I’m not talking Spanish Politics 9

All is terribly quiet on the campaign front in part because there is so little to talk about.  Barring any last-minute shockers, and, after the 2004 elections, I do not say that mockingly, the results are all but a foregone conclusion.  Now they are scrambling to gain or prevent an absolutely majority by the PP.

        Now, just because the Socialist Party and the conservative Popular Party had muscled their way to the top as the two leading national political entities, doesn’t mean they don’t have competitors.  They have; it’s just that they aren’t what they used to be in many ways.  The UCD, which ran the country in the first four years, dissolved rather quickly, and the party to spring up from its ashes, the CDS, fared even worse.  It was all but gone by the early 90s.  This was due to the fact that the PSOE and the PP had become moderate enough in their stances to attract politically central voters.  An official center-party made less and less sense.

       Izquierda Unida (The United Left), or just IU for short, was a conglomerate of different far-left parties which began to grow in popularity.  It managed to pool together several million votes in the 1990s with a man named Julio Anguita at the helm.  But it had a problem.  Because it was voted on nationally, and because its votes were spread out nationwide, the IU rarely got the representation it deserved in parliament.

      The bulk of the other parties is made up of regional and nationalist parties which defend their provincial interests and in some case support secession.  These are my favorite:  They try to get into the Spanish Congress just to say they want to leave.

        The two biggest parties are the PNV in the Basque Country and the CiU in Catalonia.  Their influence on the course of the country has been considerable over the years as the major parties have at times had to pact with them in order to get enough support to run parliament (we’ll get to that later because it’s pretty amusing).  Both the PSOE and the PP are “guilty” of this because they have both resorted to the regional parties when they didn’t have the absolute majority.  These groups have also had a large representation in parliament because of the way the voting system is designed…I’ll tell you more later.

I’m not talking Spanish politics 5

Rubalcaba and Rajoy are the main candidates because they are the most likely to win the election.  Actually, Rajoy is the most likely to win; Rubalcaba’s objective is to do anything he can to reduce the enormous difference separating his ruling party from the challenger.  As I mentioned before, he stands somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 points ahead of his rival.  So, as we speak, barring any last-minute shocker, what is at stake is not the premiership of the government but the absolutely majority in the parliament.   Should the Popular Party turn this into a rout, that may just happen.

       This might appear to be just a two-party system of the kind you find in the United States, but years ago Spain was a country fraught with political parties.  Parties which had a definite impact on the direction of the country.  You had your communists, your socialists, your anarchists, your moderates, your conservatives, your monarchists, your Francoists and your fascists.   Everyone was involved.  Many still are, but their parties are no longer that relevant.  Others continue to be a force because most of their votes are concentrated in regions with a strong nationalist (i.e. separatist) character, such as Catalonia and the Basque Country.  But we’ll get to them later.  National parties have come and gone, but as things are now, there is little room for a third major party, as the two big ones have slowly muscled out the competition.  They have moderated their tones and have grown more mainstream, despite their fiery speeches.  They have accpeted the system, and that is a big step towards a stable democracy…at the cost of political diversity.  Here’s a chart that examines the progress of the major parties since the first modern elections in 1977.

File:Popular vote spain 1977 2008.gif

Are we getting fancy?  Charts and everything.  The dominence of the Popular Party and the Socialist Party in that past few years is undeniable.  But this is all a little more complicated than that, I can assure you.