Spain is a multi-lingual, multi-cultural state that shares the Iberian penisula with Portugal. Catalonia and Euskadi(Basque Country) are part of Spain but have strong autonomist and sepratist movements. The latter has been manifested in Euskadi in violent action by ETA, viewed by many as a terrorist group.
Spain is a member of the European Union located on the Iberian Pennisula, which it shares with Portugal. It was part of the Western Roman Empire until its collapse and occupation by barbarian German tribes. From 711 to 1492, much oif the Iberian penisnsula was controlled by the Moors, soldiers of the Islamic state in North-western Africa.
Seperate kingdoms of Aragon and Castile in Christian Spain were united in 1469. Jews and Muslims had been expelled only seven years before that, the same year that the Spanish crown sponsored Christopher Columbus in his voyage to the Americas. A vast colonial empire which marked the beginning of "modern" history for Latin America was developed in the New World, but by 1898, the empire had crumbled.
After a long period of political turmoil from 1923 to 1936, the Spanish Civil War erupted as Francisco Franco with the aid of German fascist dictator Hitler and italian fascist dictator Mussolini waged war on a Popular Front government of republicans, communists, socialists, and anarchists (including many notable American volunteers) from 1936 to 1939 in what is viewed as a testing ground for weapons and tactics that would be used in World War II, including the terror bombing of civilian popualtion centers, notoriously the Basque town of Guernica, immortalized by Picasso. Spain remained neutral during the Second World War, with Franco refusing to join Hitler and Mussolini because they refused to cede him the choicest French possesssions in North Africa. However Franco did allow ardent Spanish fascists to volunteer for the Legion Azul or Blue Division that fought with the German Army on the Eastern Front. When the pool of enthusiastic fascist volunteers ran dry, Franco conscripted the unlucky to fill their places in the Blue Division. Approximately 40,000 served in the Blue Division.
Franco remained a dictator in Spain until 1975, when his death was followed by a restored monarchy in 1975 and popular elections in 1977. Coup attempts were defeated in 1981 and 1984. When he died, Falangist (fascist) dictator Francisco Franco left soon to be democratic Spain with several major obstacles to consolidating democracy.
- First, an important part of the political project of Franco-ism was to reinforce the Spanish military’s preoccupation with internal rather external security threats. This peculiar military patriotism justified domestic political intervention as saving the country from incompetent civilians.
- Second, the Spanish military suffered from extreme bureaucratic macrocephaly, or having too many officers. Today it still has one officer for every 7 enlisted men.
- Third, policing in Spain was militarized under Franco. The Civil Guardia and the Policia Armada were part of the fascist apparatus of political coercion.
- Fourth, the Roman Catholic Church was reestablished as the State Church:
- The Roman Catholic Church was given control over all levels of education, with religious instruction made compulsory.
- The Roman Catholic Church was exempted from taxation.
- The Roman Catholic Church was given the authority to censor any published or broadcast material, and the right to have anything it deemed immoral withdrawn from sale.
- Freedom of worship for non-Catholics was abolished, as was the right to civil marriage and the right to divorce.
- Opus Dei became politically powerful, with many of its clergy and lay members holding important appointed positions in Franco’s cabinets….until the 1969 scandal involving the diversion of state funds to the textile manufacturing firm: Matesa.
- Fifth, just as in Stalinist Eastern Europe, pervasive censorship under fascism tended to weaken both trust in the integrity of news coverage by newspapers and newspaper readership, with the result that television is more powerful as medium than it is in the established Western democracies. That has tended to undermine the ability of the population to participate in its own governance.
Under the 1978 Constitution, the Spanish government became a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The Spanish Parliament or Las Cortes Generales is a bicameral body consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. The Spanish Prime Minister, formally called the President of the Council of Ministers is chosen by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Spanish Parliament.
The 350 members of the Chamber of Deputies are popularly elected under d’Hondt formula Proportional Representation with a 3% threshold in each constituency. Each of the 50 provinces is an electoral constituency, with the numbers of seats varying from 34 in Madrid and 32 in Barcelona to 2 in Ceuta and 2 in Melilla. Each constituency has a minimum of two deputies so there is substantial mal-apportionment by the standards of a European parliament.
The 259 members of the Senate are selected in two ways: 208 are popularly elected from provincial constituencies and 51 are appointed by regional assemblies of self-governing or autonomous communities, each of which may appoint a minimum of Senator and one each for every million inhabitants. A limited vote electoral system is used to elect the popularly elected Senators. Each mainland province elects four Senators, each of the island provinces and Ceuta and Melilla elect 2 Senators. In constituencies with four Senators, electors may vote for up to three candidates; in those with two or three Senators, for up to two candidates; and for one candidate in single member constituencies. Electors vote for individual candidates and a plurality rule is used to determine winners. Those receiving the largest number of votes in each constituency are elected for a four-year term of office. Rather like SNTV with only 2 seats.
