A quick overview on Spanish politics

Today is a big day. Today, I’m going to do the unthinkable. I’m going to talk about politics and I’m going to be neutral, or at least I’m going to do my very best. If I’m not neutral enough, I’ll probably find a horse head in my bed, courtesy of Cult’s admins.  This is the reason why I’ll just point out a few proven facts (basically left-right, year of foundation and current number of seats in the Congress of Deputies, the truly important chamber in the Spanish Parliament). I’ll also try my hardest to omit personal opinions and I won’t go into certain topics such as corruption and other scandals, which pretty much all the parties are facing at some point.

Let me clarify that this short article is certainly not enough to enable you to understand how Spanish politics work, but at least you’ll know a couple of things about the most important parties so you can keep digging on your own if you want.

But why? Why politics? Why not write about something that is not so frustrating for many people? Why write about a topic which makes it very hard to maintain an acceptable level of neutrality? Well, because in just a few days, the 20th of December, we will have elections in Spain, and I thought it would be a good idea if I gave you a quick overview of the political parties we have. I will omit the regional parties and tell you only about the ones that operate in the whole country. Let me remind youe that Spain is a parliamentary monarchy, although the King has more of a diplomatic role and the President and his or her government are the ones who make the real decisions.

Partido Popular (PP)

The People’s Party is a right-wing conservative Christian-democratic party which is in power right now, with Mariano Rajoy as the President of Spain. The party was a re-foundation in 1989 of the People’s Alliance, which was itself founded in 1976, right after the end of Franco’s dictatorship.  Partido Popular wasn’t really relevant in the Spanish Congress of Deputies until 1982, when the party, still by the name of Alianza Popular, obtained 92 out of 350 seats. It has won the Spanish elections three times: in 1996,  2000 (both times with José María Aznar as the President of Spain) and in 2011, when Mariano Rajoy became President with 185 out of the 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies.

Partido Popular is a member of the centre-right European People’s Party.

Mariano Rajoy (photo source, Reuters)

Mariano Rajoy (photo source: Reuters)

Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE)

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party is a centre-left party which was founded in 1879. It was initially focused on the defence of workers’ rights and the achievement of the ideals of socialism. The party slowly became more moderated and it abandoned its Marxist views one hundred years after its foundation.  PSOE currently defines itself as “social democratic, centre-left and progressive”.

Since the end of Franco’s dictatorship in 1975, PSOE ruled between 1982 and 1996 (with Felipe González as President) and between 2004 and 2011, when José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who was President all that time, had to call for early elections. PSOE actually has 110 out of the 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies. Its current leader is Pedro Sánchez.

PSOE is a member of the Party of European Socialists.

Pedro Sánchez (photo source: Huffington Post)

Pedro Sánchez (photo source: Huffington Post)

Ciudadanos (C´s)

Ciudadanos (citizens) was founded in 2006 and was originally just a Catalan non-nationalist party, although for the last couple of years its presence has grown in the rest of the country. This is why, although C´s is almost ten years old, it is one of the so-called “new parties”. Ciudadanos, a liberal party, calls itself centre-left, although many people believe it’s rather a centre, centre-right or even right wing party.

In the last year and a half or so, C´s has become much better known. Many people consider it a good alternative to the previous bipartisanship and some surveys even say they could be the second most voted party with approximately 27% of the votes.  Its current leader is Albert Rivera.

Albert Rivera (photo source:

Albert Rivera (photo source:


Podemos translates literally as we can. It was founded in early 2014, and although its members often refuse to talk about left and right, it’s quite safe to say it’s a left wing party. The party’s members, and especially its leader, Pablo Iglesias, often talk about a “political caste” formed by the people who have held the power and taken advantage of it for dozens of years. Podemos gained almost instant notoriety, when pretty much right after its foundation it obtained four seats in the European Elections

At some point around the beginning of this year, some surveys said Podemos was the party with more voter intention. Right now they are the fourth party in the surveys, although they’re not far from the three first ones.

Pablo Iglesias (photo source:

Pablo Iglesias. You don’t often see a well known politician wearing a ponytail in Spain (photo source:

Izquierda Unida (IU)

Izquierda Unida (United Left in English) is a left wing party. In the 1982 elections, the Communist Party (PCE) went down from 10% to 4% of the votes, so it began approaching other organizations, such as the Republican Left.  As a result, IU was formed in 1986.

IU has never had a big representation in the Congress, with a maximum of 21 out of 350 seats. It currenly holds 11 seats. Even if it had a bigger percentage of votes than 11/350 (3,1%), Spain’s voting system often affects the party in a negative way. Recently, its leader, Alberto Garzón was controversally left out of the political debate the four biggest parties held together on television.

Alberto Garzón (photo source:

Alberto Garzón (photo source:

Unión, Progreso y Democracia (UPyD)

UPyD, founded in 2007, is a non-nationalist centre party. They currenly hold five out of 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies and it looks like it may hold no seats at all after the 20th of December elections. Its current leader is Andrés Herzog.

Andrés Herzog (photo source:

Andrés Herzog (photo source:

I have to admit, again, that I’m nearly not saying anything and if you’re interested in this topic, you’ll have to do a lot of digging on your own. However, had I gone further, the article would have been far too long and I fear its neutral tone (it’s neutral, isn’t it? Yes?) would have been shattered by my rather strong opinions.

What do you think?

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Juan - Madrid

Born and raised in beautiful Sevilla, I now live in Madrid. I'm a huge music lover (I started writing a music blog in January 2014). Travelling, learning about different cultures, walking around (and getting lost), reading and having meaningful conversations are some of ...

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