Spain History – The New Kingdom of Spain

The transition to democracy was mainly the work of the government chaired by A. Suárez González (July 1976-Jan. 1981), whose UCD (Unión de centro democrático, coalition of moderate parties) won the elections for the Cortes. constituents of June 1977. After the promulgation of a new Constitution (Dec. 1978) and the victory in the legislative elections of March 1979, Suárez had to face a difficult economic situation and the persistent terrorist threat of ETA, whose attacks continued despite the launch a reform that provided for moderate political-administrative decentralization and the election of regional parliaments. In February 1981, the refusal of Giovanni Carlo to collaborate with the rebels failed a coup attempt carried out by soldiers of the civil guard with the support of some sectors of the armed forces. A new UCD government, entrusted to L. Calvo Sotelo, obtained the entry of the Spain into NATO in May 1982, despite the clear opposition of PSOE, PCE and the nationalist right. Weakened by contrasts and divisions, the UCD underwent a drastic downsizing in the early elections of Oct. 1982, which saw the affirmation of the PSOE (46% of the votes and absolute majority of seats in the Congress) and the good result of Alianza popular (AP), expression of the Francoist right (25% of the votes). The economic policy measures launched by the government set up in dec. 1982 fromsocialist leader F. González Márquez led to a decrease in inflation, an improvement in the trade balance and a stabilization of the public deficit, but failed to stem unemployment (22% of the active population in 1984); relations between the executive and the trade unions deteriorated and, starting from 1984, numerous strikes blocked production, while the ETA attacks continued throughout the national territory. On the international level, on Jan. 1986 the socialist government obtained the entry of the Spain into the EEC and in March of the same year a referendum sanctioned the country’s stay in NATO on the basis of new conditions, as proposed by the PSOE. The economic difficulties and the lack of results in the fight against terrorism led González to resort to early elections in June 1986 and in Oct. 1989; in both cases the PSOE suffered a reduction in consensus, while maintaining an absolute majority of seats in Congress. In the early 1990s, the popularity of the González government was severely compromised by a series of scandals and by suspicions of executive involvement in the organization of paramilitary anti-terrorism groups, responsible since 1983 for the elimination of numerous members of ETA. After the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, González, in difficulty due to the consequences of a new phase of economic recession, again had to resort to the polls (June 1993); the PSOE lost the absolute majority (38% of the votes), the Partido popular (PP, center-right coalition born in 1989 from the merger of AP with the Partido liberal and Democracia Christian) obtained 34% of the votes and Izquierda unida (IU, left coalition organized in 1989 by the PCE) 9% of the votes.

In July 1993 González launched a minority executive with the external support of moderate Catalan nationalists (Convergencia i Unió, CIU) and Basque (Partido nacionalista vasco, PNV); the cuts in public spending and unemployment benefits launched by the government caused a resumption of social conflict during 1994, without the economic indicators showing signs of improvement. Losing the support of the CIU at the end of 1995, González again resorted to early elections (March 1996), but won by the PP, with 38.5% of the votes, but not the absolute majority of the seats, while the PSOE dropped to 37., 5% and IU got 10.5% of the vote. In May 1996 the leader of the PP, JM Aznar, formed a new government, which obtained the external support of the CIU, PNV and the Canarian nationalists after a long negotiation on a program that, alongside the priority objective of reducing the deficit public and inflation rate, foresaw a strengthening of the already advanced regional autonomies (May 1996). The PP had established itself on the political scene as early as the early 1990s. Born in 1989 from the AP (the most important party of the Spanish right in which various currents had converged, from the far right to the liberals) by a former minister of the Franco regime, M. Fraga Iribarne, in 1990 the PP had passed under the leadership of Aznar who had accentuated its moderate and centrist character. Since then the PP had changed: endowed with a new and younger management group, it had assumed a unitary character on the basis of a center-right line, while maintaining the internal heterogeneity of the past. The new government immediately found itself having to face severe social tensions following the first austerity measures introduced: the freezing of public service salaries had in fact caused strikes and protests (Oct.-Nov. 1996), the cuts in education expenses had brought students and teachers to the streets (Dec. 1996), while in February 1997 a a long strike by truckers paralyzed the country. Social opposition to the government’s austerity line did not prevent Aznar from obtaining parliamentary approval of his “economic stability plan”, with the IU voting against, in April 1997. The crisis that had engulfed the PSOE did not appear meanwhile resolve: in June 1997 A. Suárez González retired and was replaced at the secretariat by the moderate J. Almunia, defeated in turn by J. Borrell in the party’s primary elections (April 1998). From the autumn of 1997, Aznar’s credibility suffered a setback due to the statements of J. de la Rosa, a Catalan businessman involved in a trial for fraud and embezzlement of capital, which confirmed the rumors of his substantial financing to the PP in the campaign for the elections to the Catalan Parliament in 1991, and the stability of the government itself was subjected to a severe test: the PNV and the CIU repeatedly announced the withdrawal of support for Aznar. In the meantime the long course was over the PNV and the CIU repeatedly announced the withdrawal of support for Aznar. In the meantime the long course was over the PNV and the CIU repeatedly announced the withdrawal of support for Aznar. In the meantime the long course was over iter procedural relating to the role played by the executive in the organization of the Grupos antiterroristas de liberación (GAL), military anti-terrorism groups born in 1983 and indicated as responsible for the elimination of numerous ETA exponents in Spain and in France: already in April 1995 Fourteen former Interior Ministry officials were convicted of found guilty of establishing and financing the LAGs, while in July 1998 the Supreme Court sentenced J. Barrionuevo, former Minister of the Interior, R. Vera, former Secretary of State for Security, and J. Sancristóbal, former director general of state security, for kidnapping and embezzlement of public money, while imposing lesser sentences on nine other senior figures of the state and the PSOE. The signs of crisis for the Aznar government, to which the results of the European elections of June 1999 were added, with the resumption of the PSOE and the slight decline in the PP, however, the political framework of the country did not change, while within the Socialist Partido they confirmed the power of the Secretary General Almunia, who in July was therefore elected Socialist candidate for the presidency of the government to replace Borrell, who retired in April. In December 1999, the government suffered the backlash of the resumption of terrorism in the Basque Country. The Basque question, as always at the center of the life of the country, had been changing during the second half of the nineties. The period between 1996 and 1998 had been marked by an uninterrupted succession of terrorist acts by ETA, which began to strike, with a different strategy than in the past (when the victims were chosen above all from the security forces) local politicians and members of the ruling party (first the PSOE and then, after the spring of 1996, the PP), while to self-finance to systematic extortion of businessmen and entrepreneurs.

The New Kingdom of Spain