling corrupt PSOE as the main force of the Spanish left, thus IU’s attacks were focused heavily on the PSOE rather than the PP which came to power in 1996. Following its peak in 1996, IU weakened to the point of near-collapse in 2008 when it won only two seats.

A major division within the IU has been over the party’s proximity to the PSOE following IU’s failure to overtake the PSOE as the largest left-wing party. In regions and municipalities, IU members have traditionally allied with the PSOE (or, in rarer cases, vice-versa) to prevent a right-wing government. In 1998, Francisco Frutos and then Gaspar Llamazares moved the party closer to the PSOE. However, in the wake of the economic crisis and the PSOE’s austerity policies, IU’s new leader, Cayo Lara, moved the party away from the Socialists considering that both PP and PSOE share a neoliberal economic policy and that IU should lead an alternative movement to the two largest parties. In 2011, IU’s votes in Extremadura could have given the PSOE the presidency, but IU’s members abstained and allowed the PP to gain control of the regional executive.

IU remains a coalition of parties and social movements of the Spanish left, the dominant party being of course the PCE and other parties being irrelevant outfits. IU has not taken a eurocommunist course and remains a rather orthodox communist party, with opposition to imperialism and neoliberalism being the IU’s battle horses. Under Llamazares’ leadership, however, IU moved away from rigid communism and embraced hip ideologies of the left such as ecosocialism, feminism and environmentalism. Most recently, the IU has attempted to align itself closely with the indignados movement, which is left-leaning though apolitical. IU is the largest party which vocally supports a Spanish republic, and supports a ‘plurinational federal Spain’. In certain regions such as Navarre, IU has allied to regionalist movements while the IU’s Basque section, EB-B has acted as an ally of nationalist governments led by the PNV and voted in favour of the Ibarretxe plan in 2004 though IU itself would vote against it in 2005.

In Catalonia, IU’s independent ‘sovereign’ partner is the United and Alternative Left (EUiA), which was founded as an electoral coalition in 1998 by a left-wing faction of the Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV). However, except for a bad spat at the turn of the century, EUiA has run in coalition with the ICV in all elections since 2003. ICV was founded in 1987 as IC, a coalition led by the PSUC and supported by two smaller parties. The IC later took in small green parties and moved away from communism and towards a more centralized party with ecosocialism and pacifism as its ideological creed, which was a major cause in the 1998 split (in addition, EUiA was pro-Anguita, the ICV generally anti-Anguita). The ICV was, alongside the ERC, the junior partner in the Socialist-led tripartite coalition which governed Catalonia between 2003 and 2010. The ICV supported the reform of the statute and subscribes to the plurinational federal vision of Spain.

IU’s main bases are Madrid, Catalonia, Andalusia, Asturias, the Valencian Community.

The IU-ICV has 2 deputies (1 IU, 1 ICV), 2 Senators (both ICV-EUiA), 2 MEPs (1 IU, 1 ICV), 51 deputies in the parliaments of autonomous communities (including 10 ICV-EUiA) and 2,646 local councillors (including 398 ICV-EUiA).

Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) is the newest of Spain’s main four national parties. It was founded in 2007 by former PSOE MEP Rosa Díez, who holds the party’s only seat in Congress. UPyD takes its roots in anti-ETA civic organizations in Euskadi such as ¡Basta Ya!, which are grassroots movements founded by the families of ETA victims or prominent Spanish academics who strongly oppose regional nationalism, ETA terrorism or further decentralization. UPyD’s platform mixes social liberalism and progressivism (secularism, electoral reform, Keynesian economics, environmentalism) with staunch anti-nationalism which includes opposition to mandatory bilingual education, opposition to further decentralization or concessions to regions (such as the Catalan statute reform), an harmonization and entrenchment of the current system (including eliminating the foral regimes in Euskadi and Navarre) and opposition to any negotiations with ETA. The party’s leader, Rosa Díez, a former Basque government minister in the 1990s and later MEP, was known within the PSOE for her opposition to the 2005-2006 negotiations with ETA. UPyD’s ranks include prominent intellectuals or academics, notably Mario Vargas Llosa or Fernando Savater.

UPyD won 1.2% of the vote in the 2008 election and one seat, held by Rosa Díez, from Madrid where the party won 3.8%. It won one seat (from Álava) in the 2009 Basque elections with 2.2% of the vote, and one seat in the European Parliament with 2.9% of the vote, held by Francisco Sosa Wagner. It won 8 seats in the Madrid Assembly in 2011. Madrid remains the party’s base, but it is also strong to a lesser extent in Castile and other ‘Castilian’ regions such as Cantabria, Murcia or La Rioja. In Catalonia, its place is taken by a quasi-identical party, Citizens-Party of the Citizenry (C’s), which holds three seats in the Catalan Parliament. Rosa Díez, an outspoken and somewhat controversial figure, remains the party’s top figure to the point that some have considered UPyD a personal vehicle for Díez though that is not quite the case.

UPyD has 1 deputy, 1 MEP, 9 deputies in the parliaments of autonomous communities and 152 local councillors.

Regional parties

Convergence and Union (CiU) is the main Catalan nationalist party and it currently governs the region. CiU is a permanent coalition of two parties, the larger liberal Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and the smaller conservative Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC). The UDC had been founded back in 1932 and re-emerged as a small Christian democratic party, with the support of former Franco-era cadres, during the transition. The CDC had been founded in 1974 by Jordi Pujol, a former anti-Francoist resistant and scion of a wealthy Catalan family who skillfully managed to re-invent centre-right Catalanism through his strong personality and charisma. In doing so, he established the CDC-CiU as the main force of Catalan nationalism, sidelining the ERC’s Josep Tarradellas and in 1980 winning the first elections to Catalonia’s Generalitat. From that point on, Pujol emerged as the invincible baron of Catalonia, ruling – sometimes with absolute majority – until his 2003 retirement. Following Pujol’s retirement in 2003, the CiU, led by Artur Mas, was weakened and lost control of the Catalan executive to a Socialist-led coalition. However, in 2010, Mas won back Jordi Pujol’s preserve. The CiU does much more poorly in general elections (peaking at 33% rather than 47% in Catalan elections), where the Socialists have always topped the poll. In 2004 the CiU’s vote took a major hit, collapsing from 29% to 21% and has yet to recover. Artur Mas is the CiU’s leader and President of the Generalitat, but like Jordi Pujol he is not directly involved in national politics. The CiU’s leader for purposes of a general election is the UDC’s Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, who is the leader of the CiU caucus.

Like the Lliga under the Restoration, the CiU does not seek the independence of Catalonia but rather seeks to increase Catalan self-government and its weight within Spain. Sometimes it may take an apparently more stringent tone in talking about “self-determination”, though it is largely an attempt to reach out to the more radical voters in its base or its more radical wing (led by Felip Puig, the Catalan Interior minister). Ideally, the CiU’s vision of Catalonia is Catalan nation within very decentralized confederal Spanish state, where Catalonia would notably hold full fiscal autonomy. In this light, the CiU is currently drafting a concierto which would extend the Basco-Navarrese foral regime to Catalonia, allowing the Generalitat to raise its own taxes and distribute part of them to Madrid. Currently, Catalonia, like most Spanish autonomous communities, receives the bulk of its funding from tax transfers from Madrid. The CiU is a moderate, pragmatic ‘pro-business’ centre-right party and its strategy in Madrid is to advance Catalonia’s interests and extract concessions from Madrid through deals with the central government. In fact, the CiU has cooperate quite well with the arch-centralist but similarly right-wing PP, which propped up Pujol in the late 1990s, while the CiU supported both Aznar governments (after supporting the last González government from 1993 to 1996).

The CiU does much better in regional than national elections, especially since 2004. Most of the CiU’s support is concentrated in rural, Catalan-speaking areas outside the urbanized area of Barcelona, which has a large non-Catalanophone community due to internal and external immigration. It is also strong with affluent and middle-class voters, who in Catalonia are largely Catalan-speaking and strong Catalanists. On a side note, I must say that the CiU’s new logo seems like a bad mix of Obama paraphernalia and the logo of some tour operator for obnoxious people who lie on beaches.

The CiU has 10 deputies (6 CDC, 4 UDC), 8 Senators (7 CDC, 1 UDC), 1 MEP (CDC), 62 deputies (45 CDC, 17 UDC) in the Catalan Parliament and 3,862 local councillors.

The Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV) is Spain’s second-oldest party and the dominant party in Euskadi. The PNV was founded in 1895 by Sabino Arana, a semi-insane racist xenophobe yet the founding father of modern Basque nationalists. Until the 1930s, the PNV was a hard-right clerical regionalist party, founded in the defense of Basque values, the Basque language (Euskara) and the Basque race against the impure, socialist atheist immigrants who were “contaminating” Euskadi. Arana originally sought full independence from a country he hated, but in his last year, he turned in favour of autonomy, as did much of the party’s later leadership. Though conservative, it allied with the republicans in 1936 in return for regional autonomy. The party’s moderate course and domination by the old guard while in exile led to the creation by Basque youths of Ekin, which would later become ETA in 1959. The PNV emerged as the largest Basque party and dominant force of Basque nationalism post-Franco, and held the office of lehendakari from its 1980 creation till 2009 and topped the poll in the bulk of elections, both regional and general, in Euskadi. The PNV is not the uncontested party of Basque nationalism, in fact it is opposed to its left by the abertzale (patriot) left parties, some of which were fronts for ETA. Between 1986 and 2004, the party was led by Xabier Arzalluz, old éminence grise of the party whose strong-hand in party affairs (such as choosing lehendakaris) led to the initially crippling 1986 split led by Carlos Garaikoetxea. Since 2004, no decisive figure as emerged as the PNV’s leader. The current leader, since 2007, is Iñigo Urkullu.

The PNV does not necessarily seek the independence of Euskadi, because it is doubtful such an idea is realistic let alone viable in this day and age. It would rather see a very decentralized Spanish confederation in which Euskadi has almost all powers while relegating the central government to a second-place role of defense and such things. It works to extracts concessions from the central government through political deals: in return for supporting Aznar in 1996, the Basque foral regime was improved, and in return for supporting Zapatero’s budget, Euskadi received some fiscal goodies. Like the CiU, the party is divided between a more moderate wing and a more radical, perhaps separatist, wing of which former lehendakari Ibarretxe was perhaps aligned with. Though the PNV is officially a centre-right party and supported Aznar during his first term, the party has worked better with the left – both Spanish and abertzale – than the PP. Indeed, the PNV is not as pragmatic and smooth-working as the CiU. Starting in 1998 with the Lizarra pact with HB/ETA, it progressively abandoned its previous alliance with the Socialists in favour of a more aggressive nationalist alliance to the exclusion of the Socialists.

A major issue for the PNV has been its relation with ETA. Though the PNV has denounced and condemned ETA’s violence countless times, there is some lingering sympathy or at least critical understanding of ETA’s ends (though not means), which some in the PNV consider as young “misled” hotheads but Basque patriots nonetheless. After the 1998 Lizarra pact, many have accused the PNV of working to “accommodate” ETA or not doing enough to condemn ETA. The Ibarretxe plan has also been criticized by the PNV’s opponents as thinly veiled separatism.

The PNV’s name in Basque, EAJ or Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea does not translate to Basque Nationalist Party. In fact, it translates to “Basque Party of friends of God and the old laws”. The last word is the abbreviation of Jaungoiko eta lege zaharra (JEL), the party motto which stands for “God and the old laws”. Party members are often called jeltzales. The JEL motto is a clear sign of the party’s roots in Carlism, the ultra-conservative localist ideology which found the bulk of its support in Euskadi and Navarre.

The PNV was founded in the province of Biscay (Bilbao) and though the party has since expanded to Guipúzcoa and Álava, Biscay remains the party’s stronghold. In Guipúzcoa, the most nationalist province, it has faced heavy competition to its left by the abertzale parties or EA while in Álava, the least nationalist province, the PNV has been rivaled by the Spanish parties. In general, the PNV’s voters tend to be rural, Basque-speaking and averagely well-off. It does poorly in both Basque and “maketo” working-class areas in Guipúzcoa and Bilbao’s left bank.

The PNV has 6 deputies, 3 Senators, 1 MEP, 30 deputies in the Basque Parliament (+1 in the Navarre Parliament), 49 councillors in the Basque provincial Juntas Generales and 882 local councillors.

The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) is the second largest Catalan nationalist party and the largest party in Catalonia which seeks the independence of a Catalan Republic which optimally includes Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Northern Catalonia (the French Roussillon). The ERC was founded in 1931 by the alliance of two parties, one led by Lluís Companys and the other by Francesc Macià. During the republic, the ERC led by Companys was the largest party in Catalonia and the architect of the Catalan Statute of 1932. Though the ERC’s leader Josep Tarradellas played a major role in the creation of the new statute in 1979, the ERC never again reached its level of support and oscillated between 2% and 6% in general elections and 4% and 9% in regional elections between 1977 and 2000. Following a bad trough in the 1980s when the party bottomed out, a new era began in 1989 with the leadership of the young and more radical Àngel Colom, who quit the party in 1996, being replaced by Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira. Despite the 1996 split, during the 1990s under Colom and Carod-Rovira, the ERC slowly re-emerged in the Catalan political landscape both in Barcelona and in Madrid. The real breakthrough came in 2003 and 2004, when the ERC won 16.5% (23 seats) and 16%  (8 seats) in the Catalan and general elections. Starting in 2003, the ERC formed part of the tripartite governing coalition in Catalonia led by the PSC’s Pasqual Maragall. The ERC played a key role in drafting the new statute, but following the approval by Congress of a watered-down version, the ERC supported a ‘no’ vote in the referendum in which it was approved by a vast majority of Catalans – which forced the Pasqual Maragall to call early regional elections. The tripartite pact was renewed after the November 2006 Catalan elections, but the ERC’s vote had fallen t0 14% in the Catalan elections that year. It fell further to 8% in the 2008 Spanish elections, losing five of its 8 seats and won 7% in the 2010 Catalan elections. The ERC’s rapid rise in 2003-2004 is partly attributable to voter fatigue in the nationalist electorate with the CiU, shunned by some radical nationalists for having backed a PP government. Its subsequently rapid decline starting in 2006 can be attributed a rocky tenure in government, a string of controversies and recently internal divisions.

The ERC sees federalism as a step towards independence but for it federalism is not an ends in itself, especially not federalism with seventeen communities (it would prefer a federalism of four nationalisms: Catalan, Basque, Galician and Spanish). ERC’s ultimate goal is self-determination or Catalan independence as a member state within the European Union, Its party website in Catalan reads “l’obtenció de la independència dels Països Catalans a l’Europa Unida constitueix un objectiu irrenunciable.” (the obtention of the independence of the Catalan Countries in united Europe constitutes an objective which cannot be given up).

In 2008, Carod-Rovira was progressively sidelined within the ERC by Joan Puigcercós, who is less pragmatic and more nationalist than Carod-Rovira had been. Puigcercós’ rather unimpressive victory in the 2008 leadership race led to various splits or retirements, while the ERC lost votes to the more radical separatist Catalan Solidarity for Independence (SI) led by Joan Laporta.

The ERC’s vote is largely concentrated in rural central Catalonia outside of the urban area of Barcelona, where the ERC is weak.

The ERC has 3 deputies, 3 Senators, 1 MEP, 10 deputies in the Catalan Parliament and 1,399 local councillors.

Bildu is Spain’s newest and most controversial political coalition. Bildu emerged in April 2011 as an electoral coalition between two abertzale parties: Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) and Alternatiba. EA had been founded in 1986 by a left-wing (non-ETA) split in the PNV led by then-lehendakari Carlos Garaikoetxea, but since 2008 it has suffered a string of electoral defeats, losing its seat in Congress in 2008 and being reduced to a mere seat in the Basque Parliament. In 2009, Pello Urizar, a member of EA’s most radical wing, was elected to the party’s leadership. In June 2010, EA signed a ‘strategic agreement’ with the illegal abertzale left (eg; Batasuna) for the construction of a “sovereignist pole”, which in the fall was joined by Alternatiba, a split off of EB-B (IU’s Basque referent). In April 2011, Bildu, which is Basque for ‘gather’, emerged as the electoral coalition of EA, Alternatiba and the abertzale left for the 2011 municipal and foral elections in Euskadi and Navarre. In these elections, Bildu made a spectacular impact, taking 26% of the vote and strong second in Euskadi and 13% in Navarre. Its most notable successes were in the city of San Sebastián and the provincial assembly of Guipúzcoa, where it emerged as the strongest party.

Bildu has attracted controversy from the outset. The Spanish government and the PP claim that Bildu is nothing but ETA’s latest front. After a previous party created in February 2011 by ETA as its political arm, Sortu, was banned, many believe that ETA used Bildu and EA as its ‘plan B’ for electoral participation and ‘infiltration’ of democratic politics. Madrid claims, from seized ETA documents, that ETA’s strategy since 2009 was to infiltrate EA and turn it into a political front for ETA after all of the organization’s previous parties had been banned. The government claimed that Batasuna clearly participated in the nomination of candidates by Bildu ahead of the 2011 local elections. On May 1, the Supreme Court banned Bildu, but in appeal in the Constitutional Court days later, the ban was revoked, citing that while ETA might attach importance to electoral participation, no links can be established between ETA and Bildu. The PSOE bowed down to the final decision, but the PP has continued stating that it would fight to make sure Bildu does not participate in the November general elections.

Bildu as a party has renounced violence and condemned continued ETA terror and supports peaceful institutional democratic dialogue as the sole path to achieve the independence of “Euskal Herria”. But Bildu has drawn much criticism for not calling on ETA to definitely disarm and dissolve and for participating in various events in favour of ETA prisoners. The PP wants Bildu, which it considers as ETA’s front, to call on ETA to disarm, to condemn past, present and future terror and to choose the road of democratic legality. In San Sebastián, the removal of Spanish flags, the portrait of the king or metal detectors from the city hall has drawn criticism from non-nationalist parties. But Bildu has not acted as HB acted in the cities it governed: ETA apparatchiks no longer tell the politicians what to do, and praises for ETA violence is nowhere to be found. Bildu leaders have appeared at rallies for ETA victims as well, and Bildu has recently called the 1987 bombing of a Barcelona shopping centre an act of barbarism. Bildu’s right to participate or not in Basque democratic life because of its links or lack thereof with Batasuna or ETA remains one of the major issue which polarizes Basque and Spanish politics.

Bildu’s main base is Guipúzcoa, which is the most nationalist and most Basque-speaking province of all Basque territories. Guipúzcoa has traditionally been the stronghold of the violent or non-violent abertzale left such as HB, EH, EA or Aralar. However, as the 2011 elections showed, Bildu has a wide institutional presence throughout Euskadi and northern Navarre.

Bildu has 7 deputies in the Navarre Parliament, 45 councillors in the Basque provincial Juntas Generales and 1,138 councillors. EA has one seat in the Basque Parliament.

The Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) is Galicia’s main nationalist party and the third largest party in Galicia. The BNG is a left-wing party founded in 1982 as a coalition of various Galician nationalist parties ranging from the communist Union of the Galician People (UPG – the largest party within the BNG) to moderate centre-left parties. The BNG has not always been the quasi-unique voice of Galician nationalism – in fact, it only became a major party in the early 1990s. The BNG grew from having absorbed various moderate centre-left parties including part of the Galician Socialist Party (PSG) to complement its original hard-left base around the communist UPG. As it grew, the BNG came under the leadership of the PSG’s Xosé Manuel Beiras, a moderate, whose ‘deradicalization’ of a formerly hard-left borderline separatist party allowed it by 1989 to become the largest force of Galician nationalism ahead of the left-wing PSG-EG (the PSG faction which had refused integration into the BNG in 1983) and the Coalición Galega, a centrist outfit created by former UCD cadres. The BNG’s growth in the 1990s was rapid: it gained its first two seats in Congress in 1996, won a record 24.8% in the 1997 regional elections placing second ahead of the Socialists and won three seats in Congress in 2000. However, in 2003, the more radical UPG wing around Anxo Quintana won the party’s leadership over Beiras’ more moderate wing. Since then, the BNG has suffered electorally: it lost two seats and its sole MEP in 2004, and in 2005 fell from 17 to 13 seats in the regional parliament, though with Manuel Fraga’s PP losing its absolute majority that year, the BNG entered the regional executive as the junior ally to the Socialists. In 2009, the PP regained an absolute majority and the BNG lost one seat, holding 12 in the Galician parliament.

The BNG is an ideologically diverse party rife with organized factions. The BNG is no longer separatist though a sizable minority within the party is separatist. Rather, the BNG promotes the recognition of Galicia as a nation and Galicia’s right to self-determination which means in practice increased devolution. In practice, the more radical discourse of the BNG is moderated by its close institutional cooperation with the Socialists, who inevitably tend to form governing coalitions where the PP does not have an absolute majority.

The BNG’s current leader is Guillerme Vázquez, leader of a faction organized around the communist UPG (which is the largest force within the BNG). Other factions as of the last congress include +BNG around Anxo Quintana (and more moderate factions), the moderate Encontro Irmandiño led by Beiras and a separatist stream around former MEP Camilo Nogueira.

The BNG’s electorate is spread rather homogeneously across Galicia, though it is slightly stronger in the coastal provinces of Pontevedra and A Coruña. The BNG currently governs the city of Pontevedra, with the Socialists as junior allies.

The BNG has 2 deputies, 1 Senators, 12 deputies in the Galician Parliament and 590 local councillors.

The Canarian Coalition (CC) may not play a major role in the wider context of Spanish politics, but it is a mainstay of Canarian politics. The CC is a makeshift coalition of various insular parties (Canarian politics is extremely parochial, or rather insular) founded in 1993 as the successor of the Agrupaciones Independientes de Canarias (AIC), a coalition of local centre-right groupings founded in 1985 largely from local branches of the UCD. The local electoral system encourages the insular parties to form temporary coalitions in order to gain representation. This was one of the impetuses behind the formation of the CC in 1993 from the alliance of the AIC, the left-wing and more nationalist Nationalist Canarian Initiative, the old Canarian Nationalist Party (PNC), a local party from Fuerteventura and the Independent Canarian Centre (CCI), founded by the Canarian wing of the centre-right CDS. In 2005, the CC became a single party but the PNC, CCN and various local parties such as the Lanzarote independents (PIL) remain separate from the CC though may run alongside it at various times. The CC has ruled the archipelago since 1993, more often than not in coalition with the PP though none of these coalitions tend to last their full terms. In 2011, with the PP and CC each winning 21 seats (though the PP won far more votes), the CC’s incumbent president, Paulino Rivero, formed a government with the PSOE. Canarian politics being what they are, it is hard to track the whereabouts of every little grouping, but CC can now be seen as a political party with a solid base but with fledgling makeshift allies. The PNC has been allied to CC since the 2006 dissolution of a rival insular federation of nationalists (with the PIL notably), and the CCN has been allied to the CC since this year after having been allied to the PIL in 2007 and the left-wing Nueva Canarias (NCa) in 2008. The PIL (which seems to be a corrupt shell) was allied with NCa this year.

The CC is most certainly not a separatist party (though early on some ICAN members might have had some separatist inklings). Rather it seeks to gain economic and political concessions from Madrid such as more devolved powers, national recognition and more fiscal autonomy. The CC, alongside all Canarian nationalists, claim these special powers from the Canaries’ geographic isolation from the peninsula and its special needs as an isolated, European, Atlantic archipelago. The Canaries already benefit from a special fiscal system which includes the non-application of tariff barriers among other things. Those critical of the CC often see it as a grubby party of entitled insular barons who put themselves up for sale in Madrid in return for goodies and special advantages. As such, CC is quite different from parties such as the PNV, BNG or CiU which all attach a real national identity and cultural element to their political nationalism. The CC has caught on with the “nations” train a bit but its raison-d’etre remains centered around bread-and-butter issues.

Canarian politics is ridiculously insular, largely because the islands fight amongst one another to each gain their part of the cake. The CC has been impacted by this insularism. Traditionally, the AIC/CC has been based in Tenerife where most of its leaders such as Manuel Hermoso or Paulino Rivero hail from. This has led to much opposition to the alleged Tenerifan domination of the party from the island of Gran Canaria, the eternal rival of Tenerife. In 2005, the more left-wing (ICAN-rooted) sector from Gran Canaria led by former regional president Román Rodríguez split off from the party to form Nueva Canarias (NCa). In 2007, NCa obtained no seats in the regional legislature but entered the regional legislature in May with 3 deputies thanks to an alliance with the PIL. This split has seriously weakened the CC on Gran Canaria, where it won a mere 4% in the 2008 general election (17.6% throughout the region) and 9% in May (against 25% in the region). Yet, the CC retains a strong institutional presence on all other islands, holding the cabildos insulares of all islands save for Gran Canaria (PP) and La Gomera (PSOE).

The CC has 2 deputies, 2 Senators (the only directly elected one it holds is actually from AHI, a non-integrated ally on El Hierro), 21 deputies in the Canarian Parliament and 391 local councillors.

The Navarrese People’s Union (UPN) has historically been the local branch of sorts of the PP in Navarre, but the UPN and PP split ways in 2008. The UPN was founded in 1978 by UCD deputy Jesús Aizpún after the UCD supported the inclusion of transitional disposition four in the constitution – a controversial clause which allows for the union of Navarre and Euskadi through the approval of both legislatures and then by the wider electorate in two successive referendums. In the 1979 Spanish and regional elections, the UPN took 11% and 16% respectively. Its weight grew considerably after the UCD’s demise in 1983, when most of the local UCD integrated the UPN, which became the main opposition to the Socialists in Navarre. The UPN ran in coalition with the AP/PP in all general elections since 1982, but the two parties remained separate regionally until 1991 when the UPN and PP signed a deal whereby the PP in Navarre would dissolve itself into the UPN. The UPN has been the largest party in Navarre since 1989 and has governed continuously in Navarre since 1996. In 2008, the UPN deputies within the PP group in Madrid started making noises for more autonomy and broke ranks with the PP when the UPN abstained on the 2009 finance law instead of voting against. At that point, the UPN and PP parted ways and the PP re-established itself in Navarre. Running separately in 2011, the PP won only 7.3% and 4 seats against the UPN’s 34.5% and 19 seats. The UPN’s Yolanda Barcina, former mayor of Pamplona, governs in coalition with the Socialists. But ahead of the 20-N elections, the UPN patched up with the PP and forgot its coalition with the PSN and opted to run alongside the PP for the general elections like it has done in all general elections since 1982.

