November 20th 2011 Mariano Rajoy became the Prime Minister having led the Popular Party (PP) to a landslide victory. The former socialist party (PSOE) who had been in power polled less than 29% of the vote giving them only about 110 seats while the Popular Party took over 44.5% of the vote winning them 186 seats, giving them the necessary majority to take control.
Yet another terrorist attack marked Spanish national elections on March 9, 2008, only this time the victim was a former socialist town councilman from the Basque country who was shot by ETA terrorists the Friday before election Sunday. Political parties did agree to wait to honour the victim until after the elections in order to keep the impact on voting results to a minimum. Still, there was speculation that the loss of a party member did raise sympathy for Socialists in some sectors.
There are 350 seats in the Spanish national congress and socialists won the majority with 169 seats in their power this legislature. That’s five more than last term. The Popular Party, however, also won five more seats and now has 153 this time around. CiU, the Catalán Nationalist Party now has eleven seats after winning one more than last term, and clearly all these gains had to come from somewhere. United Left, was reduced to a mere two seats and will now be melded into the Mixed Party at this level.
Socialists won 89 of the 208 seats in the national senate and this represented a smashing victory as they have eight new seats. The Popular Party, meanwhile, lost a seat in the parliament which means they now have 101 seats. The Catalán Progress Group, representing a number of parties, won 12 seats.
The March 14 2004 Spanish parliamentary elections took place only three days after a devastating terrorist attack on Madrid commuter rail lines that killed 191 and wounded over 1,400. In the early moments following the attacks, the national government maintained the theory of the ETA responsibility. However, when evidence pointed to the possibility that an Islamic extremist group was behind the massacre the ETA theory lost weight and mass demonstrations took place in the capital as voters registered their anger at the PP government’s apparent dissembling to gain electoral advantage. Many also felt that Spain’s official support for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 – to which the vast majority of Spaniards were opposed – had provoked the attack. With large voter turnout, PSOE subsequently won the election and its leader, José Rodriguez Zapatero took office on April 17, 2004. The day after the election, Zapatero announced his intention to form a minority PSOE government, without a coalition, saying in a radio interview: “The implicit mandate of the people is for us to form a minority government negotiating accords on each issue with other parliamentary groups”. Two minor left-wing parties, the Republican Left of Catalonia and United Left, immediately announced their intention to support Zapatero’s government.
The Political Parties
Partido Popular (PP)
The People’s Party (PP) was founded as the Alianza Popular in 1978 by Manuel Fraga, former minister in the Franco regime from a federation of right wing groups which was established two years previously. However it lost badly to the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) in 1982, remaining in opposition during the following 13 years of PSOE government. Fraga resigned as head of the party in 1986, handing over power to Antonio Hernández Mancha. He was subsequently replaced by José María Aznar, who steered the party towards the centre and beat Felipe González in the General Elections of 1996 when he continued as leader until the 2004 elections when he was beaten by PSOE Zapatero (see Elections 2004)..
Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE)
The Socialist Party (PSOE) was founded in 1879. Initially a Marxist organization, it remained a small political party before the First World War. Its main support came from Madrid, the mining districts of Asturias and the industrial areas of Bilbao. The leaders of the Socialist Party were forced to flee from Spain when General Franco took control of the country in March 1939. During the 1980s and the early-1990s, domestic politics were dominated by the PSOE under the leadership of Felipe Gonzalez, an archetype of the new generation of Spanish socialists who favored pragmatism and technocratic development in favor of ideology. The Socialists won four consecutive elections from 1982 onwards. Their main achievement in office was to establish Spain as a valuable and enthusiastic member of the European Union, which it joined in 1986 and from which it has benefited considerably. Spanish ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union was completed in November 1992 and the single European currency was adopted upon its inception in January 1999. Gonzalez also took Spain into NATO in 1982 and continued membership was confirmed in a referendum held in 1986.
Corruption scandals fuelled growing popular disillusionment with the PSOE, and during the early 1990s, it was able to govern only in coalition with Basque and Catalan regional parties. The withdrawal of the Catalan from the Government precipitated an early general election in March 1996. At this point, the Spanish nation overcame its distrust of the right and the PSOE was replaced the PP under Jose Maria Aznar until he was, in turn, replaced by PP Zapatero in April 2004.
The Zapatero government supported coalition efforts in Afghanistan, including maintaining troop support for 2004 and 2005 elections, approved gay marriages, supported reconstruction efforts in Haiti, and cooperated on counterterrorism issues. Carrying out campaign promises, it immediately withdrew Spanish forces from Iraq but has continued to support Iraq reconstruction efforts.
The Senate is represented by 4 seats from each of the Spanish provinces regardless of population. being four from each of the eight provinces.