Focus on Political Systems: Spain
By Daniel D’Amico
Spain is currently a parliamentary monarchy comprised of 17 autonomous regions. The President is Mariano Rajoy from the Popular Party. The country has recently fallen into an economic crisis from which it is still recovering. As a result, the past elections in December yielded shocking results. In addition, there are sources of tension that continue to build.
The twentieth century has seen many changes between various political systems in Spain. The first quarter of the twentieth century consisted of several attempts on the king’s life, assassinations of three prime ministers, labor strikes, uprisings, and even bombings.
Following these events was a hybrid of a monarchy and dictatorship and then a Second Republic. The rule was solidified by Francisco Franco after a bloody civil war in which he established a repressive dictatorship in 1939.
The post-Franco rule saw the rise of two new political parties that are still prominent parties today. These are the Popular Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE). However, the election this past December saw the rise of two new parties, Podemos and Ciudadanos.
The PP acquired a mere 28.7 percent of the votes, PSOE 22 percent, Podemos 20 percent and Ciudadanos 13 percent, as reported by the Guardian. These results were shocking as no party received the majority necessary to form a new government.
The Popular Party controlled the government from 2011-2015. They are conservative whereas the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party is composed of social democrats. Of the newer parties, Podemos is leftist while Ciudadanos is center-right.
These parties do not differ on many key issues. Podemos is driven by the fight against corruption and define themselves as not being with the left or the right but with the people, according to the party website. Many of their supporters have never been part of a political party or have been disconnected from politics.
Ciudadanos draws support from those who are fed up with the PP but skeptical of Podemos. They focus primarily on individual liberties, transparency in government, and a mix of social-democratic and liberal economic policies.
Another big issue is the lack of public interaction in the political system. Recently, the percentage of people who were interested in politics and read newspapers decreased. Additionally, the percentage of electoral participants in general elections decreased. This has resulted from a variety of factors including government corruption and scandal among other key issues. It also shows the growing discontent with the major political parties.
One of the other problems plaguing the Spanish nation is the issue of Catalonian independence. No parties believe in the complete separation of Catalonia from Spain, but Podemos does believe in a greater sense of autonomy.
There is also the issue of immigration which has increased significantly over the past decade. The Moroccans and the Romanians have shown the largest increase. Many of the parties are calling for stricter legislation regarding immigrants. Regardless, they also see the extent to which immigrants benefit the country, especially as far as the economy is concerned.
The election results go a long way to show the current feelings of the Spanish people. While many still support the PP and PSOE, others are fed up and want a change. As a result, the Ciudadanos and Podemos received many votes, further splitting the ballot.
This result was not as shocking as it could have been if Podemos won as previously predicted by some. The PP under Mariano Rajoy has been rife with scandals and corruption. Many people also desire an increase in government transparency.
It is unclear who will comprise the new government. Many think that a coalition is likely, but between whom is another question entirely. Whoever ends up in government, they have many obstacles ahead. Economic troubles include rising inflation and growing unemployment. This election marked the end of the two party system in Spain with the emergence of the two new major parties.