The UPN is representative of a unique kind of conservative regionalism (or ‘foralism’) which is dominant in Navarre, the old Carlist stronghold still attached to its foral privileges. Similarly to the Bavarian CSU, the UPN has represented Navarre’s interests while remaining deeply loyal to the Spanish nation. The UPN is also one of the most vocal defenders of Navarre’s status as a separate foral community and lobbies for the removal of transitional disposition four from the constitution. It opposes itself to any common bilateral institution composed of Navarre and Euskadi, an idea which comes up once in a blue moon. The party supports the current 1986 Basque language law, which divides Navarre into a “Basque”, “mixed bilingual” and “Spanish” zone with different educational and administrative linguistic laws for each. However, it has opposed any further extension of the mixed zone and has reduced the use of Basque and removed special advantages given to Basque-speakers for administrative jobs.

The UPN suffered a split in 1995 when the then-UPN president of Navarre since 1991, Juan Cruz Alli, quit the party to found the Convergence of Navarre Democrats (CDN). Alli had been part of one of the party’s most regionalist and centrist factions, which supported the recognition of Navarre as a nation,  a common Basco-Navarrese bilateral institution though it opposed Navarre’s integration into Euskadi. While the UPN can be seen to defend a less ambitious brand of navarrismo, the CDN projected to defend a more ambitious and nationalist brand of navarridad. The CDN peaked at 18.6% in 1995 and ruled in coalition with the Socialists and EA for one year (until the Socialist president got canned in 1995 and replaced by the UPN’s Miguel Sanz). The CDN participated in government as the UPN’s junior ally between 2003 and 2009, and lost all seats in Parliament this year and dissolved shortly thereafter.

The UPN is strong in the Spanish-speaking low-lying ribera region of southern Navarre and the pre-Pyrennean foothills in the mixed bilingual (but largely Spanish-speaking) zone around Pamplona.

The UPN has 2 deputies, 2 Senators, 19 deputies in the Navarre Parliament and 322 local councillors.

Nafarroa Bai (NaBai) was the main Basque nationalist coalition in Navarre, composed until October 2011 of Aralar, the PNV and various independents. NaBai was founded in 2003 with the expressed goal of representing the Basque population of Navarre, which accounts for roughly 15-20% of Navarre. Up until that point, with the exception of 1986, the Basque nationalist option had weighed nearly 20% overall but the dispersion of the Basque nationalist vote between HB (the main Basque nationalist party in Navarre), PNV, EA and initially EE had left that segment of the population without representation. At the outset, the coalition was composed of all Basque nationalist forces: Aralar, EA, PNV, Batzarre and independents. Aralar is an abertzale party which was founded by former Navarrese HB deputy Patxi Zabaleta, the leader of the anti-terrorist political ‘critical’ stream within HB which finally left the MLNV’s political arm in 2001 following the end of the truce. The PNV in Navarre had since the mid-1980s turned into a pathetic rump worth 0.5-2% of the vote, in part due to the EA split and the PNV’s support for a right-wing president in Navarre. EA had become the leading ‘democratic’ nationalist force in Navarre (HB remained the largest party), with roughly 5-7% support. Batzarre, the Navarrese wing of Zutik, was founded in 1987 by a merger of the EMK and LKI – two far-left parties who were the descendants of ETA Berri (1966 split) and ETA-VI (1970 split). Batzarre has always oscillated between a more socialist strategy or a more nationalist strategy. In 2003, it chose the latter.

NaBai won 18.3% and one seat in the 2004 Spanish elections, a seat which it held in 2008 with 18.7% of the vote. In the 2007 regional elections, NaBai emerged as the second party in the Navarrese Parliament behind the UPN with 23.6% and could have theoretically led a left-wing majority with the Socialists and IU, but the offer was rejected by the Socialists.

In 2011, Batasuna offered an electoral pact with NaBai, which was rebuffed by Aralar and the PNV. However, EA had already accepted a deal with the illegal abertzale left and was excluded from NaBai, and ran as part of Bildu in the Navarrese elections. Batzarre had left the party in 2010, citing a “nationalist derive” and allied itself with the Navarrese IU in the 2011 elections. NaBai won 15.4% in 2011, losing four seats, while Bildu won 13.3% and 7 seats. Aralar’s decision to ally itself with Bildu within the new Amaiur coalition for the 20-N elections has meant the death, more or less, of NaBai. Only the PNV and the independents remain from the original nationalist alliance, and both of these factions under the leadership of NaBai’s deputy in Congress, Uxue Barkos, have opted to create a new coalition for the 20-N election: Geroa Bai (Future Yes or Yes to the Future).

NaBai’s goal was the political representation of the two in ten Navarrese who identify as Basques. Their objective would be the integration of Navarre within Euskadi through democratic means. In the meantime, NaBai opposed the 1986 Basque language law and lobbies for the extension of full Spanish-Basque bilingualism throughout Navarre. Basque nationalism’s base in the province has been mountainous Basque-speaking north.

NaBai has 1 deputy (Uxue Barkos, independent), 8 deputies in the Navarre Parliament (5 Aralar, 2 independents, 1 PNV) and 70 local councillors.

Other regionalist or nationalist movements

Aragonese nationalism is divided into two parties: the older, centre-right Aragonese Party (PAR) and the newer, more radical and left-wing Chunta Aragonesista (CHA). The PAR was founded in 1978 by Hipólito Gómez de las Roces, a former Francoist public servant and apparatchik, largely with the intent goal of opposing water transfers from Aragon to Catalonia and fighting for Aragon’s sidelined economic interests against the wealthier interests of neighboring Navarre and especially Catalonia. The initial PAR, founded as the ‘Aragonese Regionalist Party’ (a name it kept until 1990) was nothing close to a nationalist party: it was a regional party lobbying for regional interests, all while remaining attached to the Spanish nation and the constitution. In fact, the PAR ran in coalition with AP/PP in both the 1982 and 1996 general elections. The PAR found itself a more nationalist orientation in the 1990s, taking the “nations” train and achieving the recognition of Aragon as a nation in 1996. The PAR is not separatist but wants Aragon, in the name of “historic rights” to obtain fiscal autonomy. The PAR under de las Roces and later Emilio Eiroa governed Aragon between 1987 and 1993, and participated in a PP government between 1995 and 1999 as a junior partner but allied with the PSOE between 1999 and 2011 before voting in favour of the PP candidate in 2011. Its regional weight has declined considerably from 15-25% to 5% (2008 elections)-9% (2011 elections). It has 7 regional parliamentarians and 992 local councillors.

The CHA was founded in 1986 and emerged as a major party in the 1990s and early 2000s, an era during which the CHA won up to 14% of the vote and won one seat in Congress in 2000 and 2004. The CHA is far more nationalist than the PAR, though the current leadership of the party is not separatist. The CHA demands increased autonomy, increased state investment in Aragon, a euro-region composed of the old provinces of the broader Kingdom of Aragon, and the recognition of the Aragonese and Catalan languages in Aragon. It also strongly opposes, like the PAR, water transfers and the PHN.  The CHA overtook the PAR in 2003, when it won 13.7% of the vote against the PAR’s 11%, but since then the PAR has struggled thanks to internal divisions (notably between moderates and nationalist/separatists). Between 2000 and 2008, the CHA had one seat in Congress held by popular Aragonese folk singer José Antonio Labordeta, but following Labordeta’s retirement of sorts in 2008, it lost that seat and won a paltry 5%. The CHA has never participated in regional government, but it currently props up the PSOE municipal government in Zaragoza (where it participated in government between 2003 and 2007). It has 4 regional parliamentarians and 184 local councillors.

Andalusian nationalism is going through tough times and is severely weakened these days. The main voice of Andalusian nationalism is the Andalucist Party (PA) which was founded in 1976 and dominated for a long time by Alejandro Rojas-Marcos. The left-wing PA, in addition to promoting Andalusian nationalism (such as the recognition of an “Andalusian nation”) defends a federalist egalitarian vision of Spain, with the aim of giving Andalusia the same advantages as the wealthier communities of Catalonia and Euskadi. The PA emerged in the 1979 elections with 5 seats and 11% of the vote in Andalusia, in the midst of the debate over Andalusian autonomy. The PA found its further growth impeded in 1980 when, after the failure of the 1980 referendum on Article 151 autonomy over the situation in Almería, the PA struck a deal with the UCD whereby Andalusia would receive full autonomy but through the liberal interpretation of Article 144. The PSOE used the opportunity to fight for Article 151-or-nothing and successfully present the PA as traitors. In 1982, the PA won only 2%. It regained representation for one term in 1989 and 2000 and was represented in the Andalusian Parliament with up to 10 seats between 1982 and 2008. It also governed the city of Seville between 1979 and 1983 (a left-wing coalition) and between 1991 and 1995 with Rojas-Marcos through a deal with the PP (it later supported a PP government in the city between 1995 and 1999, all while propping up Manuel Chaves’ regional PSOE government). Weakened by internal divisions and poor leadership, the PA has been in a major trough since 2004. It polled only 1.5% (even alongside smaller regionalist allies) in 2008 and in the regional elections that same day the PA lost all seats and won only 2.7%. It remains strong locally (5.6% in the 2011 locals), but even there it is weakening. The PA in coalition with smaller outfits has 470 local councillors.

Valencian nationalism is a funny beast in that it is characterized far more by its visceral opposition to Catalan nationalism than to the Spanish state. That has changed somewhat in recent years, as the major Valencian nationalist force is the Coalició Compromís (CC) which is an alliance of moderate centre-left parties led by the Valencian Nationalist Bloc (BNV or BLOC). Historically, however, the main force of Valencian nationalism was the right-wing Valencian Union (UV), founded in 1982 and led for most of its existence by Vicente González Lizondo. The UV was the representative of the most right-wing current of Valencian nationalism, blaverism, which is viscerally anti-Catalan promoting a separate Valencian language, identity and nationality. Blaverists accuse the small minority of pan-Catalanists in Valencia of being Catalan imperialists, while Catalanists accuse blaverists of being Spanish nationalists under a different label. The UV’s alliance with the PP in Valencia post-1995 led to its rapid decline, as did the expulsion and subsequent death of González Lizondo. The current BNV and CC, however, is far more moderate, seeking a “third way” between pan-Catalanists and blaverists. The BNV is more stridently nationalist, demanding a Valencian constitution and full autonomy instead of what they judge to be second-rate autonomy. It also strikes a more moderate line when it comes to Catalonia, favouring eventually some sort of union with Catalonia and the Balearics, and recognizing the Valencian language’s common roots with Catalan all the while upholding its differences. With the death of the UV in the late 90s-early 2000s, the BNV slowly emerged from the ditch, with 4.5% in 1999, 4.7% in 2003 and then a coalition with the IU (EU in Valencia) which gave it two seats in 2007. In 2011, CC, running separately from the EU, won 7.2% and 6 seats – a resounding success for third-way Valencianism. Part of the CC’s success comes from its virulently anti-corruption rhetoric, which is especially important in Valencia with the Gürtel case. The CC has 6 regional deputies and 345 local councillors.

Profiles of Spain’s Autonomous Communities

Spain is an estado de las autonomías, a state of autonomies. It is composed of seventeen autonomous communities and two autonomous cities. The creation of the estado de las autonomías is described above in the history section, while the precedent section on Spanish political parties describes the main political forces within each community be they the national parties or specific regional parties. The specific profiles for each autonomous community below deals with their basic recent history, their socio-economic makeup, their regional identities and issues and finally their political makeup. Population data are from INE’s January 1 2011 estimates.

Andalusia is Spain’s second largest and most populous community, and the land of national stereotypes for foreigners: flamenco, bullfighting, sunny beaches and Moorish architecture. Andalusia has a population of 8,415,490 (INE 2011). The capital of Andalusia is Seville and the community is composed of the provinces of Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Sevilla.

Andalusia is defined by its long history of Muslim domination, it was of course the last part of Spain to be conquered by the Catholic forces of Castile and Aragon in 1492 with the fall of Granada. The latter part of the Reconquista was mostly carried out by nobles, knights and ecclesiastical orders rather than by the crown and peasants as the first part of the reconquista had been. Therefore, upon conquest, the Castilian crown granted large – huge – swathes of land to individuals or hierarchic orders. The roots of the latifundios, and by consequence Andalusia’s under-development and perpetual poverty were laid. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Andalusian countryside was thus marked by latifundios, ruled by a local cacique who employed huge numbers of landless seasonal labourers. The cacique was the main source of authority and the go-to man for jobs, paperwork and loans. The rural inequality of Andalusia in the late nineteenth century led to the rapid growth of socialism and especially anarchism in rural Andalusia, two movements which transformed Andalusia into the main battleground of class warfare in Spain, with the landless labourers opposed to the rural gentry (señoritos) and the caciques.

Agriculture remains important in Andalusia, which is less industrialized than the rest of Spain. The main crops are olives south of the Guadalquivir, largely in the province of Jaén; cereals and sunflowers in the Guadalquivir valley (Seville province principally) and the very lucrative artificial cultivation of strawberries under greenhouses largely in Almería but also Huelva. Mining is of secondary importance, with declining profits from copper along the Rio Tinto in Huelva and lead around Granada. Andalusian industry remains weak, and largely dominated by increasingly unprofitable first transformation of raw agricultural or material minerals. These sectors face increasing competition from North Africa or Turkey. Finally, tourism has become a major bread-winner in Andalusia, the second most popular destination for tourists after Catalonia, primarily along the Mediterranean coast (Costa del Sol) which in recent years has been a curse of sorts for Andalusia, which found itself with a bubbling construction sector which burst during the crisis.

The “agrarian question” has long been a key political and social issue in Andalusia, which is the dictionary definition for agrarian inequalities. For most of the early twentieth century, Andalusian latifundios were hardly lucrative and they remained led with an iron hand by the caciques, who did what they pleased when they pleased. They brought in labourers from outside the town, or allowed vast parcels of land to go uncultivated. This was also an era of eruptive social conflict, which contributed to the 1936 outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. However, Andalusian property became quite productive in the 1960s as they slowly took the path of mechanization which increased productivity considerably while freeing a lot of hands – hands which could soon be re-employed in the booming construction sector with the growth of coastal tourism in Andalusia in the 1960s. Thus, when the Socialists came to power in Seville in 1981 and then in Madrid in 1982, instead of launching an ambitious land reform which would have divided land between landless labourers or cooperatives, the government continued to encourage the policy of mechanization and modernization. In return, the Socialist government set up a system of agrarian unemployment subsidy to sustain social stability and their political powers despite high unemployment. This agrarian unemployment subsidy, reformed countless time and benefiting an ever decreasing number of labourers in Andalusia and Extremadura, basically offers seasonal labourers a minimum pension six months per year on condition of having paid in to the system by working for 35 days in the previous years and, since 2002, having received it for three years prior. Though only 145,400 people receive it now, it has been an important clientelistic tool in maintaining Socialist domination in Andalusia.

Andalusia remains a poor region. It has the second-lowest GDP per capita of all Spanish regions at €17,405 – far behind the €27-30,000 of Euskadi, Madrid, Navarre and Catalonia. Andalusia has an unemployment rate of 30.93%, the second highest in Spain.

Andalusian nationalism/regionalism is surprisingly strong for a region which has no regional language of its own or a brilliant past as a united, cohesive kingdom. Andalusian nationalism, or perhaps more accurately particularism, is rooted in both cultural nationalism from the Romantic era and social nationalism which attacked social inequalities and was rooted in the pre-Marxist Spanish left’s deep distrust of the state. The Andalusian writer and philosopher Blas Infante, since recognized as the “father of the Andalusian nation”, synthesized both these streams into one through his seminal work El ideal andaluz (1911). Infante’s goal was to promote the economic development of Andalusia to spearhead the success of Andalusia and the whole of Spain. During the Second Republic, Infante was unsuccessful in his goal to draft a statute of autonomy for Andalusia due to a lack of enthusiasm, internal divisions and later the military coup of July 1936 – Infante himself was killed by far-right thugs in August 1936. During the transition, Andalusian regionalism took a more left-wing shade, based on the idea that Spain had a “debt” towards Andalusia. Upholders of this perspective blamed Andalusia’s chronic poverty and underdevelopment on its peripheral role in the Spanish economic model, where the affluent centre (Euskadi, Catalonia, Madrid) concentrated the wealth and industry while relegating the periphery (the south) to a secondary role (agriculture, small industry) or a source of workers for the centre. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Andalusian regionalists are strongly in favour of an harmonized federal state where Euskadi and Catalonia would not benefit from any preferential treatment, but rather be equals with regions such as Andalusia. Furthermore, it is hardly surprising that Andalusian Socialists (Alfonso Guerra, Manuel Chaves) are known for their strong opposition to peripheral nationalism and the autonomist inklings of the Catalan and Basque Socialists. They fear for Andalusia’s economic interests in an unequal system where Catalonia and Euskadi would benefit from increased autonomy or special bilateral links with the central government.

Andalusia is a Socialist stronghold and one of the key elements in the PSOE’s coalition. Andalusia has voted Socialist in all general elections since 1977 and has voted Socialist in all but two elections of any kind since then (the 1979 and 2011 local elections). In 2008, the PSOE won 52.5% against 38.6% for the PP and 5.2% for IU. The Andalusian regional government has been held since its creation in 1982 by the PSOE, though the PSOE fell to a minority position in the 1994, 1996 and 2000 elections. Manuel Chaves, one of the prominent ‘barons’ of the party, governed the region between 1990 and 2009. Though Andalusia is a very diverse region, the PSOE’s implantation is remarkably homogeneous, though it is slightly weaker in provincial capitals (as of 2011, all are governed by the PP), in the province of Almería and coastal areas (Costa del Sol) in Málaga. Almería, the most isolated of the eight provinces, has always stood somewhat at odds from the rest of Andalusia, as shown in the 1980 referendum. The PP is very strong along the Almerian coast, especially around El Ejido but also further east around the Campo de Níjar region. One would inevitably think that it is because of wealthy old retiree types as it is around Marbella and Málaga, but it is rather because of the region’s unique agriculture. The Almerian coast is in fact home to a vast sea of greenhouses (visible from Google Earth satelite images), where fruits are grown thanks to an ingenious artificial technique involving blowing the surface out, bringing soil, building a short wall around the patch, covering it (to create a greenhouse-like environment), digging a tunnel for irrigation, laying manure over it (primarily for heat) and then a bunch of sand. The owners of these greenhouses are largely wealthy entrepreneurial smallholders. Notably, this technique requires much hand labour, provided by North African immigrants. The presence of a large immigrant community around El Ejido is not without its problems: there were racial riots in 2000 in El Ejido, which were condoned by the then-PP mayor.

Aragon, which takes its name from the glorious Kingdom of Aragon, is Spain’s fourth-largest autonomous community by size. The population of Aragon is 1,345,132 (INE 2011). The capital of Aragon is Zaragoza (Saragossa in English) and the community is composed of the provinces of Huesca, Teruel and Zaragoza.

Landlocked Aragon, enclaved between Catalonia and Navarre and with poor communication links over the Pyrénées, takes in the original core of the Kingdom of Aragon, created in 1035 by Ramiro I. The Aragonese crown, however, expanded beyond its original base into Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearics and parts of modern-day Italy. These realms were monarchies in personal union with the crown of Aragon, but Barcelona and Valencia quickly eclipsed Aragon. The lethargic kingdom tied its fate to that of the more powerful booming Castile with the 1469 marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon with Isabella of Castile. Aragon’s fueros were abolished with little opposition in 1707 when the Aragonese crown merged with the Castilian crown to create modern Spain.

Aragon has moved from a traditionally agricultural economy, with its share of large latifundios, to a prosperous industry and service-driven economy which places the region’s GDP per capita – €24,886 – above the Spanish and EU average. The Opel plant in Zaragoza employs over 8,700 employees making it one of Aragon’s major breadwinners along with manufacturing of appliances, low-scale mining of iron ore, hydroelectric production, electronics and chemicals. Unemployment is 16.16%.

Aragon is divided into two parts by the wide Ebro river, which flows through the province of Zaragoza. The Ebro and water in general are key issues in Aragonese economic and political life, especially in the wake of debate over water transfers from Aragon to Barcelona. Water is a main source of wealth and affluence for Aragon (especially in dry Teruel province), whose agricultural sector and a good part of its industrial sector by consequence is dependent on irrigation. Thus the strong opposition of Aragonese to the planned transfer of water to Barcelona. Water is a major political issue, and was the driving force behind the creation of Aragon’s largest regionalist party and former governing party, the PAR. The question of transferring water to Catalonia also opened up an old rivalry between languishing Aragon and economic motor Catalonia, with Aragon feeling unjustly sidelined by economic development which is trained by Catalonia and Navarre, the later of which uses its fiscal autonomy to attract investment with favourable fiscal policies.

The only official language in Aragon is Spanish, which is indeed the mother tongue for a vast majority of the population especially outside the province of Huesca. A 2009 linguistic law approved by the PSOE and CHA defined Catalan and Aragonese as “local, original and historical languages” though without giving them co-official status alongside Spanish. Aragonese is spoken by 10-30,000 in northern Huesca in the Pyrenean foothills. Catalan is spoken in a thin vertical strip along the Catalan border known as La Franja, which has a population of between 4,400 to 5,000 depending on your definition of the region’s boundary. The law was opposed by the PP and PAR because of its recognition of Catalan, and might be in jeopardy under the current PP government.

Aragon is a traditionally Socialist community, having voted for the PP only in the 1996 and 2000 general elections. Water policy – the PSOE being opposed since 2004 to any water transfers – might explain to an extent the strength of the PSOE over the PP in Aragon. In 2008, the PSOE won 47% of the vote to the PP’s 37.5%, the PAR’s 5.3% and CHA’s 5%. The PSOE polls traditionally better in the provinces of Huesca and Zaragoza, while the PP usually performs best in the southernmost province, Teruel, where it won 40% in 2008.

The Socialists are not as dominant in regional elections: it has formed government intermittently between 1983 and 1987, 1993 and 1995, 1999 and 2011. Between 1987 and 1991, the PAR, as the second strongest party, installed its founder Hipólito Gómez de las Roces in the presidency with AP and CDS support, and was replaced by the PAR’s Emilio Eiroa. However, in 1993, a PP defector alongside IU gave the presidency to the PSOE after a no-confidence vote. In 1995, the PP, benefiting from a national swing and internal Socialist divisions, won a strong mandate and initially ruled with the PAR’s support. In 1999, however, though the PP remained the largest party, the PAR’s support gave the presidency to Marcelino Iglesias (PSOE). Upon his retirement this year, the PP’s Luisa Fernanda Rudi won – but with a minority mandate – forcing her to seek the PAR’s support to govern.

The Principality of Asturias is a small region, but it has played a significant role in Spanish history and politics which is somewhat unexpected for such a small region on Spain’s rather isolated northern coast. The population of Asturias is 1,081,348 (INE 2011). The capital of Asturias is Oviedo but the largest city is Gijón. The Principality of Asturias is a uniprovincial region, composed solely of the province of Asturias, known as the province of Oviedo until 1983.

The region takes its name from the larger-than-life Kingdom of Asturias, a Visigothic Christian kingdom which emerged in northern Spain in 718 as the first Christian kingdom following the Muslim conquest of the old Visigothic monarchy. The defeat of the Muslim forces by the Asturian monarch Pelayo at the battle of Covadonga in 722 has a mythical place in Spanish history (and political rhetoric) as the turning point and the beginning of the Reconquista. It is because of this history that the region takes the name of ‘Principality of Asturias’, with the Prince of Asturias being the heir to the Spanish throne.

Beyond the mythic existence of the kingdom of Asturias, the region’s prominent place in Spanish history and economics since the nineteenth century comes from its mineral wealth. The region is home to the bulk of Spain’s coal deposits and much of Spain’s steel industry. The discovery of coal in the 1830s transformed the poor rural region into one of the key players in Spain’s industrial economy, alongside the equally isolated regions of Euskadi, Catalonia and Madrid. In 1857, the province of Oviedo was Spain’s fourth most populated province, even more populated than Madrid. The coal mining industry also led to a strong organized union movement led largely by the Socialist UGT. Asturias emerged as a hotbed of revolutionary contestation as early as the first decade of the twentieth century, with the election of a PSOE MP in 1918. It was also in Asturias that the seeds of the Spanish Civil War were first sown with the October Revolution of 1934, in which the region was the only part of Spain where the PSOE-led strike wave succeeded and proceeded to turn into a violent revolution crushed brutally by the Moorish mercenaries of Franco and Yaguë. It was also in Asturias, in 1962-1963 that the Francoist state was shaken by its first strikes which prompted the nationalization of mines by Franco in 1967.

Industry accounts for only 14% of the region’s GDP, with the service sector, like in the rest of Spain, eating up the bulk of jobs in the region: 73%. The Asturian mining sector has declined in importance rather considerably in recent years, with the usual waves of mine closures and early retirements for miners. However, a fair number of mines remain in importance though their economic weight is increasingly minimal. The steel industry, once upon a time one of Asturias’ main industries alongside coal, is also in decline. As a result, Asturias’ GDP per capita of €21,882 places it in tenth place and below the Spanish average. Only decades ago, the mining and steel industry had made Asturias one of Spain’s most affluent provinces. However, the unemployment rate, 17.17%, is below the national average.

Only Spanish has official status in Asturias, though up to 10% of the population speak the Asturian/bable language as their mother tongue and upwards of 60% of the Asturian population can understand Asturian/bable, a language which is quite close to Spanish albeit not a dialect of Spanish. The use of Asturian/bable is in decline, despite the recognition and legal ‘protection and encouragement’ it is awarded as a “historic language” of the region.

The co-officiality of Asturian/bable alongside Spanish is one of the main demands of the Asturian nationalist movement, which also demands the recognition of Asturias as a nation and increased devolution of powers. Though there is a rather strong regional identity in Asturias, the Asturian nationalist movement is weak and extremely divided between radicals and moderates, left and right. The centre-right Asturianist Party (PAS) won up to 3.2% and one seat in its heydays, but it has declined since. A more left-wing option, the Bloque por Asturies and UNA won 1% of the vote in 2011. The Bloque had ran alongside the IU in 2007.

Asturias is traditionally a Socialist stronghold, thanks to the historic implantation of the UGT and PSOE within the Asturian mining industry. Asturias voted PP only in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 general elections though in recent years both parties have been within a few percentage points of each others. In 2008, the PSOE won 47.5% against 42.1% for the PP and 7.3% for IU. Mining communities are traditionally very left-wing, as is the working-class city of Gijón – governed by the PSOE between 1979 and 2011 – and the steelworking harbour town of Avilés. However, the inland regional capital, Oviedo, is an old bourgeois enclave in proletarian central Asturias. It had revolted against the republic in July 1936 when the rest of the region had remained republican. It has been held by the PP since 1991. The PCE and nowadays IU have traditionally had a strong base alongside the PSOE in the mining milieu, polling 10% on average and peaking at 16% in 1995. The PCE/IU returned one MP between 1977 and 2004, and despite losing its seat that year its vote held up well in 2008. It still holds a few town halls in the mining country.

