There was a time in Spain, when our democracy was even younger than it is now that no matter who you asked about where they thought they were politically speaking, they would answer: “I’m a centrist”. The memory of forty years of dictatorship under Franco’s rule was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Everyone was a centrist, and what’s more, a centrist (even if right-ishly so) amalgamation under the name of UCD (Unión de Centro Democrático), led by Adolfo Suárez, won the first two general elections and carried Spain through that difficult transition period up to right before February 23rd 1981. Suárez was already balancing on a ledge even before the military coup from which even today we don’t know everything, from the role of the now still king Juan Carlos or why noone was really interested in sending everyone but a couple of figureheads to jail in the subsequent (poor attempt at a simulacrum of) judiciary proceedings, forced him to resign from office and let Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo and his horrible glasses become President. Then came October 1982 and everything changed.
In the fall of 1982 the socialist party (PSOE), headed by Felipe González and his friend Alfonso Guerra, smashed all the forecasts and won the general elections with an overwhelming majority in the parliament and a shattered opposition filling the rest of it, with UCD all but disappeared, Fraga’s AP still not much more than a bunch of die-hard franquist veterans, the PCE (communist party legalized by Suárez on 1977) a token group of bearded leninists and then a mishmash of catalonian and basque nationalists and residual forces. To give you an idea of how placid that first term was for Felipe González and his merry band of we-abjurated-from-marxism-long-ago party mates, at least parliamentary speaking, they had 202 seats for the 107 of the next political party (AP). They had other problems, but they were young, energetic and still a tad idealistic and dealt with everything with a certain lack of visible effort so invigorating that they easily won the next general election, although their win wasn’t as impressive this time. Between 1982 and 1992, Spain was leftist. Everyone was a leftist since forever. Hell, everyone would swear that they had always preferred their mothers’ left tit!
Around 1992, the socialist party started showing signs of getting tired of this democracy thing and having to defend against the sting of a certain José María Aznar, now leader of PP, not much more than a midget with a silly moustache but still a tireless busy bee in his political maneuvering. They wondered why on earth they should be still talking to such a waste of space instead of getting elected for life because “they were the people” and, besides, that short excuse of a man was a facha to boot (a “facha” used to be a Franco supporter but by now it meant anyone that didn’t openly declare himself as a socialist). At that time a disgruntled accountant started airing some of the by now plenty of dirty laundry that ten years of undisputed government had accumulated and on 1993 the PSOE managed a pyrrhic victory over Aznar’s Partido Popular, rightful heir of UCD, AP and various other center-right formations. On 1996, Aznar turned the tables and snatched a close victory over PSOE and managed to rise to government with the support of both the catalonian and basque nationalist parties. This was the first general election in which I voted, even though I could have done so long before, but politics had never interested me that much.
At that time the always present “two Spains” argument that had laid dormant during close to 20 years started to become more apparent due to the proverbial lack of respect all socialist parties everywhere have for democracy when they’re on the losing side. Another thing that became apparent around the period from 1993 onwards was the masterful media policy the socialist party had developed in the previous years, as most of the media were controlled by leftist groups or by malleable groups that loved to swim while keeping their feet dry. Even so, Aznar managed to achieve a resounding victory in 2000, not needing from any other party to rise to government for a second term. As expected, the dichotomy accentuated, reaching ludicrous levels during the sinking of an oil tanker called Prestige in the northwest of Spain and then the Spanish support of Irak’s international invasion by Aznar’s government.
Aznar had promised that he wouldn’t run for a third term and nominated Mariano Rajoy as new PP candidate for the general elections to be held on 2004. All the polls were giving PP as comfortable winners, maybe a split hair away from an absolute majority but still with more than enough room to maneuver for a third term in the government. Elections were to be held on March 14th, and on March 11th Spain woke up with the terrifying news of the biggest terrorist attack in Europe to date. Almost two hundred dead and two thousand injured people in three separate train bombings a bit before seven in the morning. The information management by PP officials during the following three days wasn’t as good as desired and PSOE took advantage of that, snatching victory in the last hours before Sunday the 14th. Thus ZP (the callsign José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had coined for his campaign) rose to power when not even the most optimistic sycophants in his entourage expected it, and Spain changed yet again.
I hope I have managed to put these almost thirty years down on “paper” with as much distance and lack of passion as anyone could at this point in Spain’s history, because they are intended as a background for what’s to come in the next entries which, I hope you’ll understand, will be much more opinionated. The interpretation I make of some events should be open to opinion, but a great percentage of what I’ve written is based on facts and as such shouldn’t. Even in that case, you’re entitled to your own point of view and I will happily discuss it with you if you’re so kind as to leave a comment. Also, next week I will be introducing PSOE’s candidate for the next election, and that will be fun.
See you next week!