People’s Party (PP)

People’s Party (PP, can also be translated as ‘Popular Party’). Spain’s currently ruling party is a centre-right catch-all party.

The PP’s core came from the People’s Alliance, a party founded in 1976 by reformist Francoists which advocated a gradualist transition to democracy. The party was intended to become a mainstream conservative party, but the tinge of Franco led to it being a rather unpopular party, fourth largest, though the biggest on the right. It later became the principal opposition to the Socialists, and then began to suck up small centrist and centre-right forces in mergers, becoming the PP as a result.

The party is a catch-all party of the Spanish right, and broadly conservative in orientation, albeit with Christian democratic, right-wing liberal and moderate factions. The party retains the Spanish right’s traditional distaste for sub-state nationalism. It traditionally takes a hard-line on negotiations with the Basque terrorist group, ETA, and tends to oppose any attempt to further empower Spanish regional governments, especially in Catalonia.

Party detractors often use this Spanish nationalist rhetoric and its origins amongst ex-Francoists to allege that it is ‘fascist’.

The party’s economics are fairly pro-market and under the party’s most successful leader and Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar (1996-2004), the party liberalised the economy to a large degree, and was referred to as ‘Thatcherite’ abroad.

Many of its members have very conservative positions on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and immigration. Compared to similar Western European centre-right parties the PP is easily one of the most socially conservative.

The party is strongest in Castille, with Madrid one of Europe’s few remaining right-leaning capital cities, and is strong generally where regional identities are weakest outside it, with the single exception of Galicia. The party is weakest in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Andaluscia (the heart of the Socialist machine).

The party is one of the weaker centre-right parties in Europe and has only enjoyed government nationally twice in its history, the above mentioned Aznar years (1996-2004) and from 2011 onwards.

While it won a sizeable majority in 2011, this was widely perceived to be by default as Spaniards voted against a government widely perceived to have brought it to the brink of disaster. The PP’s leader, the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, is widely perceived as a poor leader, lacking in charisma and talent who has lost two elections prior to 2011 (Spanish political leaders do not typically resign after election defeats) and whose approval ratings were almost as low as those of the prior PM, Jose Zapatero of the Socialists.

Rajoy has been dogged by corruption allegations in office.

Nonetheless, for many, perhaps even most, Spaniards the PP are the most competent party available, and they continue to lead polls, though they have lost significant support since 2011.

Despite its conservatism and nationalism in other spheres, the PP is very pro-European by European standards. The party has generally taken a slightly harder line in negotiations with the EU than the Socialists, however. Rajoy is known to be on very good terms with Merkel, who views him as an ally on austerity.

The party is a member of the European People’s Party; it has 96.8%, above average, loyalty to its group. One of its MEPs formed a splinter party Vox (‘we’) earlier this year. The party is ideologically similar to the PP and does not appear to enjoy any notable political support.