The PSOE has held the regional government since 1983 with two interruptions: the PP ruled between 1995 and 1999 and the FAC, a new party, rules since 2011. The PP’s Sergio Marqués took the reigns in 1995 after the PP emerged as the largest party. However, he soon fell on bad terms with his party in Madrid and split from the PP to create the regionalistic URAS, whose 7% and 3 seats in the 1999 was a poor result but allowed the PSOE’s Vicente Álvarez Areces to take control until 2011, though the PSOE was barely ahead of the PP in both 2003 and 2007 and needed to count on IU. In 2011, the Asturian elections were noted for the emergence of the Asturian Forum (FAC), a right-wing personalist outfit founded by former Vice-President of the Spanish government Francisco Álvarez-Cascos. Álvarez-Cascos, who always complains that nobody likes him, was one of the most anti-Rajoy conservative members of the PP and was denied the PP’s nomination in 2011 when he came out of political retirement. His party, the FAC, went on to take 29.7% of the vote (barely behind a severely mauled PSOE – 29.9%) all while the PP collapsed to 19.9%. Álvarez-Cascos won the regional presidency with the abstention of all other parties.

The Balearic Islands are well known to foreign tourists, with the names of Ibiza or Majorca evoking pleasant sunny beaches. The Balearic Islands are an archipelago in the western Mediterranean, off the Catalan coast. The population of the Balearic Islands is 1,112,712 (INE 2011). The capital of the Balearic Islands is Palma de Mallorca and it is a uniprovincial region composed solely of the province of the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears). The four main islands in the Balearics, which have local insular councils and serve as constituencies for the regional legislature and Senate are Majorca (Mallorca), Minorca (Menorca), Ibiza (Eivissa) and Formentera.

The islands were conquered by Aragon in 1239 and soon fell under the influence of the Aragonese crown and within the Catalan sphere of influence. Catalan remains, alongside Spanish, the official language of the islands. In the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, Britain received control of the island of Minorca, which spent most of the next ninety or so years under the control of Britain who returned it to Spain in 1802. The islands remained poor for the bulk of the early twentieth century, largely because of the unsuitability of the dry islands for much agriculture. It was thus a land of emigration and declining population until the 1960s. The growth in tourism starting in the 1960s completely changed the islands and turned the books around: it became a top tourist destination for European (largely German or British) visitors, tourism became a lucrative industry, the population grew rapidly and the Balearics became one of Spain’s wealthiest regions. The tourism boom and its effect on parallel industries has also led to much immigration: at 21.9%, it has the highest foreign population of all regions. Over half of foreigners in the Balearics are from the EU, and most of them are from western Europe. Germans accounts for 15% of the total foreign population, the British for 9.7%.

The tourism boom of the 1960s, which touched pretty much all four islands, destroyed what remained of agriculture on the islands. Today, the service  industry accounts for 82% of the region’s GDP, well above the national average. The tourism industry, which also led to the growth of construction and of a local housing bubble, has been very lucrative for a region which – it is hard to believe – used to be one of the “have not” regions until the 1960s. Its 2010 GDP per caspita of €24,672 places it in seventh but ahead of the EU and national average. However, the housing bubble and whatnot being what it was here, the islands now have a high unemployment rate of 17.81%.

An insular form of Catalan, known as Balearic, is co-official alongside Spanish since 1983. Catalan language and literature is a mandatory subject in schools and is given the same weight as Spanish, though Spanish remains the main language of instruction otherwise and the bulk of business remains done in Spanish. According to official statistics, 45.9% of the population claims Spanish as their mother tongue compared to 36.1% for Catalan (that number is over 50% in Minorca and Formentera, and weaker in Majorca and Ibiza). 11.9% speak another language as their mother tongue. The successive regional governments, most of them right-wing, have been rather tame and cool on the linguistic question. More left-wing administrations have been more aggressive on the linguistic issue, largely due to the influence of nationalist parties on them.

Balearic nationalism is divided, but not violently as in Valencia, between insular regionalism and tamed pancatalanism. Regionalists, most of them centrist or right-wing, talk in more local insular terms about the Balearic Islands and its particular status as an island region. Pancatalan nationalists, more left-wing and radical, talk in terms of the liberation of the Balearic Islands within the broader Catalan Countries (the pancatalanist entity extending from the Murcian border to Perpignan). The main regionalist force has been the now-dissolved Unió Mallorquina (Majorcan Union, UM), a centre-right liberal party oscillating between PP and PSOE. The largest nationalist force is the Socialist Party of Majorca (PSM), which is part of a larger alliance, the PSM-EN, which includes other parties from Minorca and whereabouts.

The Balearic Islands are a very right-wing region: the AP/PP has been the largest party in the vast majority of elections, while the PSOE emerged on top only five times overall and only once since the collapse of the centrist vote in the late 1980s. The PP has been the largest party in all general elections between 1989 and 2008, when Zapatero’s PSOE won a shocking victory: the PSOE won 44.8% to the PP’s 44.5% and 5.4% for the nationalist coalition (PSM-EN-UM). Most of the picked-up votes came from a decline in nationalist votes to the PSOE’s benefit, and the Socialists might have benefited from a perfect storm: the PP administration of the islands between 2003 and 2007 was embroiled in a major corruption scandal which touched the PP’s boss Jaume Matas himself. The main island of Majorca, which is by far the largest island, is traditionally right-wing. Minorca and Formentera are slightly more left-wing.

In the regional Parliament, the islands are the constituencies and the threshold is 5% on each island (or, on Formentera, FPTP). Voters on the left tend to vote more for nationalist parties for the regional legislature than for the Cortes, a trend which is common throughout Spain. Therefore, the AP/PP has been the largest party in all elections since 1982 and its vote has remained perfectly stable within a 44-47% range since 1991. The PSOE, conversely, has not polled over 30% since 1995. Between 1995 and 2011, the UM’s vote ranged between 5% and 7.5%, while the left-nationalist vote has ranged since 1995 between a high of 12% in the 90s and 8-9% in recent years. The AP/PP held the regional presidency between 1982 and 1999, with the UM’s support when needed or alone with an absolute majority (30 seats out of 59) as in 1991 and 1995. In 1999, however, with the PP falling below 30 seats (28), a left-wing alliance of the PSOE (19), PSM-EN (5), UM (3) and EU/IU (4) led by the PSOE’s Francesc Antich took power. In 2003, with 30 seats, the PP’s Jaume Matas (a crook) regained power. Which he lost in 2007, falling to a PSOE (20)-PSM-EN/EU Bloc (7)-UM (3) coalition, again led by Antich. The government was not all that unpopular, but it lost in 2011 because of both the national climate and the collapse of UM (rebranded as CxI) into corruption and oblivion. The PP barely increased its vote share but won 35 seats against 19 for the PSOE and 5 for the nationalists. The CxI collapsed into deep oblivion with 2.8% of the vote. The PP’s José Ramón Bauzà is the current President.

The Canary Islands lay over a thousand kilometres south of the Spanish coast and less than a hundred kilometres from the African coast, yet they are an integral part of Spain since the fifteenth century. The Canaries are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara. The Canaries, along with Cape Verde, Madeira and the Azores form part of what is called ‘Macaronesia’. The population of the Canary Islands is 2,125,256 (INE 2011). The capitals of the Canary Islands are Las Palmas and Santa Cruz and the community is composed of the provinces of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife includes the island of Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma. The province of Las Palma de Gran Canaria include the islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote (the island of La Graciosa is also inhabited, it belongs to Lanzarote). There are no provincial governments, instead each island has a directly elected insular council (cabildo insular) with devolved powers.

The Canary Islands were inhabited until the Castilian conquest by the Guanche civilization, which were thought to be related to the Berber people of North Africa. The islands were conquered by Castile despite major local resistance over the course of the fifteenth century between 1402 and 1496, first by Castilian nobles and vassals and later by the crown itself. Under Castilian rule, the islands drew advantage from their strategic location as a stopping point for peninsular traders and explorers on route to the Americas. The island’s place in the Spanish American empire, coupled with the poverty of the islands, led to major emigration by islands to the Americas, notably Louisiana. For most of the island’s history, its economy was dominated by a single cash-crop: first sugarcane and then bananas introduced by the British.

Tourism and construction are the main employers in the Canary Islands, which receives over 12 million visitors a year. Agriculture and industry play only a minor role in the insular economy, most agriculture being tropical agriculture and industry being dominated by a large oil refinery in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. However, unlike in the Balearic Islands, tourism has not had a positive impact on the incomes of islanders. Low paying jobs in the tourism industry, combined with the feebleness of the construction sector have made the islands rather deprived. The Canaries have a GDP per capita of €19,746 which places it in thirteenth place, below both the EU and Spanish average. The collapse of the construction industry, which now accounts for only 6% of the GDP, has resulted in a 29.55% unemployment rate in the islands, one of the highest in Spain.

The islands benefit from a special fiscal system within Spain and the EU, due to their geographic isolation from the continent. Most notably, the islands lay outside the regular EU customs zone, benefit from a special economic zone and are not covered by the VAT, replaced on the islands by a local tax (IGIC). Canarian politicians are often in agreement around the recognition of the island’s specific economic interests because of their geographic isolation and feel entitled to special fiscal advantages and demand increased investment on the islands by Madrid.

The Canaries have long spoken Spanish, though of a slightly different genre which shows the external influences on the islands: Guanche, Portuguese, English and American Spanish. On the island of La Gomera, an ancient “whistled language”, Silbo, now whistled to Spanish, still exists to this day.

Canarian regionalism or nationalism is by far and large preoccupied with economic issues and drawing economic concessions and various goodies out from the central government. The main Canarian regionalist party, the Canarian Coalition (CC) has adopted a ‘nationalist’ element but it remains largely concerned with gaining more powers, economic and fiscal concessions and recognition of a special status for the Canaries as an isolated archipelago. The separatist movement has always been weak in the islands but is not non-existent. Those who were separatist in the past have often moved towards nationalism, notably the old Canarian Nationalist Party (PNC), a formerly separatist party now linked to the CC. The most famous representative of Canarian separatism is Antonio Cubillo, who in 1964 founded the Movement for the Auto-determination and Independence of the Canarian Archipelago (MPAIAC). The Algerian-based MPAIAC’s military wing, the FAG (unfortunate abbreviation), carried out a string of low-intensity attacks killing a handful of people in the last years of Franco’s regime and the early transition years. In March 1977, an MPAIAC bomb at Las Palmas airport and a second bomb threat forced authorities to re-route all planes to Tenerife’s Las Rodeos airport, the chaos of which led to the deadliest air crash: a KLM and a PanAm plane collided killing 583 people. Cubillo and the MPAIAC renounced violence following the statute of autonomy, but their political incarnations never achieved any success. Cubillo and the MPAIAC called on islanders to return to their Guanche ‘Berber roots’, an idea which never found much support.

The politics of the Canary Islands are extremely insular. Politics are marked by rivalries and petty fights between islands, the most famous of which is the so-called “Canarian question” which opposes the two largest islands, Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Santa Cruz de Tenerife was the sole capital until 1927 (when the Canaries were split into two provinces), while Las Palmas was the largest city and always the rival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The statute of autonomy resolved the issue by making both cities capitals, though the rivalry between Tenerife and Gran Canaria is one of the most salient aspects of Canarian politics. Political parties and their base, by consequence, are very insular. La Gomera is a Socialist stronghold if only because of the local baron, Senator and local council president Casimiro Curbelo, whose recently got himself noticed for allegedly assaulting a police officer. Each island has or had its own local regionalist party, the CC itself being a coalition of various insular independents now united under a single banner. Yet, independent regional parties subsist in Lanzarote (the PIL and PNL), El Hierro (AHI, which holds one seat in the Senate), Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. The CC itself is a primarily Tenerife-based party, its leader Paulino Rivero and founder Manuel Hermoso both being from that island. The 2006 split in CC was partly about that Tenerifan domination, the splitoff (NCa) being a largely Gran Canarian party.

In 2008, the PSOE won 39.86% against 35.26% for the PP, 17.62% for CC and 3.84% for NCa-CCN. This was the first time that the PP had not come out on top of a general election in the islands since the 1989 election. The PSOE’s gains came primarily at the CC’s expense, which suffered a lot in Gran Canaria from the NCa split. La Gomera is a reliable PSOE stronghold with results for the party above 50% in good years. Tenerife voted PSOE in 2008 but is traditionally the CC’s home base. Gran Canaria nowadays swings between the PP and PSOE, with NCa rather than CC being the main nationalist force (14% in 2011 vs. 9.2% for CC).

In the regional parliament, each island is entitled to a certain number of seats: the two biggies have 15 each, Fuerteventura has 7, Lanzarote has 8, La Palma has 8, El Hierro has 3 and La Gomera has 4. The small islands are all badly over-represented at the expense of the big islands. The electoral system is also a matter of debate: a party must win 6% throughout the archipelago or be the largest party or win over 30% on one island to win seats. For example, in 1999, the PIL won 28% in Lanzarote (second overall) but only 4.8% in the whole region, so it won no seats in Lanzarote while the PP with 13% in Lanzarote won one seat. The Canarian government has been held since 1993 by the CC, often in initial coalition with the PP. The CC was the largest party between 1995 and 2007, when the PSOE did extremely well (26 seats against 19 CC and 15 PP) but was left shut out of power by a new CC-PP coalition broken in October 2010. In 2011, the PP’s surge placed it far ahead of the CC (31.9% vs. 24.9%) and the PSOE (21%), but left it tied with the CC at 21 seats apiece. Given the CC’s nature as a party seeking to extract concessions from the central government, it saw advantages in allying with the PSOE (15 seats). The CC’s Paulino Rivero thus held on thanks to the PSOE, which participated in its first government since 1993.

Cantabria is a small and relatively isolated community along Spain’s green northern coast. The population of Cantabria is 592,560 (INE 2011), making it the second least populated of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities (it is also the third smallest by area). The capital of Cantabria is Santander. It is a uniprovincial region composed of the province of Cantabria, a province which was known as the province of Santander until 1982.

Cantabria, which takes its name from the Cantrabi, a Celtic tribe, has long been integrated within Castile and was for many years the Atlantic facade of the kingdom. However, coastal Cantabria is isolated from the Castilian plateaus by the peaks of the Cantabrian range. The importance of industry and trade in Santander gave it a prominent position of power within Castile. Like neighboring Asturias, Cantabria is an industrial region. Major industries in the region are mining (zinc and iron ore) and manufacturing (metallurgy, chemicals, shipbuilding), while agriculture is dominated by cattle herding and dairy production. Cantabrian industry benefited heavily from the policy of autarky under the early years of the Francoist regime, but suffered an economic downturn in the late 1970s. Unlike Asturias, however, the heavy industrialization of the region did not result in a large organized labour movement. In fact, the PSOE and PCE have always been weak in Catholic Cantabria.

Economically, Cantabrian industry has slowly been replaced by the traditional services, but industry still accounts for 16.8% of the region’s GDP, a larger than average share. Cantabrian industry includes shipbuilding in Santander; steelworks, chemicals and metallurgy in Torrelavega and canning (anchovies) in Santoña. In recent years, services including tourism but also banking – Santander is the homebase of the Banco Santander, one of the largest banks in Europe – has replaced industry and agriculture. Cantabrian agriculture is very heavily dominated by herding of livestock and dairy production in the mountains. Almost all farmers are smallholders, owning a small plot of land. Cantabria’s GDP per capita of €23,464 places it right above the Spanish average although below EU average. The region has a low unemployment rate of 14.1%.

Roughly 4% of Cantabrians speaks a local language, Cantabrian, which is closely related to Asturo-Leonese. Cantabrian, however, benefits from no legal protection or promotion whatsoever. It is not a major issue in Cantabrian regionalism, which is far more concerned – historically – with the defense of Cantabrian autonomy than any nationalist or linguistic battles. Having historically been integrated into Old Castile (most recently by the 1833 provincial division), there was a small movement asking for Cantabria’s integration into Castile in 1979, but in the end all parties in Cantabria (UCD, PSOE) agreed to uniprovincial, Article 143 autonomy for Cantabria. Cantabrian autonomy was defended by the Association for the Defense of the Interests of Cantabria (ADIC), whose founder Miguel Ángel Revilla went on to create in 1978 the Cantabrian Regionalist Party (PRC).

Cantabria is a right-wing region, having voted heavily for the PP in all elections since 1994 (since 1996 for general elections). When the PSOE won general elections in Cantabria in the 1980s, it was by narrow margins and thanks to the division of the right. In 2008, the PP won 50.61% of the vote against 44.16% for the PSOE and 2.3% for IU (the PRC did not run in these elections – in fact, it only ran in the 1993 elections). The PSOE is stronger in industrial areas such as Torrelavega or Los Corrales de Buelna. Santander, however, has been governed by the right since the transition.

The AP emerged as the largest party in the first regional elections in 1983, taking 18 seats against 15 for the PSOE and 2 for Revilla’s PRC. In 1987, led by the independent mayor of Santander Juan Hormaechea the right increased its hold over the regional legislature but Hormaechea was overthrown in 1991, accused by his colleagues and the opposition of corruption and authoritarianism. Despite this, Hormaechea managed to form his own party – the UPCA – which placed a close second behind the governing PSOE (34.8% vs. 33.5%) in the 1991 elections and managed to take power thanks to a deal with the PP. Hormaechea was found guilty of corruption in 1994 and unable to run for reelection in 1995, where the PP returned to power thanks to a deal with Revilla’s PRC. The PP-PRC coalition continued after the 1999 elections. In 2003, however, Revilla’s PRC surged from 13.5% to 19.2%, and managed to take power of the region – despite placing third – after a deal with the PSOE, runner-up to the governing PP. This PRC-PSOE deal all played out to Revilla’s favour, who proved a very competent and well-liked leader. In 2007, the PRC placed second with 28.6% (12 seats) and renewed the PRC-PSOE pact with the third-placed Socialists (10 seats). In 2011, Revilla’s PRC held its ground and won 29.2%, but the PSOE collapsed to a paltry 16.3%, allowing the PP’s Juan Ignacio Diego to win an absolute majority.

Castile-La Mancha is the fabulous land of Don Quixote, dry windswept plains and the world-famous windmills of southern Spain. The population of Castile-La Mancha is 2,113,506 (INE 2011). The capital of Castile-La Mancha is Toledo but the largest city is Albacete. The community is composed of the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo.

What is today Castile-La Mancha was historically a broad region known as ‘New Castile’ since 1833, an unofficial entity which included Madrid but excluded Albacete, historically attached to Murcia. La Mancha refers to a region in the south of the current region, centered around the provinces of Albacete and Ciudad Real (plus parts of Cuenca and Toledo). Guadalajara, the northernmost province, is traditionally part of New Castile, but geography (its northern edges are mountainous, in contrast to the dry plateaus of most of the region), economic and cultural factors have historically made it much closer to Old Castile. Old Castile was the original preserve of the Kingdom of Castile, created in 1035 around the city of Burgos. During the Reconquista, Castilian monarchs progressively conquered New Castile with the capture of Toledo in 1085, Cuenca in 1177 and the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Unlike in Old Castile, the Castilian monarchs distributed land not in small tracts to local peasants but rather in huge tracts (latifundios) to those nobles and military and ecclesiastical orders which had participated in the conquest. Latifundios in Castile-La Mancha are more concentrated in the southern provinces of Ciudad Real and Albacete. Given the socio-economic differences between the provinces and the general lack of any strong regional identity – only 2.3% of residents identify exclusively or more with the region than with Spain, the lowest number in all of Spain; the autonomy process in the 1980s was marked by little turbulence or emotion. Albacete’s MPs broke with Murcia over the Murcian refusal to open a university branch there, while Guadalajara’s Socialists were compelled by the party to accept their integration in Castile-La Mancha.

The culture, climate and economy of New Castile tends to place it closer to Andalusia, a similarly poor, underdeveloped and heavily rural region. Both regions share a common past of latifundismo but those commonalities hide differences in the agrarian structure of the two regions. Firstly, the crops are somewhat different in New Castile. Castilian wheat and grains are very important, especially in Guadalajara and Cuenca to a lesser extent. Andalusian olives are not as big of a crop in New Castile, however, accounting for only some 6% of the agricultural yield of the region. Castile-La Mancha produces over 50% of Spain’s grapes and is one of the country’s major wine regions (though not as well known as La Rioja). Most grapes are concentrated in La Mancha, in the south and southwest of the region (Ciudad Real and Albacete). Socially, big properties in Castile-La Mancha have not led to the Andalusian problem of seasonal landworkers. Most properties employ a smaller workforce. This doesn’t mean, however, that the region is any wealthier than Andalusia. It has the third lowest GDP per capita – €17,621 and unemployment is above the national average at 22.44%.

The region has benefited in recent years from suburban growth around Madrid, with the capital city’s zone of influence extending south into the province of Toledo around the Henares Corridor, but also near Guadalajara. The construction of high-speed rail (AVE) from Madrid to Seville (1992), Zaragoza-Barcelona (2003-2008) and Valencia (2010) have also had a positive impact on the region’s population. The regional government negotiated stops along the way in Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Albacete and Ciudad Real. Toledo is linked since 2005 to Madrid by a special AVE line. The region has hoped to use the AVE links between Madrid and the region to boost the region’s historically declining population and the region’s economy.

Since 1995, voters in the region have been ticket-splitters. Castile-La Mancha has voted for the PP in all general and EU elections since 1994, but preferred the PSOE in local and especially regional elections. In 2008, the PP won 49.85% of the vote against 44.95% for the PSOE and 2.96% for IU. The PP won all provinces and performed best in the provinces of Guadalajara and Toledo, while the PSOE was very closely behind the PP in Ciudad Real (which it had won in 2004) and Albacete. After a strong PSOE performance in the 2004 elections, the region is shifting slowly towards the right. Suburban growth south of Madrid in the Henares valley seems favourable to the PP.

In contrast, the regional government of Castile-La Mancha was, between 1983 and 2011, held by the PSOE with absolute majorities. Between 1983 and 2004, the region’s strongman was José Bono (the incumbent President of the Congress of Deputies now), one of the barons of the PSOE. Bono succeeded in being reelected five times following his initial narrow victory over the right in 1983. He even held on in 1995, an electoral rout for the Spanish Socialists. Bono is a kind of strong-willed maverick, something which has made him very popular. He holds rather conservative views, especially on matters such as regional autonomy, and has not shrieked away from opposing the decisions of the party hierarchy. In 1995, part of what won him a narrow reelection was his famous opposition to the PHN and the transfer of Castilian waters (Tagus river) to Murcia and Valencia. In 2004, Bono, who had previously lost the PSOE’s leadership to Zapatero by less than ten votes, became defense minister. His Vice-President, José María Barreda succeeded him and won a narrower majority in 2007. In 2011, however, in one of the most important races in the country, Barreda was defeated by the PP’s Secretary-General, María Dolores de Cospedal. Cospedal’s conservatives took 25 seats (48%) against 24 for the PSOE (43.4%).

Castile and León is in some ways the “heart” of Spain, the birth place of what was the embryo of modern Spain. It is Spain’s largest community by size and sixth largest by population. Furthermore, the region has traditionally exerted significant political power and clout in Spain: the current and former President of the Government of Spain are from the region and most Spanish leaders have been from Castile and León. The population of Castile and León is 2,555,742 (INE 2011). The unofficial capital of Castile and León is Valladolid. The community is composed of the provinces of Ávila, Burgon, León, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid and Zamora.

Castile and León is located on the Castilian plateau or Meseta Central, a dry windy plateau with cold winters and hot summers. It is separated from Galicia and the northern regions by the Cantabrian range, part of which extends into the province of León. The region of Castile and León is the heir to the Medieval Christian kingdoms of León and Castile. The kingdom of León emerged out of the kingdom of Asturias and at its peak controlled most of northwestern Iberia including northern Portugal, Galicia and the Atlantic seaboard. Castile became a kingdom in its own right in 1035 under King Fernando I after having been a vassal county of León. Castile, however, would emerge as the most important of these two rival kingdoms (whose monarchs were all cousins and brothers, of course) and the two crowns were permanently united in 1230. Castile became the driving force in the Reconquista and, as it expanded, it spread its language – Castilian – throughout modern-day Spain and laid the roots of what would become contemporary Spanish (also known, of course, as Castilian). The heiress to the Castilian throne, Infanta Isabella, married Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469, uniting the thrones of the two main Christian monarchies in Spain. Castile was very much the senior partner in this union, which would last until the centralization of power under a single central government in 1716 under the Bourbons. The autonomous community includes only part of the old Kingdom of Castile, but includes the original heart of Castile – Burgos. Old Castile is influenced by a long Catholic tradition and its culture and architecture is marked by Gothic influences, while New Castile has a longer Moorish influence and its culture and architecture is more marked by Hispano-Moorish influences.

Castile and León could also be called ‘Old Castile’, but this would be a misleading appellation. Old Castile, as defined for unofficial purposes in 1833, includes the provinces of Santander and Logroño but excludes the provinces of León, Salamanca and Zamora which are part of the region of León. The emergence of Castile and León was thus a rather tortuous process as the drafters of the statute of autonomy were faced by an avalanche of considerations: what is Castile? should the autonomous community include the historically independent region of León? what of Atlantic Castile (Cantabria) and La Rioja? Castilian nationalists (yes, such things actually exist) wanted the region to include not only Old Castile but also New Castile, Cantabria, La Rioja and León. Leonese regionalists wanted a separate Leonese community composed of León, Salamanca and Zamora. The movement for Castilian-Leonese autonomy emerged in Valladolid, which is at the confluence of the Leonese and Castilian heartlands. The Leonese accepted integration into a region of Castile-León (but later reneged that, but the government made as if they never contradicted themselves). However, Segovia had no interests in joining Castile and León and preferred to either remain non-autonomous (no region of Spain is currently non-autonomous, although it is legally possible for one region to have no autonomy) or create a uniprovincial region. Segovia was forced into joining Castile and León by the government, through Article 144 in the name of “national interest”. There followed a conflict over the choice of a capital: Burgos was the historical heart of Castile, but the secession of Cantabria and La Rioja left it isolated geographically in the region. Valladolid emerged as the unofficial capital, at the centre of the community, with the implantation of the regional government. However, Valladolid is not officially the capital, given that the statute does not define a capital. Despite the existence of Castilian and Leonese nationalist movements, there is little regional identification in Castile and León: only 3.4% of residents identify only or more with their region while 39.2% (the highest in Spain) identify exclusively or more with Spain than their region. Given the role of Castile within Spain and its place in the construction of modern Spain (it was the motor behind the unification of Spain), it is unsurprising that Castilians identify with Spain far more than their region. Unsurprising also given how Spanish historiography has often blended the history of the entire country with that of Castile.

