In the early 21st century was consumed in the Spain rise and decline of the hegemony of political Partido Popular (PP), came to power in 1996. A singular parable, the latter characterized by a progressive growth until 2002, with a brief lull, and then a sudden fall on the eve of the general elections of 2004, which marked the return to the government of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE). In this period the economic and social modernization of the country, started in the 1980s, recorded significant progress, strengthening the image of the Spain as an emerging state in the group of more developed nations. On the other hand, the reform processes of the institutional system were less rapid, especially as regards regional autonomies, a very controversial issue and partly intertwined with that of the fight against Basque terrorism. But also the foreign policy provoked strong contrasts: from the choice of the PP to support the United States and Great Britain in the war against Iraq to the subsequent one of the PSOE to recall the Spanish troops sent to that country and bring the Spain back to diplomatic positions. of Germany and France.
In the elections of March 2000, the PP won an absolute majority of seats in both branches of Parliament (it obtained 183 in the Congress of Deputies and 127 in the Senate, against 125 and 61of the PSOE). Its leader JM Aznar was thus able to form a government no longer dependent on the support of the moderate nationalist parties of the Autonomous Communities. The program included, inter alia, a reform of the financing system of these Communities, a reduction in taxes and a review of the judicial system. For their part, the socialists, disappointed by the result that came out of the polls, started a process of party renewal, which saw as a first step the election as general secretary of JL Rodríguez Zapatero in place of J. Almunia (July 2000). The new Aznar government immediately prepared a reform of the immigration law, which established more restrictive criteria for the regularization of illegal immigrants, and a new law on juvenile crime, designed above all to combat political violence. Two initiatives inspired by a line of intransigence in the defense of public order which was one of the objectives most touted by the government. During 2001, however, the first signs of erosion of the consensus for the PP began to emerge: they weakened the executive’s action before the involvement of some members of the party in episodes of corruption (among the accused also the Foreign Minister, J. Pique),2002 in the first general strike since the late 1980s). However, a real crisis of popularity for the Aznar government only came in November 2002, when the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige off the coast of Galicia caused an environmental catastrophe. Local and national authorities were accused of failing to manage the emergency adequately, and hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand Aznar’s resignation. The prime minister’s choice to take sides with the United States and Great Britain in the war against Iraq contributed to further fueling the controversy against the government. Since the beginning of 2003in fact, despite the opposition of the majority of Spanish public opinion, Aznar supported the US plans to dismiss Ṣ. Ḥusayn, declared himself in favor of a military intervention under a UN mandate and then, in March, to try to gain support for that option, hosted a summit in the Azores islands with US President GW Bush and British Prime Minister T. Blair. The Spanish government, although it had long insisted on the importance of a UN resolution, did not fail to support the United States and Great Britain even when these two countries decided to act independently. The choice of Aznar became the target of bitter protests: to demonstrate against the military intervention, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Madrid (March) and Barcelona (April). peace keeping (July). The unpopularity of these choices in large sectors of national public opinion was also testified by the results of the local elections of May 2003: the socialists, in fact, managed to obtain more votes than the PP. The PSOE also conquered the government of the Community of Madrid, but two of its elected officials then passed by surprise to the PP, causing the dissolution of the majority and bitter controversy between the two parties; in the new elections, scheduled for October, the PP prevailed. A month later, in November, elections were also held in Catalonia, preceded by the announcement of the withdrawal of J. Pujol, for 23 years president of the regional government led by the moderate nationalist party CiU ( Convergència i Unió ). At the polls no party managed to win an absolute majority, and then an executive was formed composed of the Catalan wing of the PSOE, the PSC ( Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya ), the radical nationalists of the ERC ( Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya ) and the former Communists and Greens of ICV ( Inicziale for Catalunya Verds ), and led by P. Maragall (PSC). In early 2004, despite the undoubted decline in support for the Aznar government, the polls credited the PP with a sure victory in the political elections scheduled for March. The PP seemed to take advantage of the candidacy of Deputy Prime Minister M. Rajoy as Aznar’s successor, while the Socialists appeared in great difficulty, partly because of the revelations on secret contacts held by their ally in Catalonia, the General Secretary of the ERC J. -L. Carod-Rovira, with the leaders of the Basque terrorist group ETA ( Euskadi ta Askatasuna , Basque homeland and freedom). The 11 March, however, three days before the vote, a terrorist attack in Madrid changed the political landscape. Ten bombs exploded on four commuter trains almost simultaneously, resulting in 191dead and over 1500 injured. The government immediately accused ETA, but soon afterwards the responsibilities of an Islamic fundamentalist group that was linked to the terrorist organization al-Qā̔ida began to emerge. On March 12, the police arrested five people, including three Moroccans (more would have been captured in the following weeks), confirming the trail of Islamic terrorism. In the aftermath of the massacre, unitary demonstrations against terrorism took place in all the main Spanish cities, but there were also lively protests against the government and the PP, accused of having tried to manipulate information on the attack for electoral purposes. The result of the election of the Congress sanctioned the overthrow of the balance of power between the PP and the PSOE: the socialists,42.6 % of the votes rose to 164 seats, while the popular ones, with 37.7 %, dropped to 148; among the smaller parties, CiU obtained 3.2 % and 10 seats, the ERC 2.5 % and 8 seats, the moderate Basque nationalists of the PNV ( Partido Nacionalista Vasco ) 1.6 % and 7 seats, the former Communists of IU ( Izquierda Unida ) 5 % and 5 seats; five small parties of the various autonomous communities obtained a total of 8seats. In the Senate, however, despite heavy losses, the PP managed to maintain its leadership, winning 102 seats against 81 in the PSOE. Immediately after the electoral victory, Zapatero announced the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Irāq s and control of the peacekeeping mission had not been entrusted to the UN by June. The PSOE leader secured the support of the nine smaller parties represented in Congress, and formed a government composed exclusively of socialist ministers, half of them women (April). Then, as soon as he took office at the head of the executive, he decided to speed up the recall of soldiers from Irāq, completing it by May. Among the priorities of the new government were announced a reform of the Senate, a revision of the tax system, a strengthening of the fight against terrorism, a policy of strong impetus for equality between the sexes, more effective legislation to combat domestic violence. An amnesty plan for illegal immigrants was presented (applied in spring 2005) and a bill to introduce same-sex marriages (approved by Parliament in June 2005). The latter provision sparked controversy and divisions in public opinion, as well as the extension of the decriminalization of abortion, the shortening of divorce procedures and a project for the reform of teaching that reduced the role of religion in the curriculum. school. Hundreds of thousands of people, led by some of the leaders of the Spanish Church, took to the streets to protest against what was considered an attack on the country’s religious foundations (November 2005).