Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE)

Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE). Spain’s oldest party was founded in 1879. The leading component of the Republican side in the Spanish civil war, it went into exile and underground in 1939 after being banned, it re-emerged with the transition to democracy. Initially the opposition to the vast centrist Democratic Centre Union (which would later merge into the People’s Party), it won the 1982 election and subsequently became the most successful centre-left party in Europe of the last three decades, governing until 1996 and then again between 2004 and 2011.

The party was historically rather radical, but since the early 80s become a moderate, pragmatic party, jettisoning Marxism in 1979, and coming to be a supporter of NATO membership.

The party has tended to govern in a fairly centrist style. The party’s PM from 1982 until 1996, Felipe Gonzalez, laid off steelworkers and dockers. Zapatero, who governed from 2004 until 2011 largely kept or continued the policies of his highly conservative predecessor, much like Tony Blair in Britain.

However, the PSOE was, under Zapatero, highly socially progressive, instituting same-sex marriage, reform of abortion law, divorce law, gender-motivated violence and discrimination, and a gender identity law which allowed transsexuals the right to legal recognition for their new gender.

He also withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq, negotiated with the Basque terrorist group ETA over peace and took a decentralist line on autonomous communities, expanding the powers of several regions.

The degree of decentralisation is a big cleavage within the PSOE however. While the party as a whole is more sympathetic to regionalism than the People’s Party, there is something of a split in the party on the subject. The party’s Southern Spanish wing, especially its Andaluscian section, fear that decentralisation will mean less financial support for the much more impoverished South.

Meanwhile the party’s Catalan wing is autonomous and runs as the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia. It is much more supportive of autonomy and could be considered part of the moderate wing of the Catalan nationalist movement.

The party and Zapatero came to be extraordinarily unpopular after the financial crash, and suffered their worst electoral defeat since before the Franco regime in 2011, winning only 28.7% of the vote.

Zapatero’s successor as PSOE leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, is seen as more left-wing than his predecessors, attempting to repair the damage amongst the party’s base since 2008. He also has more centralist views on the nature of the Spanish state.

The PSOE is pro-European, and typically more pro-European than the PP.

The party sits in the Socialists & Democrats group. The party’s Catalan wing sits separately, with the PSC voting alongside the S&D 95.8% of the time, and the PSOE voting alongside it 95.6% of the time. These figures are broadly average for the group.