Agriculture (6.7% of the GDP) has historically been the main employer in the region, and has been defined by the minifundio system of small (or medium) holdings in which farmers, albeit poor, own their land. During the early Reconquista, Castilian peasants and the low clergy participated alongside the crown in the struggle for the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain and, in return, received their own individual tract of land (which they owned) from the crown. What emerged was a region of small landholdings (though generally not small enough for them to be unsustainable for a family) in which small landholders, albeit poor, owned and cultivated their own tract of land. Castile’s smallholders were also heavily Catholic: the dispersion of land and the extreme fragmentation of society into small municipalities (2,247 municipalities of which 1,970 have less than 1000 inhabitants) have favoured the power and control of the Church and discouraged the emergence of any uniting ideology. Socially, although Castile’s smallholders shared poverty/abject poverty with their Andalusian compatriots, they were fiercely proud of their land ownership and, unlike Andalusian peasants, were practicing Catholics. The poor smallholders of Castile have long formed the social base of the Spanish right.

The centre of the region around Valladolid is the “wheatbasket of Spain”. The bulk of Spain’s wheat (and foodstuffs such as cereals) come from this region of the Meseta. The Castilian wheat-growers have long enjoyed a prominent position of influence in Spanish politics. They were, historically, the rivals of the Catalan industrialists. The most famous confrontation of these two groups came during World War I, when the wheat-grower’s front-man Santiago Alba attempted to introduce a tax on the war profits of the industrial sector and was driven out of power by the Catalan industrialists. And just as those industrialists were regionalists, the Castilian wheat-growers were Spanish nationalists. Besides wheat, wine and livestock are the other two main agricultural employers. Castilian industry is largely concentrated in cities or peripheral areas (Miranda de Ebro near the Basque border). The most socially significant industry is mining and steelworks in western León (comarca of El Bierzo) around Ponferrada. In contrast to conservative Castile, this particular region has a more definite left-wing and unionized past. The region’s GDP per capita of €22,974 places it right below the Spanish average, though unemployment – 16.08% – is below the national average.

Castilian Spanish, which in fact emerged from this region, is spoken by the vast majority of the population. There are, however, a handful of other languages spoken in the peripheries of the region. Leonese, related to Asturian, is spoken in western León province and benefits from recognition though no particular state promotion. Galician is spoken in part of the El Bierzo comarca in far-western León and is also recognized. Extremadurian, distantly related to Asturo-Leonese, is spoken by a handful in Salamanca province and Basque (Euskara) is spoken by a handful in the Treviño enclave. Neither have any legal recognition. Leonese regionalists, the most prominent regionalist force in the region (Leonese People’s Union, UPL), seeks co-officiality for Leonese in the province of León. Their ultimate objective is the creation of a Leonese autonomous community composed of the provinces of León, Zamora and Salamanca. In the meantime, the UPL and similar parties are mostly concerned about defending Leonese interests and preventing the ‘marginalization’ of the region in issues such as high-speed rail (AVE) construction.

Castile and León is the traditional stronghold of the Spanish right and has been so for most of its history. It has voted for the PP by solid margins in all general, municipal, EU or regional elections since 1989. The provinces of Burgos, Soria, Segovia and Ávila have never voted PSOE in a general election, and the first three have voted for the AP/PP in all general elections since 1982 as well (Suárez’s native Ávila voted for his CDS in 1982). In 2008, the PP won 50.62% of the vote against 43.3% for the PSOE and 2.54% for IU. Yet, that was the PSOE’s best showing in any general election – better even than the 1982 landslide. Part of that can be contributed to the local popularity of Leonese native son Zapatero in León (which has also weakened the UPL considerably), which voted Socialist in both 2004 and 2008. The PSOE’s main base in the region has traditionally been León, specifically the old mining and working-class villages of the El Bierzo area.

Regionally, the government of Castile and León has been in the hands of the right since 1987. The PSOE had won the first regional elections in 1983 with 42 seats against 39 for the AP, but a chaotic term contributed in part to their 1987 defeat in which the AP won 32 seats, tied with the PSOE, but managed to elected its candidate, José María Aznar, to the presidency with the CDS’ support (18 seats). Since 1991, the PP has held the presidency with an absolute majority. Aznar resigned in 1989, and Juan Vicente Herrera governs since 2001 with an absolute majority. The IU won seats in 1991, 1995, 1999 (5 seats in 95, 1 seat in the other years) and reentered the legislature in 2011. A Castilian regionalist was elected in 1999. The UPL has been represented since 1995, but its support – 18.5% in León in 1999 – has declined to 8.9% this year.

Catalonia is Spain’s second most populous community and has long been the industrial motor of Spain, to this day it accounts for 18.6% of the Spanish GDP. Catalonia, which has a strong national identity, is often portrayed as the “civilized” counterpart to Euskadi: Catalan nationalism is expressed peacefully and politically, while Basque nationalism is expressed (in part) through terror and violence. Catalan nationalism is one of the most enduring and potent political issues in Spain and Catalonia is a key piece in the economic, political and social makeup of Spain. The population of Catalonia is 7,535,251 (INE 2011). The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona and the community is composed of the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona.

Catalonia has never been a kingdom or a powerful empire of its own, but its language alongside a long history of cultural splendor, political power and prominent role in what became Spain has been a key element in the construction of a Catalan national identity, a national identity which is shared by the vast majority of Catalans to this day. As the Franks pushed the Muslims back in the 8th and 9th centuries, a plethora of vassal counties emerged in present-day Catalonia, with the county of Barcelona becoming the leading force of these increasingly independent counties. In 987, the Count of Barcelona’s refusal to swear loyalty to Hugh Capet of France sealed the division of Catalonia from the Frankish realms. Under the reign of Ramon Berenguer I, Barcelona rose to a position of economic and political prominence in the region. In 1137, the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV with Petronilla of Aragon (well, technically, she was one year old. Royals were sickos) united the crowns of Barcelona with that of Aragon. While the future ‘counts’ were known as kings of Aragon, Catalonia was very much the driving force. Catalonia’s rising embryo of a future urban bourgeoisie became a very potent political force, organized in parliament (the Corts, a kind of Estates-General) and a governing body, the Generalitat. Catalonia’s economic opulence and cultural influence during this era (13-14th century) was a contributing factor in the early development of a sort of proto-national identity. However, following the accession to the Aragonese throne of a Castilian branch in 1410 led to the slow decline of Catalan influence and political power and most of the region’s initial rights were surrendered to the growing power of Castile – especially after the dynastic union of 1469. In 1652, a Catalan revolt aided by France was crushed. In the War of Spanish Succession, the Catalans sided with Archduke Charles, the Habsburg claimant over the eventual winner, Philip V of Bourbon. Catalonia chose wrong and was totally destroyed. In 1716, its institutions of Catalan self-government were abolished. In the next hundred years and more, Catalans should extraordinary resilience despite losing their particularities, power, influence and wealth. During the nineteenth century, Catalonia experienced rapid industrialization based around the textile industry. Textile production started inland in mills powered by mountain rivers, and later expanded into a large, sprawling textile empire in and around Barcelona. Until the development of Basque industry in the late nineteenth century, Catalonia was the only part of Spain which had entered the new world order of industrialization and even after Basque industrialization it remained an industrial powerhouse in a feudal country where most lived lives of misery in unprofitable and nonviable agriculture. Is it a surprise that Catalans increasingly started perceiving Madrid and the rest of Spain as an uncivilized feudal backwater which seemed to be controlled by creaking old nobles in cahoots with the landed class which profited from the super-protected nonviable feudal agrarian Spanish economy?

Influenced by European Romanticism, Catalonia underwent a cultural rebirth in the late nineteenth century – the Renaixença. The Renaixença represented the creation by the Catalan intelligentsia of a Catalan national identity distinct from Spain, which they viewed with much frustration. The Renaixença placed a role in the birth of Catalan nationalism (sometimes called ‘Catalanism’) as a political movement. The main actors of Catalan nationalism at the turn of the century were Catalonia’s middle-class industrialists, the Catalan elites who aspired to expand their industrial empire to the rest of Spain. Their goal was to increase the power and prestige of Catalonia and Catalan industry within Spain, eventually taking the reins of power in Madrid from the hands of the landed gentry whose interests laid primarily in the feudal agrarian system. Regionalism was used as political tool to gain power and extract concessions from the dominant interests. For obvious reasons, they were certainly not separatists and in fact the Lliga Regionalista used to talk in terms of a “greater Spain”. This moderate, pragmatic stream of Catalan nationalism which seeks power and influence for Catalonia, not separation, and values compromise and dialogue with Madrid exists to this day in the form of the Convergence and Union (CiU) coalition. However, this moderate “we only care about your cash”-type of nationalism did not appeal to the more radical intellectuals, who would slowly go on to form a far more radical, sometimes separatist or sometimes federalist, republican stream of Catalan nationalism which exists to this day in the form of the ERC. The ERC was the driving force of Catalan nationalism during the Republic and Civil War, but the moderate stream emerged victorious as soon as 1977 under what would become the CiU, the heir to the Lliga.

Catalonia accounts for 18.7% of Spain’s GDP, making it the second largest economy in Spain after the Madrid region. Historically, of course, industry was the motor of the Catalan economy and by consequence a motor for a lot of the Spanish economy. Under the inspiration and leadership of Catalonia’s industrious middle-class, the region developed a booming secondary sector based around the production and entire industry of textile. The Catalan textile world used to be concentrated up in the valleys, far inland; but in the 1800s it took its present base in and around Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast. It later diversified beyond textiles into automobiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs or shipbuilding. While industry used to account for up to 40%, it accounts for only 18% of Catalonia’s GDP today. Like most western economies, services (72%) now concentrate most employment. Catalonia is a major financial and banking centre and it is a prized tourist destination (specifically the coasts). Catalonia has long turned industry into wealth, and it has historically been a “shining beacon” of prosperity within a feudal Spain. The region’s GDP per capita of €27,053 places it in fourth place. Unemployment is 19.43%.

As much as Catalonia was a “shining beacon” of prosperity in Spain for a very long time, that shouldn’t be tailored to mean that Catalonia enjoyed wonderful social peace. It didn’t. Influenced by Barcelona’s history of federalism, Barcelona and Catalonia was an anarchist bastion for most of the first half of the twentieth century and Catalonia was often at the heart of labour disputes, notably between 1916 and 1923. Socialism never really gained a foothold in Catalonia until the transition, in fact (when it gained a stronghold).

But to many poorer Spaniards, Catalonia was a “shining beacon” of prosperity and hope. Its industrial sector needed cheap labour, so it attracted a lot of internal migrants mostly from Andalusia and the poor regions of southern Spain. Immigration from southern Spain to Catalonia was particularly important under Franco’s regime, at the end of which one could talk of Barcelona as “Andalusia’s ninth province”. The Andalusian Party (PA) ran in the 1980 Catalan elections and actually won two seats (and 3% of the vote in Barcelona province). Today, there is little immigration into Catalonia from within Spain. Rather, immigration to Catalonia these days is mostly foreign. Besides South American and Romanian immigration, Catalonia has a very large Muslim North African (Moroccan) community. Many Moroccan and North African youths are attracted to Barcelona by the fabled FC Barcelona (and also economic reasons, of course). 16% of the Catalan population is foreign-born. Today, most Catalans are born in Catalonia itself (77% in a 2010 study). But when Catalans are asked where their parents were born, that same study showed that only a minority – 44-45% – said that their parents were born in Catalonia. Up to 27% said that their parents were born in Andalusia. These people have integrated in Catalan society and culture remarkably well, but it is still common to speak of their parents as “other Catalans” – Catalans, yes, but different. Most of the “other Catalans” came to work in the industrial suburbs of Barcelona and settled in the industrial ‘C’ which surrounds Barcelona.

Catalanism as an ideology whose basis is the recognition and promotion of Catalan national ideology is embraced by a vast majority of Catalan voters and all but two of the current parties in the Catalan Parliament (PP and C’s). The Catalan Socialists (PSC) by far and large embrace the Catalan national identity and support a federal vision of Spain which includes national recognition for Catalonia and Senate reform. It was the PSC-led government of Pasqual Maragall who spearheaded the ambitious 2006 reform of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy. The PSC, however, is unambiguously against Catalan independence. The governing CiU is in practice a pragmatic, moderate nationalist party whose goal is to give Catalonia full fiscal autonomy (like Euskadi) and self-determination within Spain, not independence. Of the parliamentary parties, only the ERC and Joan Laporta’s SI support Catalan independence from Spain. In contrast to Euskadi, the expression of Catalan nationalism has rarely taken a violent form. The terrorist organization Terra Lliure dissolved itself in the early 1990s and it never carried out acts of violence equivalent to ETA’s actions. That is why Catalan nationalism is always described as a “civilized” thing, whose expression is democratic and political. One of the reasons for this is that the issue of nationalism (though obviously not the issue of independence) is not as polarizing in Catalan society as it is in Basque society. ‘Catalanism’ has long been supported by a huge majority of Catalans, and there is a long history of national identification in Catalonia – unlike in Euskadi.

The official languages of Catalonia are Catalan and Spanish. Catalan is, like Spanish, an Ibero-Romance language. It is easy to pick up for a Spanish-speaker and quite similar to Spanish overall. Catalan is close to Occitan, which was spoken in southern France, and as such it appears as an intermediate language between Ibero-Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese) and Gallo-Romance languages (Occitan, French). Roughly 95% of Catalans understand Catalan and around 75% of them can speak it (a lower percentage can write it too). However, Catalan is the primary language of identification for only 32% of Catalans: 50% identify with Spanish, 7% with both Catalan and Spanish and 9% with another language. The use of Spanish, understandably, remains pervasive in media and business. However, the Catalan government is extremely stringent on linguistic policy. Catalan is defined as the “preferred” language of administration, public business, education and cultural activities. All city names are official only in their Catalan forms (for example, Gerona become Girona and Lerida became Lleida). Public servants must speak Catalan and it is the preferred language of business in government. All students must be proficient in both Catalan and Spanish in order to graduate, and Catalan is by far the top language of education in Catalan schools. The government also spends large sums of money on promoting Catalan culture in movies, television, radio or print media. There is some opposition to the very stringent pro-Catalan policies of the Generalitat: the PP and C’s both oppose the current state of language legislation and instead lobby for ‘bilingualism’ which means full equality between both languages, as well as equal education in both Spanish and Catalan. The former leader of the PP in Catalonia and incumbent MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras described the linguistic policies as some sort of ‘apartheid’. On the other hand, Catalan nationalists claim that tough promotion of Catalan in the public sphere is necessary to preserve the language and prevent Spanish from gaining the upper-hand in everyday life. Spanish is already preferred over Catalan in everyday life situations. Some of the most radical nationalists are opposed to bilingualism. Rather, they would want to see Catalan recognized as the sole official language with the use of Spanish being a “right of individual citizens”.

It is important to note that this system of bilingualism is not universal in Catalonia. The mountainous northwestern territory of the Val d’Aran speaks Aranese, an variant of Occitan. The Val d’Aran has its own directly-elected legislature (general council) and a special status of autonomy. Aranese is co-official there with Catalan and Spanish.

Catalans are ticket-splitters. In general, municipal and European elections they are loyal to the Socialists (PSC). The PSC has been the largest party in all general elections, and has been the largest party in all but one municipal and European election (2011 and 1994 respectively). In 2008, the PSC won 46.1% of the vote against 21.26% for the CiU, 16.65% for the PP, 7.95% for the ERC and 5% for the ICV. The PSC’s landslide – beating even its previous high in 1982 – played a major role in the reelection of the Zapatero government in Madrid. Catalans, also worried in large part of the effects of a new PP government (the PSC did similarly and abnormally well in 1996), rewarded the Socialists for their role in the reform of the Statute in 2006. The CiU’s utter weakness and pitiful state in general elections is a new phenomenon, however. In 2004, the 5.4% margin between the PSC and CiU turned into 18.9% margin in the PSC’s favour and increased to a record-high 24.8% margin in 2008. Between 1986 and 2004, however, the CiU had a high stable vote ranging between 29% and 32%, with the margin between them and the PSC being between 5% and 9%. The PSC also has the edge in municipal and European elections. Most importantly, the PSC has controlled Barcelona’s city hall between 1979 and 2011. During the 1990s, the Socialist-controlled Barcelona was a major counterweight to Jordi Pujol’s control of the Generalitat. Pasqual Maragall was mayor of the Catalan capital between 1982 and 1997.

In elections to the Catalan Parliament, however, voters are far more likely to support the CiU (and to a lesser extent the ERC) at the expense of non-nationalist parties like the PSC or PP. In 1980, despite a poor performance in the 1977 and 1979, Jordi Pujol’s newly-founded nationalist coalition CiU emerged as the strongest force to the PSC’s dismay with 27% and 43 seats against 33 seats for the PSC and 25 seats for the communist PSUC. Pujol, an intelligent, charismatic, competent and shrewd politician would go on to become the embodiment of Catalonia and Catalan nationalism. In 1984, the CiU won 46.8% and an absolute majority in the Parliament which it held on to in 1988 and 1992. By 1995, Pujol’s star had begun fading and he was reduced to a minority. In 1999, Maragall’s PSC won slightly more votes (37.9% vs. 37.7%) though Pujol won more seats. Pujol held on for a final term with the votes of the PP. In 2003, support for both the CiU (now led by Artur Mas) and the PSC fell but Maragall took power from the CiU with an historic tripartite coalition with the ERC and ICV. This coalition was reelected in 2006, though the CiU won more votes and seats. In 2010, the PSC collapsed to a record-low 18.4% and 28 seats, while Artur Mas’ CiU won 62 seats – almost an absolute majority.

The PSC’s base in Catalonia is Barcelona province, which concentrates 73% of the region’s population (though only 63% of seats in the Catalan Parliament). Barcelona has the heaviest concentration of so-called “other Catalans” – Catalans whose parents (oftentimes) were born outside Catalonia and came to work in the industrial hinterland of Barcelona. These voters, though they may feel Catalan, do not identify with Catalan nationalism. Besides, most of them being poor and working-class do not naturally identify either with a right-wing party like the CiU. Industrial suburbs of Barcelona or old working-class towns like L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Badalona, Terrassa, Sabadell, Santa Coloma, El Prat or Manresa are some of Catalonia’s largest cities and strongholds of the PSC (over 50% in good years). The CiU’s vote is concentrated in rural areas, where Catalan remains the dominant language, and in affluent towns (most of the Catalan middle-class is nationalist) like Sant Cugat. The CiU was the largest party in general elections between 1986 and 2004 in the provinces of Girona and Lleida. Perhaps a trend which should worry the PSC (or is it an ephemeral fad linked to the poor state of the Socialists?) is the rise of the PP and the far-right in its working-class strongholds. Most PP gains in 2010 came from these type of areas, where the economic crisis has prompted anti-immigration feelings (immigrants to Catalonia being largely North African) which are exploited by the PP but also the PxC, a far-right party based in the old textile town of Vic (where it is the second largest party on council behind the CiU). In 2011, the PP won Badalona, the region’s third-largest city and a PSC stronghold.

Euskadi is the most well known of Spain’s regions to the casual observers, if only because of the existence of an armed terrorist movement seeking independence. It is also a matter of political debate where nobody can ever agree on anything. Basque nationalism is, alongside Catalan nationalism, of the two main peripheral nationalisms in Spain which drive and influence Spanish politics so much. The existence of a terrorist movement seeking Basque independence has given the region and Basque nationalism as a whole a bad name, which it does not deserve. The population of Euskadi is 2,183,615 (INE 2011). The capital of Euskadi is Vitoria-Gasteiz but the largest city is Bilbao. The community is composed of the provinces (called ‘historical territories’) of Biscay (Bizkaia or Vizcaya), Gipuzkoa (in Spanish, Guipúzcoa), Álava (in Basque, Araba). Basque provinces, unlike all other provinces, have a directly elected legislature (Juntas Generales) and are responsible for raising taxes. The region is known as Euskadi or the Basque Country (in Spanish, País Vasco). I prefer the term ‘Euskadi’ because it is both shorter and commonly used to refer to the political ‘Basque Country’ which excludes Navarre and the three French Basque provinces. The Basque term ‘Euskal Herria’ (which means ‘land of Basques’ or close to that) is used to refer the greater Basque region including both the autonomous community of the three provinces (often referred to in short as ‘CAPV’ or Euskadi), Navarre and the three French Basque provinces (Iparralde).

Basque history is long, fascinating and very controversial as it is inherently political given the founding tenets of Basque nationalism. The Basques speak a language known as Euskara or Basque, which is famous for being a language isolate. It is one of the few languages in Europe which is not Indo-European and the origins of either Euskara or the Basque people are not known for certain. The mainstream view are that the Basques are the last remaining ancestors of the pre-Indo-European peoples of Europe and have lived in the region since the prehistoric Aurignacian period. That is the most commonly accepted view, though it is by no means universal nor is it a proven ‘fact’. Original Basque nationalist theses claim that the extraordinary resistance of the Basque people to outside influences and conquest is a sign of the racial superiority of the Basque race above all others, though this is, of course, false. The Basque people are a very strong-willed people, extremely proud of their identity, lifestyle and ancestors. Furthermore, it also helps that the Basque terrain is quite harsh and unfavourable to foreign domination. The valleys and mountains of northern Euskadi and Navarre are very wooded and patchy, making it perfect for locals to hide and hardly appealing to foreign invaders. Basques have long defended themselves against any foreign invaders, most notably when Basque hordes massacred Charlemagne’s Frankish troops at Roncesvaux in 778. The Franks, Visigoths and later Muslims never managed to exercise full control over the Basque lands and Navarre. A Basque kingdom, which later became the Kingdom of Navarre, emerged in 824. Under Sancho III the Great (1000-1035), the Kingdom of Navarre reached its peak of influence through Sancho’s marriages and alliances which expanded the Navarrese realm westwards into present-day Old Castile. The coastal areas of the kingdom had come under Castilian control in 1199, though the Castilians had promised to recognize and uphold the special charters (fueros) of the Basque provinces. Civil war in Navarre allowed the Castilians to conquer Navarre between 1512 and 1524, although, again, by promising to recognize and uphold the Navarrese fueros. These fueros granted the provinces fiscal, legal and political autonomy, various exemptions from trade regulations, exemption from military service outside their province and so forth. To speak of a “Basque people”, united with a strong national conscience like the Catalans is, however, totally misleading. Basques were strongly attached to their families, community and at most to their province but there was no common identification as “Basques” above all. The family, village and province were their markers of identification, not an artificial “Basque nation”. Attached to their home turf, traditions and legal advantages, the Basques strongly identified with the ultra-conservative Carlist movement during the First Carlist War. Even after the Carlist defeat in 1839, the fueros were maintained and Euskadi remained a Carlist stronghold until at least the Second Republic. The Basque fueros were abolished in 1876.

The loss of the fueros in 1876 and Euskadi’s integration in the Spanish market proved beneficial to Basque economy, especially in the province of Biscay. In the late nineteenth century, large-scale mining of rich iron ore deposits in western Biscay led to emergence of Euskadi as Spain’s second main industrial and trading hub (after Catalonia). Originally exported to Britain for processing, Bilbao and western Biscay went on to acquire their own blast furnaces to process the iron ore into steel. While Basque steel production – the main economic activity in Euskadi until the 1970s – was concentrated around the Bilbao estuary and the city’s left bank, it was by no means just a local industry: metallic transformation, siderurgy and related industry was a major industry in the rest of northern Euskadi. The steel industry in Euskadi made the region one of the country’s wealthiest regions, and, as such, attracted much internal migrants starting in the late nineteenth century and picking up again during the Francoist era especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Most immigrants to Euskadi came from the neighboring (and poorer) regions of Old Castile, La Rioja, Navarre or the more distant but very poor Galicia. Unlike in Catalonia, there was not much immigration from southern Spain. According to a 2010 study, while 74% of Basques were born in the autonomous community, only 51-53% saw their parents were born in Euskadi as well. 16% said their parents were born in Castile and León, 6% in Extremadura and Galicia and 3% said their parents were born in Andalusia. Galicia and Old Castile are very conservative regions (although poor), but that did not prevent visceral opposition to non-Basques and general xenophobia from being a founding tenet of Basque nationalism.

The founding father of Basque nationalism is Sabino Arana, who was by all accounts a rather insane man with a weird mish-mash of reactionary, racist, xenophobic and ethnocentrist ideals and myths. In his seminal work on the issue, Bizkaia por su independencia, Arana’s thesis is the stark separation between a pure, devoutly Catholic, superior, manly and intelligent Basque race and a impure, atheist/socialist/liberal (Arana hated all three), feminine and inferior Spanish race. Arana considered the immigration of non-Basques, maketos or ‘Koreans’, to Euskadi to be a danger to the moral fabric of Basque society and a threat to all that is Basque (Catholicism, racial superiority, Euskara). Those maketos, with their new-fanged ideas of socialism and atheism were clear dangers to Basque society and they should be run out of town with stones and sticks, in order to defend the traditional, Catholic Basque society. The original ideology of the PNV, founded by Arana in 1895, can be summarized in the party’s motto: Jaungoikoa eta Lagi-zaŕa (God and the ‘old laws’ [fueros]). Arana, despite his faults, had a huge influence on Basque nationalism and the whole Basque society. He ‘created’ a history for Euskadi, based partly on facts and a lot on myths; he designed the Basque flag; invented a Euskara vocabulary of political neologisms; he wrote the anthem; he even came up with the term ‘Euskadi’ itself. Arana was a separatist for most of his life, but he had a strange and unexplained change of heart a year before his death, when he became an autonomist. Since then, the PNV has found itself oscillating between autonomy and independence, usually leaning for the first option. The PNV grew in the 1910s to emerge as the largest Basque nationalist force during the Second Republic, where it sided with the republicans in exchange for the formation of the first autonomous Basque government excluding Navarre in 1936.

The Basque economy has historically been based around heavy industry: iron ore mining in western Biscay, steel works and siderurgy in the rest of northern Euskadi but particularly around Bilbao, the economic capital of Euskadi. Industry still accounts for 22.5% of the region’s GDP despite the steel crisis in the 1970s-1980s which forced industrial reconversion in much of Euskadi. Industry and since the 1980s the success of industrial reconversion in favour of services, finance and tourism has made the Basque country a small motor for the whole Spanish economy (6.2% of Spain’s GDP) and also the wealthiest region in all of Spain – even ahead of Catalonia. Euskadi’s GDP per capita of €31,314 is the highest in Spain and is much above the EU and Spanish average. Its unemployment rate, 12.17%, is the second lowest in the country. Euskadi suffered heavily from the steel crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which led to a decline in the region’s population and high unemployment as most steel plants and shipyards closed their doors. Bilbao and its industrial left bank was touched especially hard, but Bilbao has since bounced back with a vengeance with a spectacularly successful program of industrial reconversion and urban renewal, pushed initially by the Guggenheim Museum and since then by urban development, tourism and a growth in the upper-end service and technology sector (BBVA bank, Iberdrola). Euskadi is also known for the largest workers cooperative in the world, Mondragon, which is based in the small working-class Gipuzkoan town of Arraste-Mondragón. The Basque economy has significantly benefited from the region’s ability to raise taxes on its own account (like Navarre), instead of being heavily dependent on tax transfers from Madrid.

