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Spain Table of Contents


Political Parties

Prior to the arrival of participatory democracy in Spain in the late 1970s, Spanish citizens had scant experience with political involvement. Suffrage was extremely limited, electoral mechanisms were controlled and corrupt, and political parties were elitist. Under the Francoist regime, Spanish society was depoliticized; the only political formation officially sanctioned was the National Movement. Remnants of the socialist and the communist parties functioned underground, and they were subject to severely repressive measures (see The Franco Years , ch. 1).

After forty years without parliamentary elections, political parties were revived, and they proliferated in the months following Franco's death. Leftist parties that had been exiled or had functioned clandestinely, such as the communists and the Socialists, had existing organizations and ideological traditions to form the bases of renewed political activity. The center and the right, however, had no such structures in place, and they lacked experience in political involvement. The coalition party that was victorious in the first elections of the new democratic regime in June 1977, the center-right UCD, failed to develop a coherent political vision. Its brief period of success was due largely to the charisma of its leader, Suarez, and the party ultimately succumbed to its internal conflicts.

With the victory of the PSOE in 1982, Spain's political system moved from a moderate right-left division to a predominance of the center-left. Support for the PSOE had become less class-based and more widespread as Spain underwent economic transformation and as the party became less dogmatic. In general, the tendency of Spain's party politics has been toward the center, and support for extremist parties has declined markedly, which bodes well for the country's future stability.

Data as of December 1988