March 14, 2004 General Election Results
Registered Electors 34,571,831 Voters 26,155,436 Turnout 75.7%
Political Party, Total Votes, Percentage of the Vote, and Seats Won
- Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) 11,026,163 votes 42.6 % 164 seats
- Partido Popular (PP) 9,763,144 37.7 148
- Convergència i Unió (CiU) 835,471 3.2 10
- Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) 652,196 2.5 8
- Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea-Partido Nacionalista Vasco (EAJ-PNV)
420,980 1.6 7
- Izquierda Unida (IU) 1,324,370 5.1 5
- Coalición Canaria (CC) 235,221 0.9 3
- Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG) 208,688 0.8 2
- Chunta Aragonesista (ChA) 94,252 0.4 1
- Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) 80,905 0.3 1
- Nafarroa Bai (Na-Bai) 61,045 0.2 1
- Partido Andalucista (PA) 181,868 0.7 0
- 0ther parties 599,201 2.3 0
List of the Major Political Parties
- Spanish Socialist Workers Party - Major Socialist Party
- People's Party (Spain) - Major Right-wing Party
- United Left - Coalition of Left-wing parties around the Communist Party of Spain
- Initiative for Catalonia Greens - A major Catalonian Green Party
- Convergence and Unity - A Nationalist coalition from Catalonia, mostly conservative.
- Basque Nationalist Party - A Basque Nationalist Party
- Eusko Alkartasuna - A Left-wing Basque Nationalist Party
- Galician National Bloc - A Left-wing Galician Nationalist Coalition
- Republican Left of Catalonia - Left-of-Centre Catalonian Party
- Aragonese Party - Aragonese seperatist Party
- Aragonese Council - A Socialist regional Party
- Canarian Coalition - A Liberal Party from the Canary Islands
- Andalucista Party - A Centre-right regional Party
Under the 1978 Constitution, Spanish is the only language all Spanish citizens have a duty to know and the only language which is guaranteed they may use in Spain. However the constitution also permits other official languages which may be co-official in the Autonomous Communities: Catalan in Cataloia, Basque in Euskadi, Galician in Gelego etc. A recent survey by the prestigious research institute, Centro de Investigaciones Sociologicas (CIS) showed that knowledge of the co-official regional language was highest in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Galicia, where more than 40% of the population considers the regional langauge to be its native or first language, but lowest Euskadi and Navarra, where roughly one-half and three-fourths of the popualtions respetively did not understand the regional langauge. Source: Ferran Ferrer. "Languages, Minorities and Education in Spain: the Case of Catalonia". Comparative Education. Vol. 36, No. 2. Pp. 187-197, see p. 189.
2004 Al-Qaeda terrorist attack
On March 11, 2004, al-Qaida terrorists exploded bombs on a commuter rail line, killing about 200 people and -- some say -- influencing the results of the election in a way that caused the party that had pledged to get Spain out of the Iraq war to prevail. This pre-3-11 campaign promise was promptly fulfilled.
Same Sex Marriage in Spain
On June 30th, 2005, Spain passed a law that legalized same sex marriages in its country; the third nation in the European Union to allow same sex marriages (first was the Netherlands, then Belgium). The vote within the Congress of Deputies won with 187 votes to 147 votes, with 4 members not voting. This law is also giving couples the right to adopt children, but only Spanish children, so as to avoid legal problems with other nations. Prime MInister Zapatero stated “We are expanding the opportunities for happiness of our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends and our relatives”. The Catholic Church, which has been losing power since Franco died in 1975, opposed the law saying that the Spanish government is going against not only the church, but also against the ideas of matrimony. The church also says that raising a child in a same-sex household will effect the growth of the child. However, spokeswoman for Christian Association of Gays and Lesbians said “thousands of children live with homosexual parents and numerous studies had shows that they were no different to children brought up in heterosexual homes”. The church is encouraging people of the faith to go against the law and not officiate these marriages. On July 11th, 2005, the Spanish government officiated the first same sex marriage in its nation. Sources:
- Jennifer Green. Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com, July 1, 2005. Green, Jennifer
- BBC news, http://news.bbc.co.uk, June 30, 2005.
Also see about other same sex marriage countries: 
- Davoud Salehi Iranian Ambassador