Basque politics and nationalist competition has been influenced so much by ETA, the separatist terrorist organization which has killed over 800 in Euskadi and across Spain since its foundation in 1959. ETA has been successful in driving a wedge through Basque society, rendering the issue of Basque nationhood and self-determination extremely divisive and problematic. Unlike ‘Catalanism’ and Catalan nationalism which is far less problematic, Basque nationalism is not backed up by a century-long history of cohesive, broad ‘national identity’ as in Catalonia which had a very precocious notion of its own ‘nationhood’. Euskara or Basque nationalism has not historically had a broad intellectual and cultural base like Catalan nationalism, which had a strong cultural background and intellectual contingent backing it up. These factors, plus ETA’s existence, have made politics in Euskadi very polarized. ETA’s violence was not and will not be successful in forcing Madrid to give it all it wants, but it has been successful in restricting the political debate (until recently). Up until the 1990s or early 2000s, ETA’s indiscriminate terror created a climate of fear which discouraged extensive political dialogue, participation or activism from those who were not Basque nationalists or even those who were moderate nationalists. That changed in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the emergence of virulently anti-nationalist and anti-ETA civic organizations such as ¡Basta Ya! which form the roots of the UPyD, which has a small but loyal base with non-nationalist Basques.

ETA has also split Basque nationalism into two streams: the ‘moderate’ or ‘democratic’ stream, more centrist or centre-right, dominated by the PNV, Euskadi’s natural governing party; and the left-abertzale stream, left-wing, more radical and in general more favourable of ETA’s actions as a necessary evil on the path to independence (but increasingly critical since 2006). To think of “Basque nationalism” a common, all-encompassing movement is very misleading. Basque nationalism is marked as much by the ideological struggle of nationalism carried out against the ‘Spanish parties’ (PSE, PP) as by the internal competition for the nationalist capital. The PNV is the largest Basque nationalist party, but its position in the centre of the political spectrum in Euskadi has opened it to virulent criticism from the abertzale parties (either as too conservative, too soft on nationalism or ‘traitors’ to the national cause). In the 1980s, the main abertzale forces were Herri Batasuna (HB), ETA’s political front; Euskadiko Ezkerra (EE), a non-violent left-nationalist party formed out of ETA’s moderate ETA-pm wing in the 1970s and after 1986 Eusko Alkartasuna (EA), a non-violent left-nationalist party led by former PNV regional president (lehendakari) Carlos Garaikoetxea. Most of EE merged with the PSE in 1993, reducing the field to the violent pro-ETA HB and the non-violent left-wing EA which increasingly became the PNV’s junior partner after 1998. HB and its subsequent incarnations (EH, Batasuna, EAE-ANV, EHAK-PCTV, SA, Sortu, the list goes on) were banned beginning in 2002. Since 2011, the main abertzale force is Bildu, whose trajectory and controversial nature is discussed in the section on political parties.

The official languages of Euskadi are Spanish and Euskara (Basque). Basque is a language isolate and one of the handful of non-Indo-European languages in Europe. It is entirely different from Spanish or any other widely-used European language, meaning that is much harder to learn from a Spanish-speaker (or anybody else) than Catalan or Galician would be. If you don’t believe me; ‘Sartaldeko oihanetan gatibaturik‘ means ‘Captive in the rainforests of the West’. The survival of the Basque language is proof of the tremendously resilient, strong-willed nature of Basques, proud of their heritage like none other. 76% of Basques identify Spanish as their mother tongue, 18.7% identify Euskara as their mother tongue while 5% identify both as their mother tongues. The most Basque-speaking province is and has always been Gipuzkoa (35.8% Basque mother tongue), while Álava has always been the least Basque-speaking province (93.6% Spanish mother tongue). Euskara has come back from the brink of extinction in the 1950s when its use was banned and repressed. Basque is now something of the ‘preferred’ language in Euskadi like Catalan in Catalonia (though not as strictly and universally enforced), and its use is especially prevalent in education. In Basque schools, there are three models to choose from: A is Spanish with Basque language courses, B is bilingual and D is Basque with Spanish language courses. D is the preferred option at all levels, from 71% in child education to 52% in post-secondary. Generally, lower-level education is heavily ‘D’ while higher-level education and especially post-secondary studies are more balanced though option D now outweighs A. Overall, 62% of students of all levels are in option D, 12.7% are in option A and 24.7% in option B. The level of D education ranges from 76.5% in Gipuzkoa to 42% in Álava.

A 2006 study showed the payoff of Basque-intensive education: 57.5% of those 16-24 are full bilinguals compared to 30.1% in the wider population. Only 17.6% of those 16-24 do not speak Basque compared to 51.5% of the wider population. Overall, 51.5% of Basques are thus Spanish-uni-lingual, 30.1% are bilingual and 18.3% are ‘passive bilinguals’. Gipuzkoa has the highest percentage of full bilinguals: 49%. But 65.8% in Álava and 57.7% in Biscay do not speak Basque. Generally, the youngest Basques are in majority bilingual, those between 35 and 64 are in majority uni-lingual and those over 65 are more bilingual. Proficiency in Basque has kept growing at a rapid and encouraging pace since the 1980s, and most of those who lose Basque language skills are old. Yet, Basque still faces challenges in society. 70% use Spanish only, only 12.5% use Basque more than Spanish. Full bilinguals of course tend to speak in Basque as much as or more often than they do in Spanish, but even with full bilinguals the use of Spanish is preferred in social situation such as work, outside or in social situations.

The PNV plays a central role in Basque politics and government. It is something of a ‘natural governing party’ or a ‘perennial winner’ in Euskadi though it is not by any means the ‘dominant’ political force. It faces competition within the nationalist arena to its left and competition outside the nationalist arena from both left (Socialists) and right (PP). In 43 electoral events since 1977, the PNV has been the largest party in Euskadi in 40 of those (the PSE in 2, HB in 1). The PNV’s domination of Basque electoral politics is helped by its position in the centre of the political spectrum. Its moderate nationalist tone appeals to the bulk of Basques who are proud of their identity although not necessarily separatist or fluent in Euskara. It is nationalist enough to appeal to the more nationalist of Basque nationalists, but moderate enough as to not alienate moderate nationalists/regionalists. The PNV has been the largest party in all general elections except for 1993 and 2008, with support between 23% and 34% in general elections. In 2008, however, the PSE-EE won 38.85% (record high for the Socialists in Euskadi) against 27.61% for the PNV. The PP won 18.87%, EB-B (IU) 4.55%, EA 4.54% and Aralar 2.87%. The PSE-EE was the largest party in all three provinces, including Biscay, which had been been won by the PNV in all elections since 1977.

Crucial to the PNV’s institutional dominance of Euskadi is its control of the Basque regional government and the regional presidency, lehendakari, between its 1980 creation and 2011. The PNV won the first regional elections in 1980 and won all other regional elections since then (though it did not win the most seats in 1986). Its hegemony was first challenged in 1986 when the then-lehendakari, Carlos Garaikoetxea quit the party and created his left-wing splinter, EA, which won 15.8% and 13 seats in 1986, while the PNV suffered a rout with merely 23.6% against 22% for the PSE. But the PNV’s José Antonio Ardanza was able to create a stable governing coalition with the Socialists until 1998 while EA (and HB)’s support gradually weakened. In 2001, an anti-nationalist front of the PP and PSE fell flat on its face as Juan José Ibarretxe’s PNV-EA won record-high levels of support (42.4%). It was only in 2009, with a stronger-than-ever Socialist party against a very divisive Ibarretxe PNV government that the non-nationalists finally broke through. Though the PNV’s support held tight, the PSE won a record-high 30.7% and 25 seats, which, alongside 13 PP deputies, allowed the PSE’s Patxi López to become the first non-nationalist lehendakari in Basque history. His days may be counted, however, given the collapse in support for both PSE and PP in the 2011 elections. The non-nationalists were helped in 2011 by two factors: firstly, for the first time in Basque regional elections, there was no abertzale list linked to Batasuna therefore Batasuna called on its supporter to cast blank ballots (9% of voters did so) but blank votes are not counted in seat allocation. Secondly, each of the three provinces in the Parliament are represented by 25 members, regardless of population. This equal representation serves to massively overrepresent (by over 10 seats) the strongly non-nationalist province of Álava-Araba at the expense mainly of the PNV stronghold of Biscay. In 2009, if the provinces had seats based on population, Ibarretxe could have won reelection with the support of PNV, Aralar, EA and EBB deputies.

Because of its thirty-one year stint in power in Vitoria, the PNV has tended to confuse government institutions with party institutions. It has shaped Basque politics and institutions to its liking, for example with control over the Basque media (the EITB). Beyond that, the PNV is more than a regular party. Especially in smaller towns, it is also something of a social organization and its local offices, batzokis, serve as bars or hang-outs for party members. In rural areas, PNV members are a tightly-knit family with a sense of community unusual in most parties.

PNV support is highest in Biscay, the birthplace of the party and the province where it has exercised full institutional control since the transition (control of Bilbao and the provincial government since 1979). Its support in rural, Basque-speaking villages in eastern Biscay often reaches upwards of 60% and up and beyond 70% in good years. It is traditionally weak, however, in the working-class industrial hinterland of Bilbao’s left bank in large towns such as Barakaldo, Portugalete or Santurtzi. Language is a major determining factor in making one a Basque nationalist or not, but it is by no means the only indicator nor is it perfect. A number of prominent PNV members and leaders either speak poor Basque or learned it only later in life. The PNV has high support even in those Biscayan and Alavan municipalities where few people speak Basque. The abertzale left is strongest in the province of Gipuzkoa, the most nationalist and most Basque-speaking province. The province has kept an industrial base of small or medium-sized businesses or family industries, and communities in the valleys are tightly knit together and have often provided a back base of support for ETA (especially during the dictatorship, when local priests – the Basque Church is nationalist – opened their doors to ETA fighters). Parties such as EA, HB or Bildu have been strongest in the province of Gipuzkoa. The provincial capital of Donostia-San Sebastián has been a battleground between PSE-EE, HB, EA and since recently Bildu. The southern province of Álava-Araba has long been the least nationalist, partly because the southern edges of the province in the Ebro valley have spoken Spanish since the Middle Ages and feel little if any connection to the Basque nationalist. The PNV can be the largest party in the province, but the largest city and Basque capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz is usually fought between PSE and PP, while the PP dominates in most of the Ebro valley in the south of the province. Between 1990 and 2001, Alavan opposition to Basque nationalism was notably expressed by the Unidad Alavesa (UA) party, similar to the Navarrese UPN: conservative, localist in an old Carlist way and anti-nationalist. UA won 18.5% of the votes in the province back in the 1994 elections, winning 5 seats in the Basque Parliament.

Extremadura, lying at the “extremity” of Spain if only through its border with Portugal is in some ways the little sister of Andalusia through their shared histories, economic structures, social structure and political leanings.  The population of Extremadura is 1,108,140 (INE 2011). The capital of Extremadura is Mérida but the largest city is Badajoz. The community is composed of the provinces of Badajoz and Cáceres, the two largest provinces by size in Spain. Extremadura is Spain’s fifth largest community by size though it is the second least densely populated of all after Castile-La Mancha.

The name ‘Extremadura’ comes from the region’s original position at the ‘extremity’ – both southern and western – of the kingdom of León in the 11th and 13th centuries. The eastern border of the kingdoms of León and Castile before their union in 1230 also ran through Extremadura. Following the end of the Reconquista by the 15th century and the 1492 fall of Granada, Extremadura became a poor, isolated and confined region – which it remains to this day. It was a land of emigration quite early on, first to the splendors of the Americas – both Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro were from Extremadura – and later in the 19th century to other, more industrialized and wealthier regions of Spain such as Euskadi, Catalonia or Madrid.

Economically, Extremadura is similar to Andalusia or the neighboring Portuguese region of the Alentejo. Agriculture has traditionally been the main economic activity and it still accounts for 9.7% of the region’s GDP today. Inherited from the days of the Reconquista, Extremadura’s land structure has been marked by latifundismo. As in Andalusia, land was divided into huge tracts and handed out generously to a handful of nobles, military orders or religious orders which had assisted the Castilian monarchs in the reconquest of Muslim territory. The issue of seasonal landless laborer has been a major issue in Extremadura, like in Andalusia. Like in Andalusia, the solution preferred by governments in the 1960s and 1970s was not agrarian reform and the division of latifundios but rather encouraging the mechanization and modernization of properties – a successful bet as most large properties nowadays are efficient and generally lucrative industries. To deal with the thorny issue of landless laborers, the agrarian unemployment subsidy which applies in Andalusia extends to Extremadura as well. This subsidy has helped solve the explosive social issue of seasonal employment, created a loyal Socialist electorate but perhaps created a dependence on the behalf of laborers on this subsidy and discouraged them from seeking full employment. It is also a system rife with corruption. In recent years, Extremadura’s economy has diversified with the help of tourism, light industry, services, commerce and foodstuffs. Services accounts for 69.5% of the region’s GDP, while industry and construction take up about 10% each. Extremadura is the poorest region in Spain with a GDP per capita of €16,828. Its unemployment rate, 23.6%, is above the Spanish average but it isn’t one of the highest in Spain.

A local variant of Asturo-Leonese, Extremaduran, is spoken in the northwest region of the province of Cáceres. Extremaduran is spoken by perhaps up to 200,000 people in the region but it benefits from no recognition or legal mention as it considered a dialect of Castilian (which is not quite the case). A small enclave of four villages in northwest Cáceres near the Portuguese border speak Fala, a variant of Galician. It is recognized by the government as a “object of cultural interest” though it is not awarded any particular attention or protection.

Extremadura is politically similar to its southern neighbor, Andalusia, but its history is not as influenced by explosive social tensions or by a history of violent anarchist movements. Extremadura, like Andalusia, is reliably Socialist but the PCE/IU is not as strong (5-10%) while the right is traditionally stronger and well implanted in the larger urban centres of  Badajoz and Cáceres in addition to a stretch of irrigated small landholdings along the Guadiana valley. The UCD won the 1977 and 1979 elections in the region by a healthy margin while the PP carried the region in its 2000 landslide and again in the 2011 local elections. In 2008, the PSOE won 52.73% of the vote against 42.16% for the PP and 2.97% for the IU. The PSOE, like in Andalusia, is dominant in rural areas while large urban areas like Badajoz and Cáceres lean to the right. Badajoz has been governed by the PP since 1995, Cáceres between 1995 and 2007 (and since 2011) and Mérida between 1995 and 2007 (and since 2011).

The PSOE’s dominance is most important in regional government, governed by the Socialists between 1983 and 2011. The PSOE won a majority in all those elections save for 1995. Between 1983 and 2007, the region was the local stronghold of PSOE baron Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra who retired in 2007 in favour of the PSOE’s Guillermo Fernández Vara. Ibarra is a passionate defender of Spain’s national unity, and with good reason. Extremadura is Spain’s poorest region, its population declined without respite between 1960 and 2010 (where it grew again) and it is one of the regions which has the most to loose from increased fiscal devolution to wealthy regions such as Catalonia. Ibarra was a known defender of “inter-regional solidarity” and was staunchly opposed to peripheral nationalisms or the PSC’s autonomist inklings. He retired in 2007 but Fernández Vara easily held on to his majority. In 2011, however, for the first time ever, the PP led by José Antonio Monago became the largest party albeit with a minority of seats: 32 against 30 for the PSOE and 3 for IU. It was thought that the IU would save the Socialists, but in a clear sign of the IU’s new anti-Socialist strategy, the IU’s abstention made way for the PP’s Monago to become the first non-Socialist president of the Extremaduran government.

Galicia is one of the country’s most geographically isolated regions, located north of Portugal in northwestern Spain. It is notably the only region where a majority of the population usually speaks another language than Spanish. Galicia has a population of 2,794,516 (INE 2011). The capital of Galicia is Santiago de Compostela but the largest cities are Vigo and A Coruña. The community is composed of the provinces of A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra.

Galicia is the mythical home of Breogán, a Celtic king and Galicia’s first inhabitants were Celtic (Gallaeci people). That is why Galicia is sometimes considered to be part of a broader alliance of Celtic nations, though the Gallaeci and their language have long since disappeared and the current Galician language is certainly not a Celtic language. In 411, Galicia fell to the Suevis who established their own state, independent of the Visigoths (until 584) even after the Visigothic conquest of Iberia in 416. Galicia was invaded by the Moors during the Muslim conquest, but never came under permanent Muslim control and was rather a thorny backwoods for the Muslims who made armed incursions into Galicia every few hundred years. In the confusing dynastic games of Christian Spain during the early Reconquista, the Kingdom of Galicia alternated between independence, Asturo-Leonese control or Castilian hegemony. Unlike Euskadi or Catalonia, Galicia’s two “sister nationalities” in Spanish political-lingo, Galicia is marked by an early and complete integration into the Castilian realm though its integration was originally a bit problematic (revolts and so forth). Galicia became a poor and isolated region in Spain, distant and poorly connected to the centres of industry or power. The mountains of eastern Galicia, poor communications, small landholdings and the power of the Catholic Church made economic development difficult and also prevented the development of a common “national myth” or “national ideal”. Poor and isolated, Galicia became a land of emigration. Starting in the nineteenth century, Galicia’s share of the Spanish population would decline from 12% to just 6% today. Some Galicians left to find jobs within Spain such as in the steel plants of Bilbao, but most emigrated to South America (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have large Galician communities) or western Europe. The Galician diaspora can vote in Galician regional elections and their votes, roughly 12% of voters (in 2005) can be crucial in closely-fought elections. In the last elections, the diaspora vote gave the Socialists an additional seat at the right’s expense.

Galicia was a heavily agricultural region until the 1970s and still accounts for 6.7% of the region’s GDP today. Galicia has traditionally had some of the smallest landholdings (minifundios) in all of Spain. The minifundio agrarian system has impeded on the competitivity of Galician agriculture, and as such most agriculture in Galicia has historically barely been enough for a family’s subsistence. The small size of land has contributed to the region’s poverty and sub-development. Politically, poor communications and the small size of landholdings were favourable to the hegemony of the Catholic Church and to a general lack of political mobilization (Galicia is known for its low turnout levels). Livestock is the main agricultural activity in the region. Along the region’s rugged (but beautiful) coastline, fishing is the main employer. Galicia has the largest fishing fleet in Spain (over 50% in fact) and perhaps the largest fleet in Europe as well. Despite the historical dominance of agriculture, industry is strong in Galicia as well since the 1970s: it currently accounts for 16.4% of the region’s GDP. Shipbuilding is important in Ferrol (an old naval base and Franco’s home town) and Vigo. Textiles are the main industry around A Coruña and Arteixo, which is home to Inditex, the second largest textile company in Europe and owner of the world-famous Zara brand. Automobile manufacturing is important in Vigo, which has a large Peugeot-PSA plant. In recent years, banking and especially tourism have become major employers as well. Galicia remains rather poor, with a below-average GDP per capita of €20,343. Unemployment is 17.25%.

Galician nationalism emerged out of a cultural movement of artists and intellectuals in the late nineteenth century who re-discovered and popularized the Galician language, Galician culture and literature. Alfonso Castelao is perhaps the most famous of these intellectuals, and the most popular of them (also because of his republican political activities). During the Second Republic, a Galician nationalist party – the Partido Galeguista (PG) was founded though it never achieved much support, electing three members as part of the Popular Front in the 1936 elections. It was successful, however, in passing a Statute of Autonomy in June 1936 which proved stillborn a month later with the success of the coup in Galicia. After the Francoist regime, during which the use and expression of Galician culture and language was frowned upon, the Galician nationalist movement was divided into a plethora of feuding parties ranging from communists in the UPG-BNPG to centrist liberals in the refounded PG. A centrist liberal party created out of the remnants of the UCD in Galicia, the Coalición Galega, achieved some success in the 1980s peaking at 13% in the 1985 Galician elections. It was soon eclipsed by the BNG, the left-wing nationalist coalition which was at its roots a radical communist party led by the communist UPG but which ‘deradicalized’ upon absorption of smaller left-wing parties. The BNG is by far the largest Galician nationalist party, and the only nationalist party with representation in the regional legislature. A smaller centre-right coalition, Terra Galega (TEGA) won 1% in the 2009 elections but governs the city of Narón – the eight largest city in the region.

Galicia is the only region of Spain where a majority of the population usually speaks a language other than Spanish as their mother tongue. That language is Galician, a language separate from Portuguese since 1500 which is closer to Portuguese than Spanish but has been influenced rather considerably by Spanish through centuries of Castilian domination of Galicia. Galician is co-official alongside Spanish in Galicia. According to 2008 statistics, 89.15% of Galicians can speak Galician ‘a lot or considerably’ (moito and bastante) and 57.84% can write Galician ‘a lot or considerably’ (moito and bastante). Furthermore, 56.4% of Galicians usually speak only in Galician or more in Galician than in Spanish. The use and knowledge of the language is higher in rural coastal areas and inland but is much lower in urban areas and with younger Galicians. The proximity of the language to Portuguese is a point of political debate. Galicia’s political elites and the PP defends the idea of Galician as an independent language, while nationalists are more ‘reintegrationist’ and see Galician as a regional variant of Portuguese and not as a separate language. The Galician government has traditionally been far less ‘activist’ or aggressive in its promotion of the Galician language in public administration or education (though education is bilingual) than the Basque or Catalan governments.

Poverty, isolation and in majority non-Spanish by mother tongue, Galicia could appear to be a Socialist or nationalist stronghold. In fact, Galicia is a conservative stronghold and the only region in Spain in which the PSOE (known here as the PSdeG) has never been the largest party in any election. Despite the fact that most in the region speak Galician more often than Spanish, a nationalist ideology which requires a broad social base believing in their separate ‘national identity’ and a ‘national myth’ has never been capable of being more than a second party. The division of Galicia into tiny, poor and unproductive smallholdings has discouraged the growth of social movements such as nationalism (but also socialism and communism), while being quite favourable to domination by the Catholic Church, which, unlike in Euskadi and Catalonia (to a lesser extent), has never had any nationalist ideals. Unlike in Catalonia, the industrial bourgeoisie in Galicia is pro-Spanish and backed Franco’s regime. As for socialism or communism, smallholders in Spain (unlike in France, where they are long marked by anti-clericalism and republicanism) have always been devoutly Catholic and traditionally scared of the threat of ‘socialist collectivism’. As such, nationalism is strong in Galicia but has never been a dominant political ideology as in Euskadi and Catalonia; while socialism has never taken root in rural areas though urban workers are left-wing. The PCE has never been relevant, the best they’ve ever done is 4.7%.

The UCD won three elections, and the PP has won all other elections in Galicia since then. The PSdeG has never been the largest party in Galicia and has only been the largest party in the province of A Coruña a handful of times. Galicia has also produced some pretty famous Spanish conservative leaders: Franco (of course) but also Manuel Fraga, the founder of AP; and Mariano Rajoy, leader of the opposition. In Galicia, even the PP has taken on some nationalist symbolism. Fraga campaigned in Galician and emerged as a forceful voice for a strong, autonomous Galicia within a united Spain. There are signs, however, that urban growth (cities being quite left-wing) is favourable in the long-term to Socialists. They came within 3.25% of winning the region in 2008, the closest they’ve ever been to the right in a general election (the PSOE was 10 points behind the PP in 2004). In 2008, the PP won 44.32% against 41.07% for the PSdeG-PSOE, 11.63% for the BNG and 1.39% for the IU. Rural, sparsely populated inland or coastal areas are the main bases of the right in Galicia. The left is strongest in urban areas, most notably in A Coruña, Ferrol, Vigo, Arteixo, Lugo, Ourense or Pontevedra. Santiago de Compostela is more right-leaning, though it was governed by the PSdeG for 24 years between 1987 and 2011. A Coruña was governed by the Socialists between 1983 and 2011.

The AP won the first regional elections in 1981 with 26 seats against 24 for the UCD. The first two legislatures were marked by infighting within the AP and political divisions on the right, which allowed the Socialists to take power mid-stream in 1987. In this context of division on the right, Manuel Fraga, the founder of the AP and by now the driving force in the refoundation of the Spanish right as the PP, decided to abandon his political ambitions in Madrid in favour of his native homeland. As the PP’s candidate in the 1989 Galician elections, Fraga won an absolute majority and defeated the incumbent centre-left coalition. In 1993 he increased his majority and the PP held on to its absolute majority in the 1993, 1997 and 2001 elections while the PSdeG was in state of disrepair after falling behind the BNG in 1997 and again in 2005. However, Fraga’s leadership was criticized in 2002 during the Prestige oil spill during which he and Aznar sat on their hands doing little in response. In 2005, the PP fell to 37 seats – one less than the absolute majority while the PSdeG increased its support considerably from 17 to 25 seats while the BNG fell from 17 to 13 seats. The Socialist Emilio Pérez Touriño formed a coalition government with the BNG, led by the more radical Anxo Quintana. In 2009, however, the PP, now led by Rajoy ally Alberto Núñez Feijoo won an extra seat (at the BNG’s expense, the Socialists held all their seats) and thus reconquered its historic stronghold. The Galician legislature over-represents the sparsely populated and more conservative inland provinces of Lugo and Ourense at the expense of Pontevedra and A Coruña which concentrate the vast majority of the Galician population. In the 2011 local elections, the PP showed its strength in the province of A Coruña with its historic conquests of A Coruña, Ferrol and Santiago. But in Vigo, Pontevedra, Lugo and Ourense it proved unable to topple Socialist-BNG (or, in Pontevedra, BNG-Socialist) coalitions. In fact, in all those cities, the governing party be it the PSdeG or BNG all increased their support. A sign of a slow evolution of the impenetrable stronghold of Spanish conservatism towards the left?

La Rioja is well-known if you like to drink Spanish wine, and it’s totally unknown if you don’t like to drink Spanish wine. La Rioja is the least populated of all 17 communities and the second smallest in size after the Balearic Islands. La Rioja has a population of 322,621 (INE 2011). The capital of La Rioja is Logroño. La Rioja is a uniprovincial community, composed solely of the province of La Rioja, formerly known as the province of Logroño until 1980.

La Rioja might have spoken Basque in the early Medieval period, but like neighboring Álava, the plains of the Ebro (the river defines part of the region’s border with Euskadi) have spoken Spanish/Castilian for centuries now. The region was closely fought between the kingdoms of Castile and Navarre until Castile absorbed La Rioja in 1179. In the 1833 territorial division of Spain, the province of Logroño was placed in the region of Old Castile. During the transition era, La Rioja’s MPs had the choice between integration in Castile (generally favoured by the central government), a uniprovincial community (favoured by the majority and the local UCD) or integration into Navarre/Euskadi-Navarre (favoured by the local PSOE). In the end, all agreed on uniprovincial autonomy despite the reticence of the UCD government in Madrid.

