You cannot talk about politics in Spain without mentioning the “Franco Years”, which lasted from 1939 to the Dictator’s death in 1975. Following a right wing military coup in July 1936, Spain was engulfed in a three-year civil war which was finally won by General Francisco Franco who was supported by the fascist Falange party, most of the Catholic Church, Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. This was a crushing blow to the Republicans, and around half a million were forced to flee across the Pyrenees and into France, or as far as Latin America, rather than face imprisonment or execution.
Franco’s government began a war of attrition against anyone who was deemed to be “anti-Spain” such as those who believed in regional autonomy, liberal or social democracy, free elections and women's rights. A vast number of Spaniards suffered from hunger and deprivation and were forced to follow the regime’s draconian laws forbidding anything other than Castilian Spanish to be spoken or any local and regional culture to be practised and demanding a strict adherence to the party line.
Moving on to 1975, Franco died and thanks in part to King Juan Carlos (Franco’s chosen heir), democracy returned to Spain. By 1977, numerous political prisoners had been pardoned and freed and social reforms were being rapidly brought in, and on June 15 1977 a general election was held. A new Constitution was written and adopted in 1978, and this proclaims Spain to be a social and democratic state, governed by law and declares liberty, justice, equality, and political pluralism to be the country's foremost values.
Since then, Spain has emerged as a powerful European country and has had governments from both sides of the political divide. In 2004, just three days before a general election, a series of coordinated bombs destroyed several Madrid commuter trains. The centre right government of José Maria Aznar was unexpectedly defeated following controversial remarks about who were responsible for the bombings, and the socialist PSOE came to power under José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Under his governance, many social reforms were introduced, including abortion rights, gay marriage and an increase in the minimum wage, but economically Spain’s debt mushroomed. The general election of 2011 saw a swing to the right and Mariano Rajoy and the PP won the election.
The current government have in many ways be compared to Franco’s manner and style of running the country – thanks in part to the worst economic crisis to face Spain in decades. They have been forced by Brussels, the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank to implement harsh remedies.
However, their social policy has in many ways reversed all that Zapatero’s government brought in, and the deeply rooted divisions in Spain appear to be coming to the surface again, with more and more demonstrations against new laws (“Republicans” against “Falangists”). There is a new and determined call for independence from Spain by certain autonomous regions, including Catalunya and even now parts of Galicia and Paisos Bascos.
Later this year there will be an “illegal” referendum in Catalunya about independence. Illegal because, unlike the British government with Scotland, Rajoy’s party has refused to permit a referendum, insisting that it is against the constitution.
Every day the Spanish papers reveal more “evidence” that senior members of the PP party have been for years involved in creating a slush fund, receiving cash payments in brown envelopes, moving funds to secret Swiss bank accounts and lying to save their positions of power. Rajoy was forced to make a statement to the Moncloa (Spanish parliament) last year about his own involvement and denied everything, blaming in particular the ex-party treasurer currently in prison while being investigated for another corruption scandal. In Britain, any prime minister faced with such accusations and evidence would have resigned months’ ago - but this is Spain and Rajoy is still there.
The PSOE (socialists), CIU (Catalan Convergence Party) and others are all also involved in cases of fraud and corruption to a greater or lesser degree. Such is the almost inevitable consequence of political power locally and nationally in a country called Spain and others located around the Mediterranean.
The people of Spain try to live their lives with an increasing tax burden and political conflict, enjoying the sun, the beaches and the countryside, all of which are free - financially and politically speaking.
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