Between 2004 and 2010, Spanish politics was marked by the two mandates of government of the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Elected for the first time in 2004, Zapatero obtained a second term after the elections of March 2008, when the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), with 43.9% of the votes, won 169 seats out of 350, while the conservative PP (Partido Popular), with 39.9%, obtained 154. Zapatero formed a minority government supported from time to time on individual measures by other parties.
The governments of Zapatero adopted very important measures in terms of civil rights and bioethics, giving the country a secular turn, despite the opposition of conservative forces and the Catholic Church. These measures included the law against gender-based violence, the legalization of marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, rapid divorce, consent to research on embryonic stem cells, new legislation on abortion, the reduction of the role of Catholic Church in public schools and the law on gender equality, which guaranteed women equal representation on boards of directors and electoral lists. Furthermore, the socialist governments
Already in 2009, however, the global economic crisis began to have its effects felt on Spain, which saw a more abrupt slowdown than other European countries and a surge in the unemployment rate. Initially Zapatero tried to face the crisis with an increase in taxation to cover the measures to support demand, but in 2010 he was forced to revise his programs, also due to pressure from the European Union.
The government thus focused on austerity measures to reduce the deficit, such as cutting the salaries of public employees, and on structural reforms, such as the labor market, which made it easier and cheaper to hire and fire, and that of pensions. with an increase in the retirement age. Economic incentives were also granted to 100,000 unemployed immigrants to return to their country. These measures were challenged both by the trade unions – in March 2010 there was the first general strike after 2002 – and by massive street demonstrations: on May 15, 2011, after an oceanic demonstration, the movement of the indignados (also called Movimiento 15-M, from the date of the event) occupied the most famous square in Madrid (Puerta del sol) – abandoned only a month later – and numerous other squares throughout the country.
As expected from the conspicuous decline in support for the socialists, the early elections of November 2011 saw the affirmation of the PP and its leader Mariano Rajoy. The popular won, with 44.6% of the preferences, the absolute majority in Parliament (186 seats), while the socialists – whose leadership was replaced by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba – obtained the worst result ever with 28.7% (110 seats).
In line with EU demands, Rajoy sought to stem the economic crisis with a series of labor market and public administration reforms and austerity measures that resulted in strikes, protests and demonstrations, including those of miners, for months., who opposed the withdrawal of state contributions in the sector, and those against cuts to health and education. This new wave of protests – which peaked in the autumn of 2012 and 2013 – was again led by the indignados. In January 2014, some militants of this movement founded the Podemos (We Can) party, which, led by the young Pablo Manuel Iglesias Turrión, presented itself as an open movement and proposed a fight against the privileges of the political class and corruption and for public control. on banks, citizenship income and the exit of the Spain from NATO. In the European elections of May 2014 Podemos obtained an unexpected result, winning 8% of the preferences (5 MEPs). For Spain 2011, please check internetsailors.com.
In June 2014, King Juan Carlos (v.) Decided to abdicate in favor of his son Felipe, who was proclaimed king with the name of Felipe VI (v.). The consensus for Podemos grew in the following months and the administrative elections of May 24, 2015 saw a clear affirmation. The party had given up running as an autonomous candidate and had supported platforms of ‘popular unity’ with other political and social movements, which established themselves as the country’s third largest political force. Two of their candidates were elected to the post of mayor in Madrid (in alliance with the socialists) and in Barcelona.
On the front of the regional communities, Zapatero undertook to accept the requests for greater autonomy from Catalonia and Andalusia, which between 2006 and 2007 extended their self-government in matters of taxes and justice. Not satisfied, the Generalitat – the government of the Catalan autonomous community – called a referendum on the secession from the Spain 80.91% voted yes. The Catalan requests for independence, however, did not stop: in the elections of 27 September 2015 for the renewal of the regional Parliament, characterized by a very high turnout (77%),
However, the question of the Basque Country remained more difficult: in March 2006, the separatist terrorist organization ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, Basque Country and freedom) announced a permanent truce, which led Zapatero to pave the way for peace negotiations, until some new attacks ended the trial (December 2006). Subsequently, numerous ETA militants and similar organizations were arrested who, in some cases, reported torture and torture suffered in prison. In January 2011 the ETA proclaimed another permanent ceasefire and in the following October the abandonment of the armed struggle.
In terms of foreign policy, the Spanish governments continued to pay particular attention to relations with Latin America. Although until 2009 relations with the countries that were adopting policies of nationalization and protection of national companies (Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and Nicaragua) remained tense, the intensity of economic exchanges with the region increased significantly. Zapatero also promoted greater political cooperation with the left-wing governments of Brazil and Venezuela and improved relations with Cuba. This further complicated relations with the United States, which were still strained following the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq (2004): a detente took place after the election of Barack Obama.