La Rioja is Spain’s most well-known and highest-quality vineyard. It produces a large share of Spanish wine exports, and its agricultural and industrial economy is dominated by winemaking. La Rioja has long been a wine region, but following a tough stint in the 1980s, experimentation proved successful and has significantly boosted the Riojan economy. La Rioja’s wines were awarded the prestigious Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa). Around a third of the Riojan wine production is exported to Britain. Wine has proven a lucrative industry for La Rioja, with increasing profits year after year. The wine industry has played a role in attracting a surprisingly large foreign community: 14.48% of the population is foreign-born, largely Romanian and Moroccan. The region’s GDP per capita of €25,020 is the fifth highest in Spain and is above EU and Spanish average. Unemployment is 17.39%.

La Rioja is a conservative region. The PP has been the largest party in all general elections since 1989 and all elections since 1993. During a brief period of Socialist power in the region, the race was always tight between the PSOE and the AP, the division of the centre-right in Spain at that time playing a key role in La Rioja like in other Spanish regions in placing the PSOE on top rather artificially. In 2008, the PP won 50.07% against 44.11% for the PSOE, the IU taking 1.96% and the Partido Riojano 1.53%.

The PSOE won the 1983, 1987 and 1991 regional elections with a narrow plurality against the AP. The AP governed between 1987 and 1990 with the support of the regionalist PRP (which became the Partido Riojano or PR later on). In 1995, the PP’s Pedro Sanz won an absolute majority and has held on to it since. The regionalist option is weak, oscillating in regional elections between an early high of 7.5% and a recent low of 5.4%. It has held two seats in all elections since 1983, a pretty remarkable stability. The PR and Riojan regionalism might be influenced by a café para todos phenomenon particularly pronounced in a wealthy region which is bordered by Navarre and Euskadi which both have fiscal autonomy unlike La Rioja. Pedro Sanz has been in power since 1995, and not much is known about him except that he doesn’t like Basque nationalists and is probably homophobic.

Madrid is Spain’s third most populous and economically most important autonomous community, centered around and dominated by the Spanish capital of Madrid. Madrid has a population of 6,481,514 (INE 2011). The capital of the region is Madrid, which has a population of 3,273,944, far outweighing the other large cities in the community: Móstoles, Alcalá de Henares, Fuenlabrada, Leganés, Alcorcón, Getafe and so forth. The community of Madrid is a uniprovincial community composed of the province of Madrid. The broader region is referred to by its official full name of “Community of Madrid” (Comunidad de Madrid) to differentiate it from the city of Madrid, usually referred to simply as Madrid.

Madrid was not the obvious place for a capital city. It is smack middle in the arid and sparsely populated Castilian plateau and aside from the Tagus river which forms the community’s southern boundary with Castile-La Mancha, there is no equivalent of a grandiose river such as the Seine or Thames running through the capital city. In the past, the capital was often referred to as an artificial island placed in the middle of nowhere. Madrid is separated from Old Castile by the peaks (up to 2000 metres) of the Guadarrama range in the Sistema Central mountain range.

The embryo of Madrid was the Muslim fortress of Mayrit built between 860 and 880 AD. It was a key defensive outpost in the defense of the very important city of Toledo. Alfonso VI of Castile conquered Mayrit in 1083, helping him in his conquest of Toledo in 1085. Alcalá de Henares was conquered in 1118. What might have contributed a lot to Madrid’s rise to status of capitalidad might have been its refreshing forests, rivers and mountains full of game for Castilian monarchs fond of hunting. Henry III in the 14th century made the castle of Pardo, near the old fortress, a key place of leisure and hunting for the court. Successive Catholic monarchs started spending much of their time in Madrid, which hosted the Castilian Cortes several times in the fifteenth century. In 1561, King Philip II made Madrid the capital of the empire. However, when compared to the other European capitals of fellow empires such as Paris or London, Madrid was a sleepy city and very much a city of second standing within Spain – especially following the slow decline of Spanish grandeur in the nineteenth century. In 1857, the province of Madrid was only the fifth most populous province (475,785 people) behind even A Coruña and Oviedo. In 1920, the province had over one million people.

Though Madrid started a slow but constant industrialization by 1900 (the development of what some call a “labour aristocracy”), the city remained an administrative city, the home base of a sleepy, lethargic and high-spending aristocracy and bloated public sector. The peripheral regions of Barcelona, Bilbao and Asturias concentrated Spain’s industrial activity at the turn of the century. In contrast, Madrid was located in the heart of a sparsely populated, poor and resource-less agricultural region. As such, Madrid became for the industrious Catalan and Basque economic elites the symbol of the backwards, agrarian and lethargic state they grew to dislike so much at the turn of the century especially following the Disaster of 98. It was only when Franco took power in 1939 (Madrid was a stronghold of republican resistance until the last day) that Madrid’s population grew and the city truly became the equal of the European capitals. The demographic explosion of Madrid between 1950 and 1970 which propelled it ahead of Barcelona in population took place under Franco’s aegis. Part of Franco’s objective was ideological. He wanted to make the capital of Spain the capital of Spain in all domains and in so doing sideline Barcelona and Bilbao, the capitals of the peripheral nationalists he hated so viscerally. Madrid’s demographic explosion was helped by the rural poverty which was endemic throughout rural Spain thanks to the civil war and Franco’s economic policies. Thus, large numbers of rural dwellers and villagers swelled to rapidly built low-cost (and low-quality) housing in new tracts of land in Madrid set aside for urban development by the late 1940s. Most madrileños do not have very long links with the city. According to a 2010 survey, only 60% of inhabitants were born in the autonomous community. Furthermore, only 30-32% of the parents of those interviewed were born in Madrid as well. Among the parents, most came from neighboring Castile-La Mancha (18-20%) or Castile and León (13%) but also Andalusia (9-10%), Extremadura (7%), abroad (5-6%) or in Galicia (3-4%).

In the 1833 territorial division of Spain, Madrid was placed in the region of New Castile, with which it has traditionally been associated with (perhaps because its border with Old Castile is rugged and mountainous). In 1978, when the question of regional autonomy was on the lips of every politician, the status of Madrid became a major political issue in that Madrid had never defined itself as a region on its own or a key part of a larger region, but rather as the heart of Spain. The two main options on the table in 1978 were Madrid’s integration into Castile-La Mancha (supported by the PSOE and PCE) or uniprovincial autonomy (supported by the UCD). Integration into Castile and León or the creation of a ‘federal district’ were not discussed much. Castile-La Mancha feared the integration of the bomming, affluent and very populated Madrid into the region. They feared it would worsen regional inequalities between provinces and Madrid would be the sole driving force and centralize all power. Furthermore, the UCD feared the political effects that the integration of a then-left-wing Madrid would have on the then-right-wing Castile-La Mancha. Thus, the idea of uniprovincial autonomy for Madrid went its way, and the government created the Community of Madrid in the name of “national interest”. Madrid was the last region to receive its statute.

Madrid accounts for 17.9% of Spain’s GDP, second after Catalonia. Madrid is Spain’s most competitive city-region, ahead of Barcelona and Valencia, but it still places 34th in the ranking of all EU regions and 50th in the world. Madrid is very much driven by the service industry, which takes up 84% of the region’s GDP – the highest in peninsular Spain. Madrid benefits from its status as Spain’s capital and the country’s largest air hub as well as high research and development funding in the region. International firms of high-standing such as IBM, Ericsson, Lucent and Microsoft all have offices in Spain, and Madrid is IBM’s new Europe-Africa-MidEast seat. Finance and tourism are also very important to the capital’s service economy. Industry accounts for only 9.1% of the region’s GDP and the capital region has never been an industrial metropolis like Barcelona or Bilbao. The manufacturing of transportation equipment, electronics, chemical products, light siderurgy and metallurgy are the main industrial activities in Madrid. Madrid is Spain’s third wealthiest region with a GDP per capita of  €29,963 – just below Navarre and considerably well above the EU and Spanish average. Unemployment is 17.01%. Unlike in older and more industrialized cities such as Paris, London or Lyon; Madrid has no similar ring of old poor working-class suburban communities concentrating poverty, immigration and urban segregation. There are, however, clear social differences within the city itself and the broader region. The north and west of the city is considerably wealthier, with the affluent urban neighborhoods of Salamanca and the wealthy suburban communities of Pozuelo de Alarcón, Las Rozas de Madrid or Majadahonda. In contrast, the south and southeast of the city and region are poorer and usually concentrate more industry.

Madrid has the third-highest foreign population, accounting for 16.7% of the region’s population. The bulk of this immigration is rather recent, and most immigrants in Madrid are from similarly Spanish-speaking South American nations such Ecuador.

Politics in Madrid are marked by a rivalry between the two major echelons of power in the region: the municipal government of Madrid and the regional government. The city of Madrid accounts for right over half of the region’s population, giving its municipal government significant power and influence. Even if both of these echelons are held by the right since 1995, the feuds between mayor and regional president have still been bloody. Because Spain’s autonomous communities benefit from a wide range of powers including education, health, transportation and urban planning, the municipalities often find themselves left with little leverage and power of their own.

Politically, Madrid has shifted towards the right since the late 1980s. During the Restoration and Second Republic, Madrid was an early republican and later Socialist stronghold. As early as the 1923 elections, the PSOE was the largest party in the city. In 1977 and 1979, the UCD and PSOE were practically tied in Madrid. Slowly, during the late 1980s, the region started shifting towards the right (PP) and away from the PSOE. Younger, relatively well-off urban voters who had voted for the PSOE in 1982 and 1986 shifted towards the right as early as 1989 as the right re-constructed itself into a serious alternative largely at the expense of the centre. Since the 1989 general election, the PP has been the largest party in all elections in both the region and city of Madrid (which votes to the right of the region). In 2008, the PP won 49.66% against 40.06% for the PSOE, 4.7% for IU and 3.78% for UPyD. The PSOE lost over 5% of its votes from 2004, when, in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the PSOE came within less than 1% of winning the region. The PSOE is strong in the southeastern neighborhoods of Madrid as well as most of Madrid’s southern suburban communities such as Fuenlabrada (the only major city in the region governed by the PSOE after 2011), Getafe, Leganés and Rivas-Vaciamadrid (perhaps the largest city in Spain governed by IU). Móstoles, Alcorcón and Alcalá de Henares are closely disputed. The PP is strongest in Madrid’s affluent northern neighborhoods (winning upwards of 60%) and in the wealthy western suburbs such as Pozuelo de Alarcón (65% PP in 2008). The region is also a strong base for IU, which in the early 1990s won up to 17% of the vote. Though it collapsed to 4.7% in 2008, it still holds one seat in Congress from Madrid. In 2011, however, IU won 10% of the vote.

The regional government has been in the hands of the PP since 1995. The PSOE’s Joaquín Leguina won an absolute majority in 1983 and a reduced plurality in 1987 but the PSOE fell behind the PP as early as 1991, though Leguina held the reins until 1995 thanks to the support of IU (13% in 1991, 16% in 1995). In 1995, the PP’s Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón won an absolute majority, which he increased again in 1999. Ruiz-Gallardón is the son of a Francoist apparatchik, but he himself is one of the PP’s most prominent moderates. He is liberal on social issues, for example accepting the gay marriage legislation without any opposition. He is a pragmatic and competent administrator, appreciated by opponents but disliked by some of his party’s more conservative stalwarts, most notably Esperanza Aguirre, the president of the community since 2003. In 2003, Ruiz-Gallardón was shifted to run for mayor, while Aguirre, who in contrast to Ruiz-Gallardón is one of the PP’s most conservative member, ran to succeed Ruiz-Gallardón as regional president. The May 2003 ballot placed her ahead of the PSOE with 55 seats to the PSOE’s 47, but the PSOE was on the verge of taking control of the executive with the support of the 9 IU members when two Socialist members voted against the government in unclear circumstances and forced snap elections in October 2003, which Aguirre won with a narrow absolute majority. Aguirre was easily reelected in 2007 and 2011. In 2011, UPyD made its impact with 6.3% and 8 seats, placing fourth behind the IU (9.6% and 13 seats).

The city of Madrid has been governed by the right with an absolute majority since 1991. Between 1979 and 1986, the city was governed by the popular maverick and ‘icon’ of the liberalization of Spanish society, the Socialist ‘old professor’ Tierno Galván, former leader of the PSP. In 1986, he was replaced by the far less popular Juan Barranco, who won a narrow plurality and was overthrown in 1989 by a PP-CDS no-confidence vote which installed former UCD cabinet minister Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún (CDS) as mayor. Declining to run for reelection, the right led by José María Álvarez del Manzano won an overall majority in 1991 which it has not lost since. In 2003, the PP’s hold on the city was seriously threatened by the PSOE candidate, Trinidad Jiménez (a future cabinet minister). Therefore, doing damage control, the PP shifted the popular moderate regional president Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón to the municipal level. It was a successful bet as Ruiz-Gallardón increased the PP’s majority while the PSOE won only one additional seat. He was reelected with a huge majority and 55% of the votes in 2007, and again reelected with a reduced majority in 2011. UPyD won 7.9% and 5 seats, placing fourth. Ruiz-Gallardón and Aguirre are both populares, but they are deadly rivals. Aguirre was successful in her drive to keep him off the PP’s lists in 2008, and within the PP they stand on two different sides. Aguirre is the most prominent anti-Rajoy leader, while Ruiz-Gallardón is one of his top supporters (despite the 2008 incident).

Murcia is a rather small uniprovincial community squeezed in between the more prominent regions of Andalusia and the Valencian Community. It is perhaps known best for being the most right-wing region in peninsular Spain. Murcia has a population of 1,469,721 (INE 2011). The capital of Murcia is Murcia, but the regional assembly sits in Cartagena. The region of Murcia, as it is officially known, is a uniprovincial community composed of the province of Murcia.

Murcia is economically, politically and socially similar to its large northern neighbor, the Valencian Community, but unlike Valencia which is part of the Catalan cultural domain, Murcia has long been in the Castilian cultural domain. Murcia is a former Muslim taifa, the third incarnation of which emerged in 1228 after a local Muslim revolt against the Alhomad rulers of Muslim Spain. To protect itself, the anti-Almohad Muslim rulers of Murcia in 1243 pledged loyalty to the Castilian monarch, becoming vassals of the Castilian throne. Progressively, Castile took control of the territory and by 1266 the Muslim taifa had ceased to exist. Murcia was progressively conquered by Castile with Aragonese support, and was ceded definitely to Castile in 1304. Murcia became Castile’s entrance to the Mediterranean. Only a tiny region in mountainous northeastern Murcia, El Carche, speaks Catalan-Valencian. As such, Murcia has never had a strong regional identity. Only 4.3% of Murcians in 2010 identified exclusively or more with their region than with Spain, one of the lowest rates in Spain.

The 1833 territorial division had placed the province of Murcia and Albacete in a “region of Murcia”, and it was widely assumed until 1979 that Murcia referred to both those provinces. However, Albacete, without much controversy or complaining, seceded from Murcia to join the region of Castile-La Mancha. Murcian officials did not think much of this secession which had happened so quickly.

Murcia has the largest agricultural sector in Spain, accounting for 13.7% of the GDP. Agriculture in Murcia has for centuries been dependent on irrigation. Murcia is a very dry region with some of the lowest amount of rainfall in Spain. The Muslims came up with an ingenious irrigation program which turned dry, arid valleys into lush green oases. Water is one of the most important political and economic issues in Murcia like in most of Mediterranean Spain, given that Murcia’s dry rivers (notably the Segura) cannot supply the region with the water it needs. In the 1970s, the controversial transfer of water from the Tagus to the Segura began. Murcia would have been one of the key beneficiaries of the PHN, at the expense of Castile-La Mancha. Murcian agriculture is intensive, irrigation-dependent and export-oriented. The region’s most famous exports are fruits and flowers, often cultivated in greenhouses which are big water-guzzlers. The needs of agriculture serve to explain the high levels of foreigners in Murcia (16.5%), as does tourism. Indeed, in recent decades, agriculture has been progressively sidelined by the tourism/construction boom which is common to the rest of the Spanish littoral. Tourism is also very much in need of water supplies, and has led to other problems such as urban speculation or environmental degradation. Murcia remains the fourth poorest region in Spain with a GDP per capita of €18,654, below both the EU and Spanish average. Unemployment is very high at 24.19%.

Besides water, Murcian politics is also marked by a very long rivalry between the capital and largest city of Murcia, and the coastal city of Cartagena, which has about half the population of the city of Murcia. This rivalry dates back to the Cantonal Revolutions of 1873 during the First Republic, when Cartagena was the second city (after Alcoy in Alicante) to declare its autonomy within a federation of free cantons. Cartagena has since resented the hegemony of the larger city of Murcia and the alleged ‘centralism’ and ‘favoritism’ shown by the regional government in favour of the regional capital. Politically, this movement has been expressed by the Cantonal Party (PCAN) which never won regional representation but which governed the city of Cartagena between 1987 and 1991. In 2011, a similar party won 5.6% of the vote and one seat in the Cartagena local council. The PCAN favoured the creation of a coastal province of Cartagena within the region of Murcia. Others wanted the creation of an autonomous community for Cartagena.

Murcia is a PP stronghold. It has voted for the PP in all elections since 1991, and the last time the PP failed to win over 50% of the votes in Murcia was in 1999. Since first voting for the PP in a general election in 1993, the PP’s margin has almost always increased, reaching 29% in 2008. In 2008, the PP won 61.69% to the PSOE’s 33.1% and IU’s 2.96%. Murcia is the strongest PP region in Spain. Water policy is a major factor in voting here. The Murcian right (and nowadays, the entire PP) has always aggressively favoured water transfers. The Socialists did themselves no favours in Murcia when Zapatero’s government cancelled the PHN and the water transfer upon taking office.

The PP has governed with an absolute majority in Murcia since 1995, when the PP’s Ramón Luis Valcárcel defeated a weakened and divided PSOE handily. Since then, Valcárcel, one of the major PP barons, has only increased his absolute majority reaching 33 seats to the PSOE’s 11 and IU’s one in 2011. The PSOE had governed a region which had historically been rather left-wing (voted for the left in 1936 and 1979, most notably) between 1983 and 1995 with an absolute majority but had been scarred by divisions in its latter years. IU has had a small presence in Murcia throughout, peaking above 10% in the mid-90s and declining to 5-8% in regional elections and 3-4% in general elections recently.

Navarre is a unique community in Spain with a unique history and a controversial status. It is sometimes referred to as the “Basque Northern Ireland” because Basque nationalists claim Navarre as part of Euskal Herria. The comparisons between Northern Ireland and Navarre are not very long, but the same history of disputed ownership exists. Navarre is larger than all three Basque provinces in Euskadi combined, but is much less populated. It has a population of 641,293 (INE 2011). The capital of Navarre is Pamplona-Iruña. Navarre is a uniprovincial community composed solely of the province of Navarre, known as Navarra in Spanish and Nafarroa in Basque. It is officially known as the Foral Community of Navarre and is the only region which does not have a statute of autonomy per se.

History is invoked both by Basque nationalists and their Navarrese regionalist opponent to back up their contemporary political claims to Navarre either as an integral part of Euskal Herria or as an independent, non-Basque foral community. It has a long, complex history which I don’t claim to fully understand. Navarre was probably the birthplace of the Basque people (another controversial concept to begin with…), which probably emerged in the isolated mountainous region of western Navarre which now forms the western border of Navarre with Euskadi. Like Euskadi, Navarre was never fully subjugated by either the Visigoths, the Moors and later the Carolingian Franks, and the Basque remained a fiercely proud and independent people defending their turf against anybody, Christian or not. Basque hordes defeated Charlemagne’s army in 778 at Roncesvaux. In 824, the Basque chieftain Íñigo Arista was crowned King of Pamplona. The Íñigo dynasty ruled Pamplona until 905, when the Jimenez dynasty overthrew them. Under Sancho Garcés II (970-994), the Kingdom of Pamplona became the Kingdom of Navarre. Under the reign of Sancho Garcés III the Great (1000-1035), Navarre reached the peak of its power in the peninsula as Sancho Garcés III extended Navarrese control all the way from León to the present-day La Franja region of Aragon. However, after his death in 1035, his vast realm was divided between his sons who assumed the thrones of Castile, Aragon and Navarre. Navarre was progressively weakened from this point, especially from the west by Castilian expansionism but also by Aragon – the Aragonese crown collaborated in killing the King of Navarre in 1076 to install themselves on the crown in Pamplona between 1076 and 1134. The three Basque provinces of present-day Euskadi were conquered by Castile between 1200 and 1370. In 1512, Ferdinand the Catholic conquered Navarre south of the Pyrénées (Lower Navarre, north of the Pyrénées, remained and remains part of France) for the crown of Aragon. Navarre retained the status of Kingdom within what would become Spain, and as in Euskadi, the Spanish monarchs swore loyalty to the local fueros in exchange for local support. As in Euskadi, the Navarrese fueros granted Navarre a form of self-government, fiscal exemptions, special tariff exemptions, military service exemptions and other advantages normally granted only to nobility. Even after Aragon and Catalonia had their fueros removed by the Nueva Planta decrees, Navarre and Euskadi maintained their fueros in recognition by the new Bourbon monarch, Philip V, of those province’s support in the Spanish War of Succession, unlike Aragon and Catalonia.

However, Navarre’s fueros which were steadfastly defended by the local Catholic Church and the smallholders of the region, soon ran into the opposition of the emerging liberal bourgeoisie in Madrid which saw the feudalistic policies of the ancien regime through a eye. For these early nineteenth century Spanish liberals, the fueros of Navarre and Euskadi were incompatible with the rebirth of Spain as a modern, liberal democratic European nation. During the Carlist Wars, Navarre became the stronghold of the reactionary ancien regime Carlist forces led by Don Carlos, who supported the Navarrese fueros unlike the Spanish liberals. Despite the Carlist defeat in the First Carlist War in 1839, Madrid agreed to uphold the fueros within the “constitutional unity” of Spain. In 1841, the ley paccionada abolished the Kingdom of Navarre and transformed it into a regular province, though Navarre was granted to right to retain a representative assembly (the diputación provincial) and maintain its fiscal, tributary, military and administrative particularities. From the perspective of the original Basque nationalists, the ley paccionada marked Navarre’s integration into the centralist Spanish state. However, the ley paccionada was well received in Navarre, which, although losing its special status as a Kingdom, maintained most of its fiscal and other particularities – although Navarre remained a Carlist stronghold in the next two Carlist conflicts and up until the Civil War. While Basque nationalism took the area occupied by Carlism in the Basque political spectrum, Navarre remained a Carlist stronghold throughout. In 1932, Navarrese municipalities rejected a project for a statute of autonomy for Navarre and Euskadi. Ultra-conservative Navarre sided with Franco’s rebels during the Civil War between 1936 and 1939, and in return for their support, the fueros of Navarre were maintained by the new regime despite Franco’s visceral opposition to any form of regional autonomy (or rather, regional autonomy for those who didn’t like him).

In 1978, Basque nationalists pushed for the inclusion of Navarre in a Basque autonomous community. Originally, they were supported in this by the local Socialists (PSN). The PSN, PNV and other Basque nationalists had formed a common candidacy for the Senate in 1977 in Euskadi and Navarre, winning one Senate seat from Navarre (the UCD, against a Basco-Navarrese community, won 3). However, the PSN believed that such integration should only be decided by the foral institutions of Navarre once they were democratized. Gradually, the PSN moved away from supporting Navarre’s integration into Euskadi and by 1979 they supported a uniprovincial foral community. Basque nationalists opposed such a route. The 1978 Constitution left the door open to a future integration through Transitional Disposition Four which allowed such integration after it had been approved by the “foral organs” of Navarre, and its approval by voters in a referendum. This disposition is still in the books to this day, which gives Basque nationalists a quixotic hope that the day will come when Navarre will agree to join Euskadi. The Spanish rights supports removing this disposition from the constitution.

Elections to Navarre’s foral parliament, which would decide the fate of Navarre, were held in 1979. The UCD won 20 seats, the PSN 15 and the UPN 13. Basque nationalists of all stripes won 20 seats. With the PSN, under the pressure of the central structure and the local base, moving away from supporting union with Euskadi, the legislature instead favoured the creation an independent, uniprovincial autonomous community. But in contrast to all other autonomous communities, Navarre has no statute of autonomy. Rather, it is governed by the LORAFNA (Law of the Reintegration and Improvement of the Navarre foral regime). LORAFNA is basically a statute of autonomy, with the main difference being that Navarre has (alongside Euskadi) full fiscal autonomy – that is, the power to raise its own taxes. The basis for Navarre’s unique status is its historical specificity that it has never actually had its fueros removed (even under Franco), unlike all other regions. The first additional disposition of the Constitution “protects and respects the historic rights of the territories with fueros.”

Navarre has historically been a rural, agricultural region. The northern Spanish wheatbasket extends into Navarre, whose main crop is wheat. Herding is important in the mountains of northwestern Navarre, and there is a Denominación de Origen wine region in the Ebro plain of southern Navarre. In terms of land structure, agriculture in Navarre has historically been done in small or medium-sized properties, like in Old Castile or Galicia. That being said, let’s not overplay the role of agriculture: it only accounts for 2.5% of the GDP with industry accounting for 25% and services for 65%. The main industries are generally lucrative, and most significantly include automobiles (Volkswagen), foodstuffs, and machinery. Navarrese industry is largely concentrated in small and medium businesses, most of them in the southern Ebro valley or the Pamplona region. Navarre is the second wealthiest region in Spain with a GDP per capita of €29,982. Navarre also has the lowest unemployment rate, 11.68%.

As I wrote above, Navarre is sometimes called the “Spanish Northern Ireland”. The comparisons between the two aren’t long, but the main one is that Navarre is the political battle ground in the fight between Basque nationalism and the Spanish state (nation-state?). Basque nationalists claim Navarre as an inherent part of Euskal Herria, as one of the seven provinces of Euskal Herria. The Basque people emerged out of Navarre and the sacred Aralar mountain is located in Navarre. Their efforts to integrate Navarre in Euskadi were met by the opposition of a majority of Navarrese in 1932 and 1978. But, theoretically and constitutionally, all that is needed is a majority in favour in both the Navarrese parliament and the wider population. Traditionally, the largest Basque nationalist force has been HB within a very divided context (albeit one, after 1986, with a very weak PNV and strong EA). In recent years, the movement has been united around NaBai, but the unity was shortlived. They are opposed by Navarrese regionalists or navarristas, the heirs of Carlism. While defending the legal, political and historical particularities and special identity of Navarre, they are vociferously opposed to separatism and Basque nationalism. They defend Navarre’s foralismo within Spain. The political expression of navarrismo or foralismo is the conservative UPN, which is very much against Basque nationalism and rather tame in its use of regionalist rhetoric (a factor which led to the 1995 split in the UPN, as you read above).

