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New Left Review 31, January-February 2005

How far has Spain travelled, and in what direction, since the most cobwebbed corner of the West became the export model of EU democracy? The legacy of a century and a half of reaction, social and national contradictions of the González–Aznar years, the dénouement of the 2004 election, and the first—so far mostly welcome—steps of the Zapatero government.



Europe’s swiftest political reversal in recent years was famously triggered by text messages. ¿Aznar de rositas? one of these began. Is Aznar going to come out smelling of roses? [1] The message carried on: ¿Le llaman jornada de reflexión y Urdaci trabaja? Hoy 13m a las 18h sede pp c/Génova, 13. Sin partidos. Silencio por la verdad. ¡Pásalo! They’re calling it a suspension of campaigning, with Urdaci [slavishly pro-Aznar tv presenter] hard at work? Today 13m at 18h pphq, 13 Genoa St. No parties. Silence for the truth. Pass it on! It was the Spanish Prime Minister’s blatant manipulation of the 11 March bombings at Madrid’s Atocha station that made such an outcome seem suddenly intolerable to a mass layer of Socialist voters, who had hitherto shown every sign of abstaining in Spain’s 2004 election as they had in 2000. The centre-right Partido Popular had ample reason to hope for a third term, if in coalition. The Spanish economy was buoyed up by a credit-based consumption boom. Mass opposition to the government’s role in Iraq had not prevented the pp from doing tolerably well in regional and municipal elections in May 2003. If Aznar’s arrogance was starting to grate, he was himself retiring from the political stage, and his designated successor Mariano Rajoy was a less abrasive presence. Above all, though, as opinion polls and regional results confirmed, the ruling party could count on the fact that Socialist voters were still too sickened by what they had had to swallow under fourteen years of Felipe González to turn out in any great numbers for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

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Carlos Prieto del Campo, ‘A Spanish Spring?’, NLR 31: £3

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