The chances of Navarre ever joining Euskadi (the CAPV) are very weak. But the existence of a Basque linguistic minority in Navarre makes the issue one which promises to influence politics for years to come. While the use of Basque was never prevalent in the Ebro valley (the ribera) where it was wiped out by the late Middle Ages, the use of Basque has remained rather prevalent and widespread in the mountains of northern Navarre, more resistant to foreign influences but also far more insulated from them because of altitude. The status of the Basque language has been a touchy political issue in Navarre, which is not bilingual as a whole but which includes bilingual and unilingual zones. In 1986, the PSN government in Pamplona was dependent on Basque nationalist support for survival and was compelled to pass a linguistic law to please its allies: the Ley Foral del Vascuence. This law, still in effect today, divides Navarre into three zones: the Basque zone (zona vascófona), the mixed zone and the non-Basque zone (Spanish unilingual zone). The first zone has only less than 60,000 inhabitants and covers the northwestern mountainous region of Navarre where the use of Basque is most prevalent. Education and public services are bilingual, and some government jobs require knowledge of Basque. The second zone covers “mixed” zones in central and northeastern Navarre (including Pamplona), a transition zone between Basque-speaking Navarre and Spanish-speaking Navarre. Education and public services can be offered in Basques if the individual wishes, and Basque can be mandatory for some government jobs though this is rarely applied. The non-Basque zone takes in the rest of Navarre, that is the ribera and the temperate Mediterranean Ebro plain. Education and public services are unilingual Spanish. The UPN and PP have usually been opposed to the use of Basque and the extension of the mixed zone to include more municipalities. The Aznar government decreed that the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages applied only to the bilingual Basque zone. A 2006 study indicated that Spanish is the mother tongue of 90% of the population, against 6.4% for Basque (48% are Basque mother-tongue in the Basque zone). A full 81% of Navarrese do not speak Basque, with only 11% being fully bilingual. In the Basque zone, 60% are bilingual (29% do not speak Basque). Furthermore, 44% of bilinguals usually prefer Spanish. 26% of bilinguals usually prefer Basque.

Navarre has, in the past, been the most conservative region of Spain. Up until the Civil War, it was an impenetrable Carlist stronghold. Even in the 1979 elections, the Carlists won 7.7% of the vote in Navarre (0.3% nationally). It remains rather conservative today, but the main conservative force is not the PP but rather the UPN: a sign of Navarre’s unique breed of conservative pro-Spanish regionalism and particularism. In 2008, the UPN-PP won 39.81% against 35.28% for the PSN and 18.67% for NaBai. IU won 3.32%. Navarre voted Socialist in general elections only in the 1982 and 1986 landslides. The political weight of Basque nationalism in Navarrese elections has been between 15% and 20% (excluding a 10% low in 2000, when HB was barred from standing). There is a rather pronounced geographic divisions of the vote. NaBai and Basque nationalism as a whole performs strongly in the Basque linguistic zone in the mountainous region of northwestern Navarre while it is an also-ran party outside the Basque-speaking zones. The UPN is strong in the central and southern regions, while the PSN finds bases of support in the more industrial areas of southern Navarre and the Ebro valley (in addition to Pamplona’s working-class suburbs).

Navarre has been governed since 1996 by the UPN. Since May 2011, it governs in coalition with the PSN. The Socialists governed between 1984 and 1991 and again between 1995 and 1996. In 1991, the UPN led by Juan Cruz Alli defeated the incumbent PSN led by Gabriel Urralburu. Alli formed a UPN government, but in 1995, the more nationalist Alli left the UPN to form his own party, the CDN, which won 18.6% and 10 seats in 1995. The CDN allied with the PSN and EA to form a Socialist-led government under Javier Otano, but corruption scandals involving the PSN and Urralburu quickly signed this government’s death warrant and in 1996, the UPN’s Miguel Sanz formed a UPN government. Sanz governed until 2011, in coalition with the declining CDN between 2003 and 2009. The UPN-PP split did not hurt the UPN much in 2011, as the PP won only 7.3%. Basque nationalism’s weight has been more important in regional elections, oscillating between 15% and 29% (28.7% in 2011). While in existence, HB was always the strongest force of Basque nationalism in Navarre with EA, after 1986, being the second largest party. The 1986 EA split from the PNV had received the adhesion of only a minority of PNV members in Euskadi, but the majority of PNV in Navarre joined EA. Uniting the various strands of nationalism under NaBai, in which Navarrese-rooted Aralar – a left-wing nationalist party led by ex-HB MP Patxi Zabaleta, leader of HB’s anti-terrorist political ‘critical’ current – is the largest party.

The Valencian Community in the Spanish Levante is well known by foreign tourists. It is part of the broader Catalan cultural sphere, but it maintains an ambiguous relationship with it. It has a population 5,111,767 (INE 2011). The capital of the Valencian Community is Valencia. It is composed of the provinces of Alicante, Castelló (Castellón in Spanish) and Valencia. The unusual name “Community of Valencia” emerged as a compromise name, but is widely used to refer to the region as a whole instead of simply ‘Valencia’, which leads to confusion with the city and province of Valencia. Colloquially, however, ‘Valencia’ is also used to refer to the broader region as well.

A turbulent and contested part of Muslim Spain, the region of Valencia was progressively conquered by the King of Aragon Jaime I starting in 1232 and lasting until 1296. In 1238, the Valencian huerta (the coastal plain around Valencia) was conquered. In 1305, the border with (Castilian) Murcia was set. After the Aragonese conquest, Valencia became an independent entity within the Crown of Aragon with the title of “Kingdom of Valencia” and granted its own fueros. The region was settled mostly by Aragonese and Catalans, though Castilians later settled in the western extremities of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Valencia was a diverse region, with a large formerly Muslim Moorish population in rural areas and a Christian-Valencian bourgeoisie in urban areas. During the fifteenth century, the region experienced its golden age of economic development and cultural splendor. Valencia and Alicante emerged as centres of Mediterranean trade, especially with Aragon’s non-Hispanic possessions in Sicily or Naples. However, the expulsion of the Moors by Philip III in 1609 ruined the region’s economy given the key role the Moors had played in Valencian agriculture as cheap labour. The expulsion of the Moors reduced the region’s population by 20%. During the same era, the shift of Spanish focus from the Mediterranean world to the New World obviously sidelined the Levante and Valencia in particular in favour of Seville. The region backed the Archduke Charles of Austria over the future Philip V of Bourbon in the Spanish War of Succession, and, like the rest of the Aragonese realms (most significantly Catalonia), it paid its wrong answer to the dynastic conflict by the loss of its fueros in 1707. During the First Republic and later during the Restoration, Valencia became something of a hotspot for anarcho-syndicalism in addition to federalist republicanism. But during the Second Republic, the nationalists failed to pass a statute of autonomy through referendum (though autonomy was unilaterally proclaimed during the war in the 1936-1937 period). A predominantly agricultural region with limited industry limited to Sagunto, Alcoy and Elche, the economic liberalization of the late Francoist state starting in the 1960s led to an economic boom in the region, which developed a huge tourism industry (and construction industry) which sticks to this day.

Until the tourism boom during the Spanish economic miracle, Valencia was a predominantly rural agricultural region. Most agriculture was concentrated in the irrigated (since the Muslim era) coastal plain, the huerta region surrounding the city of Valencia. Similarly to Murcia, agriculture in Valencia is very much dependent on water and fights over water have a major political issue in the region as well (especially in southern Alicante province). The main crops of Valencia’s agricultural sector are citrus fruits and, to a lesser extent, non-citric fruits and vegetables. However, today, agriculture accounts for only 3% of the region’s GDP. Industry accounts for 17.6%. Most industries in the region are small and medium enterprises, especially around the capital city of Valencia and its harbour. Sagunto, just north of Valencia, is a major shipping and, in the past, metallurgical hub. Alcoy, located southwest of Valencia, is a major textile centre. Elche (or Elx) has a major shoemaking industry. The service sector accounts for 72% of the local economy (construction for 7.6%). Tourism, since the 1960s, has been a major employer in the region which is clearly one of Spain’s largest tourist centres. Tourism and the pleasant hot climate has attracted many Europeans to set up shop in the region, in places such as Benidorm, Torrevieja and Calp. Foreigners make up 17.5% of the region’s population, making the region second behind the Balearics in terms of foreign population. The province of Alicante has the highest percentage of foreigners in all of Spain: 24.25%. The bulk of foreigners in the region are obviously Europeans. While the Balearics are mostly German, the foreigners in Alicante and elsewhere in the region are mostly British. The British even form a majority in some small coastal municipalities in Alicante. The tourism sector meant a construction boom, which meant a very bad economic collapse in the region following the housing bubble’s explosion in 2008. Unemployment is 24.73% and the GDP per capita of €20,465 places the region below the Spanish average.

Valencian is co-official in the region alongside Spanish. The status and even existence of the Valencian language is a matter of much controversy in Spain. Valencian is a variety of Catalan, in the western Catalan subgroup, and is broadly similar to Catalan besides a handful of syntax, lexical, phonetic and morphological differences. Most Catalans and foreigners believe that Valencian is a dialect of Catalan and is what Quebec French is to French in France. The thesis of “Valencian=Catalan” is also defended by the Valencian Academy of the Language (AVL) which still, however, defends the use of the term ‘Valencian’ while recognizing the linguistic unity of Valencian and Catalan. However, most Valencians and the Valencian government believe that the differences between Catalan and Valencian are deep enough to make Valencian a separate language from Catalan. These people often accuse the Catalans of linguistic imperialism and oppose the ‘unification’ of Valencian and Catalan. The Valencian Statute and other legislation passed by the regional government make no reference to ‘Catalan’ anywhere.

Unlike Catalan, which has historically been spoken throughout the region, Valencian has never been the universal vernacular language of the entire region. Most of the western region of the Valencian Community and the southern part of Alicante province has historically been a unilingual Spanish zone. Valencian’s use was prevalent in Castelló and the coastal regions of the provinces of Valencia and Alicante. A 2010 study in the Valencian speaking-zone (bilingual zones) showed that 74% can understand Valencian well or very well (69% in the entire community, 32% in the Spanish zone). 54.3% of respondents in the bilingual zone speak Valencian, compared to 48.5% in the entire community and 10% in the Spanish zones. Reading and writing skills are poorer. Other interesting things in that study showed that, like in Euskadi, the youngest and oldest are the ones with the best Valencian linguistic skills, comprehension and knowledge of Valencian is more widespread in upper-class and educated milieus. However, even in the bilingual zone, most people speak Spanish at home. In contrast to Basque, Catalan and even Galician, local authorities have guaranteed bilingualism but have not been aggressive in their promotion of bilingualism. Spanish remains the language used for the majority of business and is preferred in politics and education.

The Valencian linguistic conflict is an example of the difficult relations between Valencians and Catalans, and the ironic fact that in the past, Valencian regionalism has been noted far more for its visceral oppositions to Catalonia than to its opposition to the nature of the Spanish state. Valencian nationalism/regionalism is a broad current of thought which is very much divided and which is marked, more than in any other peripheral nationalist movement in Spain, by the violent conflicts within it. Up until recently, the largest stream of Valencianism was blaverism, a right-wing anti-Catalan regionalist movement. Blaverism emerged as a frontal reaction to the popular 1962 book Nosaltres els valencians which brought up the concept of pancatalanism and the existence of the Catalan Countries (Països Catalans) which includes Valencia. Blaverism defended Valencia’s particularism and its uniqueness vis-a-vis Catalonia. The word blaverism comes from the Valencian word blava, which means blue. The movement is known as such because it supported the adoption of the current senyera coronada flag for the region, which is the Catalan senyera defaced with a vertical crown motif on a blue background. Politically, blaverism is a very conservative movement with Carlist and even Falangist roots. Some of its anti-Catalanist theses have been taken up by the PP, especially after the main electoral expression of right-wing Valencian regionalism, the Valencian Union (UV) collapsed in the late 90s and early 00s. On the other side of the 1970s “Battle of Valencia” was the much smaller fusterian or pancatalanist movement, whose theses are rooted in Joan Fuster’s Nosaltres els valencians book. The pancatalanists, as their name indicates, deny the linguistic uniqueness of Valencian and define Valencia as a Catalan country within the broader Països Catalans (Catalan Countries) which also includes Catalonia, Northern Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. Pancatalanism, electorally represented by the ERC/ERPV, is very weak in the region: the ERPV won 0.5% in the 2011 elections. Currently, as explored in the political parties section, the new expression of Valencian nationalism is the moderate, left-wing Coalició Compromís (CC) alliance which includes the BLOC. They won 7.2% in 2011, an historic high for left-wing ‘third way’ nationalism in the region. CC and the BLOC are neither blaverists or fusterians, but take a moderate non-confrontational approach to relations with Catalonia albeit affirming Valencia’s particularism.

The name Valencian Community emerged as a compromise name during the Battle of Valencia in the 1970s, when the blaverists claimed the name Kingdom of Valencia (Regne de Valencia) and the pancatalanists claimed the more popular and widespread name País Valencià (Valencian Country). For the blaverists, that name was to close to Països Catalans; so the compromise was around the current name Valencian Community, but nobody will keep me from wrongly calling it all ‘Valencia’ because I like it that way.

The Valencian Community is a very right-wing region, and has voted for the PP in all elections since 1993 (after having voted PSOE in all elections between 1977 and 1993). In 2008, the PP won 52.03% (a near all-time high) against 41.32% for the PSOE. The IU (EU) won 2.73% and the BLOC won 1.09%. It is likely the mix of the tourist industry, small businesses, smallholder agriculture and especially water conflicts which make the region a right-wing stronghold.

Regionally, the PSOE governed between 1983 and 1995. In 1995, incumbent PSOE president Joan Lerma was defeated by the PP’s Eduardo Zaplana, who formed a government with the support of the five UV members. In 1999, eating up UV’s dwindling support, Zaplana won an overall majority which the PP has yet to lose. In 2003, Francisco Camps took the reins of power in the region and in the 2007 election won a record 52% of the vote. Despite the massive Caso Gürtel corruption case against Camps and the bulk of the Valencian PP, Camps was reelected in May 2011 with another majority though the PP’s support fell to 49% with the very anti-corruption CC doing well, on the back of the PSOE’s monumental collapse (28%). In July, Camps was forced to resign in favour of Alberto Fabra. UV’s support regionally was between 7% and 10% in its 1987-1995 heyday, but collapsed after entering government and the expulsion/death of the party’s main figure, Vicent González Lizondo. The UPV and BLOC, predecessors of CC, had between 2.7% and 4.7% support between 1983 and 2003.

Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, a point of conflict with Morocco. The paneuropean problems of terrorism and immigration are very real issues in these two cities which are strategic in Spain’s foreign and defense policy but also a potential point of conflict with Morocco. Ceuta has a population of 82,159 and Melilla has a population of 78,476 (INE 2011). Ceuta and Melilla are autonomous cities and are somewhere in between autonomous communities and municipalities. Neither city has law-making powers, but it can enact regulations to apply laws.

Ceuta was conquered by Portugal in 1415, but settled mostly by Spaniards in the next hundred or so years. In 1580, under the reign of Philip II of Spain, the Portuguese crown was joined through a dynastic union with that of Spain, and thus Portuguese Ceuta fell under Spanish rule. In 1640, when the dynastic union broke up in war, Ceuta was the only part of Portugal to remain loyal to Spain, largely because it had become in large part Spanish. Its allegiance to Spain was confirmed in 1668. Melilla was conquered by Spain 1497 and came under the direct rule of the Spanish crown in 1556. During the Spanish protectorate in the Rif, Ceuta and Melilla were Spain’s top links to North Africa and prominent military bases (from which Franco launched his invasion of the mainland in July 1936). Upon Morocco’s independence, Spain maintained its sovereignty over the two cities, claiming that its long-standing historical ties with Spain gave it legitimate authority over them. Morocco still claims both territories, arguing that they are similar in status to Gibraltar and would like Spain to hand them over if Gibraltar is handed over by the British. In 1995, both cities – which were at that point only municipalities of Spain – received their present-day status as autonomous cities.

The economy of these two enclaves are entirely dominated by the service industry (92 and 95% respectively), especially the public sector and trans-border trade with Morocco (both cities have special fiscal advantages and are both free ports). Until the end of mandatory military service in 2001, the military was a key economic player. Since 2001, the two enclaves have become important as stops along the drug smuggling route from Africa to Europe. Besides a prolific black market and illegal smuggling, corrupt housing speculation is also a major problem. Ceuta’s GDP per capita is €21,960 and Melilla’s GDP per capita is €20,832. Unemployment in Ceuta is 33.20% and 23.81% in Melilla.

Immigration and integration are issues at the forefront of local politics in the two enclaves, which by their location in North Africa and their border with Morocco make them destinations for illegal immigrants. The Aznar government built 6 meter walls to surround both Ceuta and Melilla, but that has not dissuaded some migrants. Besides immigrants, both enclaves have large Muslim populations which hold Spanish nationality. They make up roughly 35-40% in Ceuta and 40-45% in Melilla, and their high birth rates will likely lead them to be a majority of the population in both enclaves by 2020 or earlier. Between 1963 and 1985, Muslims in both cities were granted only a residence permit which barred them from political rights and social security. In 1985, Muslims clamored to have full Spanish citizenship granted to them, which they received alongside various religious accommodations in education, healthcare and so forth. Most Muslims in both cities remain poorer than the Christian Spaniards, and live in the poorer outskirts and have less-remunerated jobs. Most Muslims in Ceuta speak Arabic, but most Muslims in Melilla are of Berber origin. Neither Arabic nor tamazight have official status in either city.

The enclaves are both right-wing places. In Ceuta in 2008, the PP won 55.11% against 40.47% for the PSOE. In Melilla, the PP won 49.47% against 48.54% for the PSOE. Ceuta’s sole deputy has been PP since 1993, and Melilla’s sole deputy has been PP since 1996 and before that from 1986-1989 and 1990-1993. At the local level, the political situation is more confusing and littered with small parties, often corrupt outfits or party splitoffs. Left-wingers of various shades governed Ceuta between 1983 and 1996. In 1999, the corrupt populist conservative GIL (the same party which ran Marbella into the ground) won the elections with 12 out of 25 seats. Initially, the PP mayor was reelected but a GIL candidate overthrew him a month later with a PSOE vote. He was defeated in 2003, when the PP won a huge majority (19/25 seats) with 62.6% support. With 65%, the PP was easily reelected in Ceuta in 2007 and 2011. In Melilla, the PSOE governed between 1983 and 1991 when the PP took over. In 1999, it was the GIL, which, like in Ceuta, won over a divided race. With GIL support and that of two PSOE members, Mustafá Aberchan (a Muslim) of the left-wing Coalition for Melilla (CPM) was elected mayor in 1999. He was overthrown by the right in 2000, and the local right (PP and a hard-right party, UPM) won the 2003 elections. The PP won 53.9% in 2011, down slightly from 2007. In both Ceuta and Melilla, the main opposition parties are two left-wing Muslim-rooted parties. In Melilla, the aforementioned Coalition for Melilla led by Mustafá Aberchan won 23.7% in 2011 against 8.5% for the PSOE. In Ceuta, the distant second in 2011 with 14.3% (16.4% in 2007) was the Coalición Caballas, which includes the Ceutan Democratic Union (UDCe), led by Mohamed Mohamed Alí.

Preview of the 2011 General Election

Spain votes on November 20, 2011. Throughout the campaign, this final section in the Guide to the 2011 Spanish Elections will be updated with the latest polling numbers, the latest developments and the latest issues. Don’t hesitate to vote in this month’s poll, on the right of your screen, where you can indicate your preference for whichever Spanish party.

The PP: Government-in-waiting?

This election is the PP’s election to lose. The main opposition party has lead in all polling for at least a year if not two, and it won striking victories practically everywhere in the May regional and municipal elections. The winds of change, which in Spain’s case are hurricane-force winds, clearly favour the PP. In a country where over 20% are unemployed, where the threat of another recession still looms and where voters are clearly frustrated with the way things are going, then it is to be expected that the winds of change will be strong and that whoever has the bad luck of being in government at the time will be hated. Conversely, whoever has the unexpected good luck of being in opposition at this time will look as an increasingly attractive alternative to most people (even if that has not always been the case). If the PP wins this election, as it is very likely to do, it will be more by virtue of being the opposition than by having been able to convince voters that they are clearly a fantastic alternative. There is very little an incumbent party can do when its leader, even if he’s retiring, has an horrible grade of 2-3 out of 10 in polls.

This state of affairs has basically turned Mariano Rajoy, the PP’s previously hapless and deadwood leader since 2004, into the enviable position of “President in waiting”. Roughly eight in ten Spaniards think that the PP will form government after the next election and it seems likely that this government will be a strong one, with a majority rivaling with or even exceeding José María Aznar’s 2000 landslide majority.

The irony is that Mariano Rajoy has never been a particularly competent, inspiring or strong leader and he has never been – not even today – adulated by the people. His leadership rating sits at an average 4 out of 10, which is basically the range for all politicians in Spain, but clearly not a great result. Only 35% of voters think he is the most prepared, only 33% think he has the strongest leadership capacities and only 27% say he has the best capacity in connecting with people. The PP’s performance in opposition generally receives mediocre numbers and few think that the PP would do a better job if they were in government right now. Rajoy himself is totally uncharismatic and his physique is more tailored to his old job of provincial land registrar than to that of President of the Spanish government. His leadership skills, as polling indicates, leaves much to be desired. He does not have his predecessor Aznar’s political cunning and skill. Up until recently, his hold on the party was weak. Thus, Mariano Rajoy is certainly not an asset to the party but, in the current circumstances, he is not an hindrance to it either.

As the unofficial government-in-waiting, the PP’s whole legislative and political style in the past few months has been marked by austerity. Not that they’re broke and not spending, but rather that they’re not staging any massive campaign parties or coming out in the headlines with revolutionary policy proposals. The PP’s mission thus far has been to give the image of a moderate, cautious and responsible party that can, in the voter’s mind, incarnate the strong, steady and responsible fiscal leadership Spain needs. Its campaign message is basically that and the great old catchword: change. Spain undeniably wants change, any kind of change, and is at the desperate point where it is ready to vote for anybody who promises change. The PP has been vague in its campaign statements and policy proposals up till now, to prevent making any waves and being derailed off-track by controversy or scandal about some stupid policy. It is instead trying, with quite a bit of success, to appeal to everybody with broad-reaching, non-committal fuzzy-warm statements.

In the same light, Mariano Rajoy has generally been kept away from the cameras as much as possible. The PP understands that he is not an asset for their campaign, and they seem to confine him to making some broad political statements such as “the economic crisis is our first priority”. Rajoy is not a charismatic person nor is he a particularly good campaigner, so there is no good reason to exploit his image. The party has already been clear that it would lead a rather low-key ‘austere’ campaign, with little huge public rallies or similar political events. It has already made it more or less clear that it will campaign largely on big keywords such as “change” or “confidence” rather than hashing-out policies.

As previously stated, not much is known about the policy details of the PP’s platform. That is not to say that it has no platform – it is readily available on its website – but rather to say that its platform so far consists more of talking points and vague objectives rather than solid policy proposals. It is known that if (when?) the PP forms government, it will implement austerity policies (such as limiting and rationalizing spending) and will cut business taxes to create jobs. But besides that, it is practically anybody’s guess. The PP has taken on the trendy promise of “austerity without pain” – that is, advocating austerity but saying that they won’t touch pensions, healthcare, education or welfare. This is a particularly amusing and hopelessly unrealistic idea (but one which is quite popular around the world in electoral campaigns), but the PP is clearly trying to hit all birds with one stone. It is even trying to appear as more left-wing on social programs and social spending than the left! In late September, the PP’s website was plastered with a scathing attack on Rubalcaba’s support for the Zapatero’s government social cuts, listing all the various cuts (pensions, new-baby handouts, wages, public spending, housing, family and so forth) which the government implemented with the support of then-Vice President Rubalcaba.

This amusing turn to attacking the PSOE from the left isn’t exactly in line with the actions of the PP’s regional governments. In the regions and cities where the PP governs (that is, almost everywhere), there have been major social cuts. The Balearic Islands government laid off over 800 employees, the Valencian Community cuts public sector wages by 10%, in Madrid the government laid off thousands of teachers, in Castile-La Mancha there were major cuts in healthcare and social spending. Almost all regions governed by the PP have either cut social benefits, laid off public sector employees or cut wages. Mariano Rajoy has not made it clear whether, if elected, he would touch the Zapatero government’s public sector wage freeze and spending cuts. Many on the left, of course, do not buy into the PP’s austerity-without-pain and warns of even bigger social cuts and major reforms in healthcare and education.

The PP has a so-called 10 point plan for the first 100 days. Some major reforms include harmonizing services and other policies between regions, liberalizing procedures for creating a business, toughening the law on public subsidies or open governance. It may appear as a solid set of policy proposals, but it is actually rather vague and is not stirring any controversy. The same can apply for the PP’s overblown talk of “structural reforms” and a “revolution” in the healthcare system, where the public content of this so-called revolution are basically harmonizing services and budgets between all 17 regions and experimenting with some sort of vague managerial autonomy

If this were a normal election, such a vague and disoriented campaign with a leader who is rarely seen would spell disaster. But this is not a normal election. This election will be fought entirely on the issue of the economy and jobs. This helps the PP significantly: while the PP and PSOE are roughly tied on other issues (health, education, democratic reform, autonomous communities), the PP enjoys a huge gap over the governing party in the two questions which actually matter to voters: 53% trust the PP on fighting unemployment against only 25% for the PSOE. 53.5% trust the PP in fighting the economic crisis against only 24% for the PSOE. Even the July CIS poll, favourable for the PSOE in its overall results, showed a similarly huge gap between opposition and government on the economy (40% for the PP, 21% for the government) and employment (35-22 for the PP). The PSOE is generally seen as more competent than the opposition on the bulk of other issues, but that doesn’t matter at all.

The voters don’t trust the PP more on economic issues because it offers them a fantastic economic program which is certain to create millions of jobs, but rather because they are so fed up with the government’s economic policies that anything would be better. The government’s austerity policies have been very poorly received (to understate things) by voters, while in contrast the opposition has been successful in attacking austerity from all fronts. There is also broad popular agreement on things such as the necessity to limit the deficit and public debt – which are things the PP is very vocal about. Simply put, the PP is able to generate confidence that it is a safer economic option (they do not fail to use the example of Aznar’s successful economic stewardship after 1996). On generating confidence, Rajoy leads Rubalcaba 44-33. In ability to restore the country’s economy, he leads 46-30.

Rajoy has also worked significantly since his 2008 defeat to right his party’s negative image and remove its more conservative baggage. He has surrounded himself with a well-known team of young women and men (people such as María Dolores de Cospedal and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría) which are the party’s most vocal standarbearers. The old, conservative guard of  Jaime Mayor Oreja, Francisco Álvarez-Cascos (who in fact left the party), Alejo Vidal-Quadras and Esperanza Aguirre (to a lesser extent) have been sidelined in the PP’s PR battle (with good results). Policy wise, he has also significantly toned down the old conservative rhetoric which hurt the PP in 2008. He doesn’t talk any longer about stuff such as gay marriage destroying the family, the Catalan statute wrecking national unity or of Spanish nationalism (the more radical stuff about terrorism has also been toned down). Francisco Álvarez-Cascos’ makeshift personalist hard-right party, the FAC, is running in both Asturias and Madrid. It could very well win a seat in Asturias, but in Madrid it seems as if FAC’s hopes to gain some votes from the PP’s hard-right will prove ultimately futile.

The PP cannot win in Catalonia, but it would like to significantly improve its standing in the seat-rich region. In 2008, the PP won only 16.7% and 8 seats in Catalonia. It would like to win upwards of 23% and 12 seats, its 2000 high. These gains in Catalonia, coupled with gains in Andalusia and other regions would move the PP closer to an absolute majority. In the past, the Catalan PP has been hurt by its bitter opposition to Catalanism and the rather hard-right centralist line its past leaders such as Vidal-Quadras took. Rajoy has succeeded in sidelining the hard-right nationalist elements of the Catalan PP in favour of a more moderate leadership which opposes both “anticatalanism” and “antiespañolismo“. Instead of attacking the ‘separatist disease’ as it used to do, the Catalan PP led by Alicia Sánchez-Camacho has talked about issues such as immigration and security. This policy was very successful: the PP did very well in Catalonia’s urban areas in the May municipal elections and increased its support in the 2010 regional elections. The PP has followed the same strategy of moderate in Euskadi, where the local PP’s hardline leader María San Gil shut the door on the party in 2008 after a spat with Rajoy and was replaced by the moderate Antonio Basagoiti. This moderation, however, has not really paid off unlike in Catalonia: the PP did historically poorly in the May local elections in Biscay and Gipuzkoa.

The PP has been 44 and 47% in polls, which places it between 4 and 7% above its 2008 result of 40.4% and 154 seats. In almost all polls, it is in very good position to win an absolute majority similar to Aznar’s historic majority in the 2000 elections. It needs 176 seats and a lead of roughly 8-9% or more to win a majority. The PP knows better than act triumphant in public (for fear of motivating some left-wingers), but it seems as if the party would consider winning an absolute majority as the expected, acceptable result. Winning over 183 seats, Aznar’s record, would be a very good result. Winning over 210 seats either alone or with the support of smaller parties would be an incredible result as it would give them a three-fifths majority. Winning without an absolute majority, by contrast, would be seen as a disappointing result and certainly force Rajoy to consider his successor after a single four-year mandate.

The PP has come to a deal with two parties to run joint slates in November. In Navarre, it has patched up a bit with the UPN and the two have agreed to form a common slate even though the UPN governs Navarre in coalition with the socialists, not the local PP. In Aragon, it has come to a deal with the regionalist PAR, whose parliamentary support in May gave a majority to the new PP government in the region. The PAR has run in coalition with AP/PP in the 1982 and 1996 general elections. It seems as if the PAR will be given top spots on the senatorial slates in all three Aragonese provinces, with the intent goal of securing three senators.

The PSOE: dead on arrival?

If elections are being held on November 20 rather than in March 2012 as they should have been held, it is because the PSOE government decided to dissolve the legislature. Such a move is rather unusual for governments that know that their reelection is impossible and thus prefer to make everybody suffer while making the legislature go for its full term. Unless the PSOE figured that it should end the misery now, if the government agreed to dissolve the legislature then there must have been some in the governing party’s apparatus who figured that they could gain something (such as winning) out of dissolving the legislature early. Zapatero is known to have been very reticent about dissolution and was pushed into dissolution by Rubalcaba.

Upon Zapatero’s announcement in April 2011 that he would not seek reelection, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who was then First Vice-President of the Government and interior minister, became the favourite to succeed him as the PSOE’s candidate in the general elections. His only significant opponent was Carme Chacón, the 40-year old defense minister. Rubalcaba and Chacón were the most popular ministers in the government, Rubalcaba being well perceived by voters in his role as interior minister because of ETA’s rout during his term. Following the PSOE’s landslide defeat in the May local elections, the PSOE apparatus, which backed Rubalcaba, compelled Chacón not to run and crowned Rubalcaba as the PSOE’s candidate for the next elections (Zapatero remains the secretary-general of the party).

Rubalcaba’s team knew that Rubalcaba started out with an edge over Rajoy in terms of popularity and general likability, and polls showed that Rubalcaba held a narrow edge over Rajoy in a direct match-up for the presidency of the government.  The intention was thus to go for early elections to catch the full momentum of Rubalcaba’s nomination, which would undoubtedly have died down by March (as it already has, by late September). They also hoped to exploit the issue of corruption in the Valencian Community: Francisco Camps had been forced to resign in July over the Caso Gürtel.

The PSOE’s problem is that it has completely lost its base to abstention, regionalists, IU and UPyD. Successive spending cuts and austerity measures have angered many core Socialists, who have little hope left in the party, and oscillate between anger, disillusion and resignation. If the PSOE wants to have a chance at winning or at least saving face, it must regain the support of the party’s base and then, but only then, reach out to undecideds. Rubalcaba, who is generally to the left of the Third Way Zapatero, knows that, and has struck a rather left-wing path in the campaign so far. Many observers judge that Rubalcaba and the PSOE is now desperately trying to bury zapaterismo and regain the confidence of the base with a left-wing discourse. In doing so, it also aims to pick up the support of some of the 15-M indignados. His book of promises includes making banks play and pay their part in economic growth and job creation (some of their profits would pay for job creation and growth), ‘redistribution’ to ensure that the wealthiest “collaborate” in economic growth, a part-time work contract, fighting corruption (the state would take a role in overseeing urban development) and electoral reform (a German-like MMP system for the Chamber or open lists). This is an ambitious and, he claims, realistic, platform. It is clearly aimed to recapture the sympathies of the PSOE’s left and those who have fallen out with the party under Zapatero since 2008. With attacks on the PP as “professional cutters” (spending cuts), it also aims to strike a markedly left-wing line.

In late August, the Congress approved an amendment to the constitution’s Article 135, entrenching the so-called ‘golden rule’ of budgetary deficits into the constitution. The ‘golden rule’ amendment, the first amendment to the constitution since 1992, sets no numbers for the ideal deficit-to-GDP ratio yet but it is widely seen to be 0.4% of GDP, but only by 2024. It also has an “escape hatch” in cases of recession or natural disasters. Regular constitutional amendments require a three-fifth majority in both houses, which the ‘golden rule’ easily received with the support of the PSOE, PP and UPN. In the Chamber, the vote was 316-5 (2 Socialists voted against, one by mistake). Through both parties have hailed the passage of the amendment as the results of bipartisan efforts and proof of what can be achieved through such cooperation, the amendment received the support of no smaller party aside from the UPN. The centrist regionalists, the CiU, PNV and CC all criticized the closed-door manner in which the amendment was built at the exclusion of smaller parties. It also opposes, alongside other left-regionalists (ERC, BNG), the centralist character of imposing the golden rule on autonomous communities. UPyD, meanwhile, violently opposed the golden rule amendment as ‘vandalizing’ the constitution. Because the small parties do not hold a tenth of the seats all together, they could not muster enough support (10% of parliamentarians) to force a referendum on the issue. The ‘golden rule’ amendment has long been spearheaded by the PP and up till now coldly received by the PSOE, but European pressure from Berlin and Paris forced Zapatero’s hand.

The amendment is important for the PSOE’s campaign because it might have served as an unwelcome step backwards. The deficit-slashing character of the amendment does not really go along with the left-wing tone of the PSOE’s campaign (though Rubalcaba has insisted that “the deficit is not left-wing”). The passage of the amendment has certainly not helped (and the PSOE itself admitted that) in the party’s effort to reconquer the left which it has lost. The last-minute approval of the recreation of the old wealth tax (abolished in 2008) on big earners by the lame-duck legislature before the writs were dropped was probably an attempt to recapture the sympathy of the left. The recreation of the wealth tax had been mentioned by Rubalcaba in his nomination speech at the PSOE’s extraordinary meeting in July. In contrast to the old wealth tax, it is far more conservative and only concerns the really big earners rather than all the more or less affluent.

Rubalcaba is a good campaigner and he campaigned extremely hard in contrast to Rajoy who hasn’t campaigned as extensively. But it was more a campaign of desperation for him, and it was quite an uphill batter like no other for the PSOE, which needs a miracle (or divine intervention at this point) to win and another miracle to really, truly regain the sympathies of the left and its demotivated base. The PP has not and will not hesitate to call out the perceived hypocrisy of a party which campaigns on the left after having implemented severe social cuts. Reminding voters of this is certainly the last thing the PSOE needs. The PSOE has lost all credibility with voters on issues which matter such as the economy and jobs. It failed to regain credibility during the campaign, and despite its strength on other non-economic issues its inability to gain points over a pretty unimpressive opposition shows that what primes in Spain this year is the economy.

It seems as if the PSOE’s defeat by a huge margin is increasingly inevitable. Most polls show that the PSOE would be reduced to 120-125 seats and would win 30-35%, which would likely place it below the PSOE’s historic low in 2000 (outside the 1977 and 1979 elections of 118 and 121 seats), when it won 125 seats and 35%. The PSOE is likely in damage control strategy in these elections, trying to save as much as is possible. Holding the PP to a minority or winning 140 or so seats would be seen as a fantastic result. Winning 125 seats as in 2000 would be seen as acceptable (how low they have sunk!) and anything less than the all-time low of 118 in 1977 would be a disaster. In any case, Rubalcaba is unlikely to be a long-term leader for the party, especially in case of a rout.

The PSOE is now left to re-hashing the old story about González trailing by 10 points in 1996 and losing by one, and hopes that something similar will happen this year. It is certainly quite possible that in the end some fickle left-wing voters who have toyed with IU and UPyD will come back home in an ultimately futile bid to prevent a PP majority. It is also possible that the PSOE’s support, like in 1996, is being underestimated just as the support for most unpopular governments is underestimated in a lot of countries. Therein lies the PSOE’s final chances to save face, and praying that polls saying they trail by 20 will turn out wrong and lose only by 10…

The role of the peripheral nationalists

The nationalist parties with strong bases in their respective regions (PNV, CiU and CC) would obviously prefer another minority government over any type of majority. A minority government in Spain always allows these parties to play a very important role as they put their votes in support of the government (or against the government) up for grabs in return for juicy (fiscal) concessions to these regions. Zapatero was able to pass his later budgets with PNV support, Aznar governed between 1996 and 2000 with the support of CiU, PNV and CC while González governed during his last legislature with the CiU and the PNV’s support. In contrast, during majority governments, the last of which was Aznar’s second term, these forces play a much smaller role and don’t have much influence if any over legislation and government policy. The major nationalist parties all did quite poorly in the 2008 elections: the CiU won only 21.3% and 10 seats, ERC won 8% and five of its eight seats from 2004, the PNV took a big hit winning only 27.6% and 6 seats (losing its first place position in the meantime), the CC won a 20-year low of 17.6% and 2 seats and the BNG barely improved its disappointing 2004 result. All these parties will be aiming to do much better this time, hoping to benefit from the PSOE’s collapse. The CiU hopes to have an historic three-hit wonder by winning the most votes in Catalonia (the first time in a general election, if it happens) after its 2010 landslide and its successful outing in May. The PNV hopes to win at least 30% and regain the seat it lost in 2008, all the while limiting growth on the abertzale left. The ERC, in contrast, is in disaster-mode after terrible showings in 2010 and in May. Two of its three seats are in serious jeopardy.

In general, peripheral nationalists perform much better in regional and local elections than they do in general elections: in general elections, a good part of their vote flows to state-level parties, oftentimes the Socialists. The impeding collapse of the PSOE in November gives them hope that they will benefit electorally from this collapse, but they should not be expecting to do better than in regional or local elections.

After two very bad general elections in both 2004 and 2008 (21% of the votes), the CiU hopes to bounce back to stronger results this year, winning at least 14 seats instead of the 10 it currently holds. While it will be hard for the CiU in this context to not improve over its weak 2008 showing, when the PSC did extremely well, it should not expect to win a record result but rather a return to a result which was the norm for the party in the 80s and 90s when it won between 15 and 18 seats. Since winning a landslide in the 2010 regional elections, the CiU, which now controls the Catalan Generalitat, has seen its support level off a bit from the pre-electoral highs it enjoyed in the summer of 2010. Certainly the experience of government and the tough economic reality imposed upon it since winning back government has not had a net positive effect for the CiU, which may be starting to suffer a bit from the tough fiscal austerity measures imposed by Artur Mas’ government. Already in the May 2011 local elections, CiU did well but its 27% result was certainly quite an under-performance when compared to its 2010 result. The fact that it won control of Barcelona, an historic redoubt of opposition to the CiU, should not cover up the fact that its results in May were not ‘fantastic’ at any rate.

In Euskadi, the PNV came out of the 2008 elections severely weakened with the loss of one seat and more importantly a 6.6% drop in its popular vote in Euskadi which ended up placing it 11 percentage points behind the Socialists, who gained over 11% in four years. A year later, the election of the Socialist Patxi López to the office of lehendakari ended unchecked PNV support over regional government since its 1980 creation. Even in the context of the decrepitude of the two state parties in May, the PNV’s 30% in the local elections was rather anemic. The PNV’s potential for growth this year on the coattails of the impeding socialist collapse (which will be pretty bad in Euskadi, if local elections are any indication) are checked by vociferous competition to the PNV’s left by the refounded abertzale left.

The sensation of the May elections had been Bildu, the controversial abertzale left coalition created around Garaikoetxea’s old EA. Bildu won 25.5% of the vote in Euskadi and scored phenomenal successes throughout the province of Gipuzkoa. Bildu is an attractive anti-system left-wing protest option for many voters, especially given that it carries less of the ETA baggage than the old anti-system vote receptor (HB) had. Meanwhile, as ETA moves ever closer to disbanding or at least accepting a peace process where its agenda will not be a precondition, the abertzale left might receive a boost in support similar to the one received by HB in the wake of its 1999 truce.

One of the main victims of Bildu’s eruption into the political arena was Aralar, the non-violent abertzale left party led by Patxi Zabaleta. Though founded in and traditionally operating out of Navarre, in the 2009 regional elections in Euskadi, Aralar won 6% of the vote and in the 2007 local elections it had won nearly 7% in coalition with EB-B. Given that Bildu and Aralar are both quite close ideologically, they hunt the same ground. Bildu’s eruption had a negative impact on Aralar, which following its poor showing in May was forced to seriously consider the option of an alliance with Bildu if it wanted to remain politically relevant. Aralar, simply put, had little to lose from such a deal while it had quite a bit to gain. This electoral alliance between the two main components of today’s abertzale left gave birth to the Amaiur coalition, a tin-pot name referring to a town in Navarre which was a holdout of resistance to the Castilian conquest in the sixteenth century.

Aralar’s integration into Amaiur signs NaBai’s death certificate. The coalition had been weakened by Bildu – EA had been a part of the original NaBai coalition – and Aralar was the largest party within the coalition besides the various independents it included, such as NaBai’s sole deputy, Uxue Barkos. Aralar will be topping the provincial slate in Navarre. In the competition for the Basque nationalist electorate in Navarre, Amaiur will face perhaps deadly competition from Uxue Barkos, the incumbent NaBai deputy who has now formed her own slate, Geroa Bai (Future Yes) which receives support from the ex-independents in NaBai and the PNV, the smallest component of the old nationalist coalition. The threshold for representation in Navarre, which elects five members, is 15-16%. If the nationalist vote is split between Geroa Bai and Amaiur, with the result of both coalitions polling strongly but both failing to win seats, the Basque nationalists in Navarre could be left without representation. But most observers seem to agree that Basque nationalism will save its representation in Navarre, though it is uncertain and very much up in the air which of Amaiur or Geroa Bai will walk home with the cake.

Amaiur’s impact on these elections is one of the early question marks, as is the overall result in Euskadi. Its performance is not measured individually in each poll, but the few who have included it individually give it between 3 and 6 seats, which pretty much ties it up to the PNV’s range of 4 to 6.

In the Canaries, CC will be running in coalition with Román Rodríguez’s NCa and its more traditional allies such as the PNC, PNL and AHI. The CCN, which is right-leaning and is the continuation of the local branch of the old CDS, is running in a common list with the PP, but it is a fairly minor and unimportant party on its own. NCa’s addition to the Canarian nationalist coalition gives it a significant boost in the province of Las Palmas, where the NCa-CC split took place and where CC had been killed by it. This could place CC in good position to regain the seat it lost in 2008, to win three seats.

Two new wildcards: Equo and Revilla

Spain is pretty unique in western Europe for its lack of a strong green party. The country’s green parties are terribly factionalized and create about 600 different groups. Those who would vote for such a party have traditionally tended to vote for regionalists, the PSOE or IU. With a PSOE which has lost its left and is in shambles, with a regionalist coalition which is a bit anemic and with an IU which, unlike in the 1990s, is not the main beneficiary of the PSOE’s troubles; it is a perfect storm for a green party. The Spanish greens now have their best chance at making a mark in their country’s politics with their new party, Equo, founded between 2010 and 2011 as an alliance of the bulk of regional and national green parties (with a few exceptions who remain independent or allied with IU). Equo is markedly left-wing, and it is led by former Greenpeace Spain director Juan López de Uralde who is the party’s top candidate in Madrid. Inés Sabanés, a former IU deputy, is Equo’s second candidate on the key Madrid list. If Equo wins a seat, it will logically be in Madrid, and that is where the party’s efforts are focused.

Ironically, Equo’s best chances might be its allies. In the Valencian Community, it is allied with the new and pretty booming regionalist Coalició Compromís (CC) which won 7% and 6 seats in the regional elections in May. CC is benefiting from its ‘fresh’ image, its strong anti-corruption rhetoric and it has appealed to PSOE and IU left-wing voters. Polls indicate that CC is likely to win at least one seat in Valencia, and could perhaps win up to 2 seats in the entire community. In the Balearic Islands, it is running in coalition with the local nationalist PSM-EN and polls have shown them surprisingly strong to the point of being in the running – potentially – for one seat.

One other interesting wildcard which seems to have petered out a bit is that of the PRC, the Cantabrian regionalists. The PRC, which governed the northern Spanish region in coalition with the PSOE between 2003 and 2011, only ran in the 1993 general elections. This year, Miguel Ángel Revilla, the PRC’s leader and former president of the regional government, is trying to be a factor in Cantabria. Allied with two Castilian regionalist parties, the PRC defends Senate reform, electoral reform, Spanish national unity and inter-regional solidarity. Unofficially, it’s raison-d’être this year is rather the expansion of high-speed rail (the AVE) to Cantabria. Originally predicted at 0-1 seat, it has failed to be a major factor since the start of the campaign and it seems unlikely as if the PRC will win the 16% required to win a seat in the 5-seat province.

How well can IU and UPyD do?

Besides the performance of the regional parties, another important question is that of the performance of IU and UPyD, the two nationwide “third-parties” which are hoping to improve on their 2008 showings (2 seats for IU, a record low; one seat for UPyD).

With the PSOE’s decrepitude, IU is in a natural position to benefit from it given how the IU’s electoral fortunes are inversely correlated with that of the Socialists. It is quite certain to at least gain 2 or 3 seats, which would mark the first election since 1996 where IU has actually gained votes (ironically, 1996 was also the last election where the PSOE was defeated as an incumbent government). If it manages to win over 10 seats, it would be a nice success for them.

IU is slightly more lucky than most national third parties in that its main electoral bases (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and Andalusia) tend to be more heavily populated, thus worth more seats, and thus easier targets for IU. This year, IU is looking at a gain of at least one if not two seats in Madrid with its Catalan ally, ICV, hoping to gain another seat in Barcelona. Outside those seat-rich provinces, their other main targets are Valencia, Sevilla, Málaga, Asturias (with former leader Gaspar Llamazares) and Zaragoza where IU is running coalition with the left-nationalist CHA (CHA in facts tops the lists in both Zaragoza and Huesca).

UPyD has been unable to gain strength during the course of the campaign and its electorate could be quite fickle when it comes to 20-N. Just as IU can hope for rather sizable gains, UPyD cannot hope for large gains. If it wins another seat or two, as it remains likely to, it will be in Madrid. UPyD’s  ‘strongholds’ of sorts outside the capital are pretty much all in sparsely populated Castilian provinces. Its only chance outside Madrid is in Valencia, where the party’s top candidate is former actor Toni Cantó.

Polling and projections

350 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies and 208 Senators in the Senate will be elected. This year, in the Chamber, Madrid will elect one extra deputy (for a total of 36 seats) at the expense of Cádiz which will elect one fewer member (for a total of 8 seats). Besides Madrid’s 36 seats, the other provinces with the most seats up for grabs are Barcelona (31), Valencia (16), Sevilla (12), Málaga and Murcia (10 each). In the Senate, there will be two additional non-elected members (for a total of 266 members) as the Valencian Community gained one seat (from 5 to 6 non-elected members) as did Castile-La Mancha (from 2 to 3 non-elected members).

Here is an average of the last polls by each major pollster (El País, La Vanguardia, Gaceta, El Mundo, SER and La Razón) which published their full results for all parties. The range of seats is not an average, but rather a very broad range from the minimum value in one poll to the maximum value in another poll.

Party 2011 % (2008%) 2011 (2008)
PSOE 30.9% (44.4%) 110-123 (169)
PP 45.6% (40.4%) 184-198 (154)
IU-ICV 7.5% (3.8%) 7-11 (2)
CiU* 3.4% (3.1%) 11-14 (10)
PNV* 1.5% (1.2%) 4-6 (6)
UPyD 3.5% (1.2%) 2-4 (1)
ERC* 1% (1.2%) 1-3 (3)
Others 6.7% (4.9%)

In general, no poll has given the PP less than 44.7% and only two polls (out of 16 latest polls) have given it over 46.6%. Only two polls have given the PSOE under 30% but only three polls have given it over 33%. The general expectation, if the polls were to turn out entirely correct, would be roughly 45-46.5% for the PP and 30-32% for the PSOE.

Some of the key regions to follow will be Andalusia, Catalonia and Euskadi. In Andalusia, the stronghold of the Spanish left, all pollsters have confirmed that the PP has a comfortable lead in a region. A poll by El País placed the PSOE at 35% in its stronghold – it had won 52% in 2008 – and the PP at 48.7% – it had won 38% in 2008. These numbers would give the PP between 33 and 35 seats in the region, up from 25, and the PSOE between 23 and 25 – down from 36. IU would win two seats, one in Sevilla and one in Málaga. The PP could even take the lead in all 8 provinces of the southern region, an historic feat.

In Catalonia, the defeat of Carme Chacón’s PSC is unlikely but the race has grown all the more exciting as the PP and CiU battle it out for second place. Polls give the PSC between 28 and 30%, down considerably from the high of 46% in 2008. It would lose about 10 seats and be left with 15 seats at least, but still remain in first. In the last few weeks, the PP has surged into contention for second place – ahead of the CiU. A poll on November 12 placed the PP at 24.7% and 13 seats (it won 16.7% and 8 seats in 2008) while another poll on November 7 gave the PP 26.8% and 13 seats. With those numbers, it would beat its previous high-water mark of 23% in the region. CiU has been placed between 24% and 25.7%, a modest improvement over its poor showing in 2008 (21.3%). It would win between 13 and 14 seats. The ERC is likely to hold at least one or two of its seats and it could save its third one as well. ICV is likely to gain a second seat in Barcelona.

Euskadi is probably where all the suspense is. There is, of course, a new factor now: the return of the abertzale left into contention. The abertzale left (besides EA) has not taken part in a general election since 1996. Fresh from its success in May, the rebranded nationalist left Amaiur throws the race in Euskadi into suspense. Will it top the poll? What will be its effect on the PNV and the other parties? A question which pollsters have had a hard time answering, but the reasonable expectation is that the race in Euskadi will end all tied up between the four parties – Amaiur, PNV, PSE-EE and PP. In fact, a poll in early November by the Basque government placed all four parties at 4-5 seats each – in 2008, the PSE-EE had won 9 seats, the PNV 6 and the PP 3. El País on November 9 placed the PSE-EE at 28.1% (down from 38.9%) and 5 seats, tied with the PNV at 5 seats and 26.3% (it won 27.6% in 2008). The PP with 21.3% (up from 18.9%, but quite far from the high-water mark of 29% in 2000) would win 4-5 seats. Amaiur was placed a bit lower than on average, with 19.1% and 3-4 seats. It could win up to 5-6 seats on a good day. Amaiur could also win a seat in Navarre, where El País placed the PP-UPN at 3 seats (up 1), the Socialist and Amaiur at 1 apiece (PSN down one). Uxue Barkos, the NaBai incumbent now at the helm of Geroa Bai, allied with the PNV, could still be in contention to save its seat. The consensus indicates a tied race across the CAPV, with the PNV dominating in its Biscayan stronghold, Amaiur winning in the abertzale stronghold of Gipuzkoa and the PP winning in Álava.

Some other things to look at will be the FAC’s performance in Asturias, the impact of Equo in Madrid and CC in Valencia, the performance of the BNG in Galicia and of CC-NCa in the Canaries.

A word on the Senate, where the PP already has a plurality of seats thanks to the equal representation of provinces at 4 seats apiece. In Senatorial contests, the seats in any given province usually split 3-1 in favour of the winning party. Given that the PP is likely to lose only Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Biscay, Gipuzkoa and maybe Tarragona and an Andalusian province like Huelva or Sevilla, one could easily infer that the PP will win a huge majority in the Senate pretty easily.

Thank you for reading this guide!

  1. SouthpawPundit

    This piece is beautiful :) I’ve always been fascinated by Spanish politics, and this has given me a lot of important context for understanding election results and other significant political developments in Spain.

  2. Excellent work.

  3. Indeed, as it has been pointed out, it is a remarkable piece of work.

    I have just one remark, regarding the part on the 1936-1939 Civil War. The two sides in this war are called in Spain the republicans (i.e. the legitimate government) and the nationals (not nationalists). The difference between the terms ‘national’ and ‘nationalist’ is quite important, as they refer to totally different political visions of Spain.

  4. I am aware of that. It is just that in English and French, the nationals are referred to as “nationalists”. I use the English terms in preference over the Spanish term in part to make it more familiar for Anglophone readers.

  5. Mario Almendrades

    Your article does not mention the large historical impact that the spanish colonies in South America had on Spain political fate before and after their independence wars in the 1820s.

  6. You are so interesting! I do not think I have read through anything like that before.
    So wonderful to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

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