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POLITICS

A to Z of Spanish politics: a handy guide

In this Spanish politics cheat sheet, The Local Spain gives you the heads up on everyone from Aznar to Zapatero, stopping at (almost) all stations in between.

A to Z of Spanish politics: a handy guide
The leader of Spain's socalist PSOE party Pedro Sánchez (left), Queen Letizia and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Photos: AFP
A is for Esperanza Aguirre. Aguirre is president of Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP, see below) in Madrid, and was also the President of Madrid itself until ill health forced her to quit the role in 2012. A heavyweight in the party despite her lack of a front line role, her opinion is listened to by all.   
 
A is for José María Aznar. Aznar was the first Popular Party (PP) prime minister of Spain, after a long period of socialist rule. He was Spain's prime minister from 1996 to 2004 and is still highly influential in party circles. 
 
B is for Luis Bárcenas (aka Luis el Cabrón, or Luis the Bastard). Bárcenas was the Popular Party's (see below) treasurer for many years. He is currently being investigated for tax fraud and allegedly running a slush fund for the party. He had millions of euros stashed away in Europe, and is currently in prison for alleged involvement in another long-running corruption scandal — the so-called Guertel Case. 
 
B is also for Ana Botella, the current Popular Party (PP) mayor of Madrid. She is also the wife of José Maria Aznar, the former Popular Party president of Spain (see above). During a press conference for Madrid’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games, she struggled to answer a journalist’s question in English, prompting mockery by the Spanish media.
 
B is also for BNG, or Bloque Nacionalista Galego. This is the left-wing coalition of Galician nationalist parties. They won 10 percent in their latest regional election. Their leader is Xavier Vence.
 
C is for Catalonia. Home to some 7.5 million people, the Spanish region of Catalonia is an economic powerhouse. It also has its own language (Catalan), history, and culture. Critically, Catalonia is also involved in a long-running battle with the national government of Madrid over the redistribution of tax from the region, among other issues. Regional leader Artur Mas (see below) has called for a unilateral non-binding 2014 poll in the region on the issue of independence from the rest of Spain — a move that Madrid has ruled illegal. The battle lines are drawn. Stay tuned!         
 
C is also for Convergéncia i Unió (CiU), or Convergence and Union. This is the ruling Catalan nationalist coalition. It is made up of the larger Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and the Democratic Union of Catalonia. Coalition leader Artur Mas (see below) is currently the president of the Catalan Government, and the most public figure in the region's push for independence.
 
C is for crisis. You can't go more than five minutes in Spain without hearing about 'la crisis'. It all began back in 2008 when Spain's property bubble burst. The latest figures show that just under 25 percent of Spaniards are unemployed, while that figure is higher than 50 percent for people aged under 25.  
 
D is for 'desahucios' (or evictions). Figures from mid-2012 show that banks were carrying out 517 home evictions a day in Spain after people defaulted on their mortgage. This is Spain's crisis at its most brutal.
 
E is Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). This is a left-wing Catalan nationalist political party, headed up by Oriol Junqueras. They won 13.7 percent if the vote in the latest regional elections. A major rival to the ruling CiU coalition (see above) in the region, they won the largest share of the vote in Catalonia in May 2014 European elections with their separatist platform.  
 
F is for Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from 1938 to 1973. The dapper Gallician Franco was a general in the Spanish Civil War. Throughout his rule, he remained a hard-line nationalist, opposed to the power of Spain's regions — including Catalonia (see above). 
 
G is for Caso Gürtel. This a long-running corruption scandal involving Francisco Correa, a businessman with links to the Popular Party, particularly in Valencia and Madrid. The scandal involves possible illegal party funding and awarding of contracts. The investigative case was dubbed Gürtel, the German word for belt, in a cryptic reference to Correa, which signifies the same thing in Spanish. 
 
H is for handouts. Former Popular Party treasurer Luis Bárcenas (see B) is suspected of giving handouts to many key figures in the Popular Party including the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, a charge Rajoy vehemently denies.   
 
I is for Pablo Iglesias. Iglesias, the 35-year-old head of Spain's left-wing Podemos (We can) party (see below) is a political scientist who made a name for himself as a regular participant on television debate shows.  
 
I is also for Izquierda Unida, or United Left. This is a political coalition of left-wing groups including greens, socialists and republicans. The party leader is Cayo Lada.
 
J is for junta. This important word means parliament or government, as in the Junta de Andalucía, or Andalusian government. 
 
K is for King Felipe. The very tall (1.98 metre, 6 foot 6) King Felipe was proclaimed Spain's monarch in June 2014 after the surprise abdication of his father King Juan Carlos, who, just to confuse things also still hold the title of king. 
 
L is for Queen Letizia, Letizia, the Queen of Spain and wife of King Felipe. The royal couple have two daughters — Sofia and Leonor, who is heir to the throne.  
 
M is Mas. Artur Mas is the controversial president of the Generalitat de Catalunya. He is also the main figure pushing for a November 9th, 2014 referendum on the issue of Catalonia's referendum from the rest of Spain — a poll the national government in Madrid says is illegal.
 
N is for Instituto Nóos. This is the non-profit institute jointly run by Kings Felipe's brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin (see below) and his colleague Diego Torres. The two men are suspected of diverting funds from the institute to accounts across Europe.
 
N is also for Nuevas Generaciones del Partido Popular: Nuevas Generaciones (NNGG) is the youth-wing of Spain's ruling Popular Party (see below). Headed up by Beatriz Jurado, it was in 2013 embroiled in scandal when members posed with flags from Franco-era Spain (see Francisco Franco above). 
 
O is for Oriol Junqueras, the head of the left-wing Catalan party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (see above).
  
P is for the Popular Party (Partido Popular, or PP) and the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE, or Partido Socialista Obrero Español). These are two major parties in Spanish political life. 
 
P is also for Podemos  Headed up by Pablo Iglesias, Spain's left-wing Podemos (We Can) party were virtually unknown until they took five seats in European Elections in May 2014. Formed just months before the poll using funds raised online through crowdfunding, the party took votes from other established left-wing parties including Spain's major opposition party, the socialist PSOE (see above).
 
Q is for Queen Sofia of Spain. The Greek Sofia met the former king of Spain Juan Carlos on a cruise in the Greek Islands in 1954 and the two married in Athens in 1962. Queen Sofia and her husband Juan Carlos both still hold the official titles of king and queen despite Juan Carlos's abdication as head of state in June 2014.
 
R is for Mariano Rajoy, Mariano Rajoy is the Spanish prime minister, with Spain's ruling Popular Party (Partido Popular, or PP — see above)
 
S is for Pedro Sánchez: 41-year-old Sánchez is the Secretary General of Spain's largest opposition party, the PSOE. Party members hope he can bring the party back from the political wilderness after a serious of electoral humiliations. Oh, and his nickname is 'El Guapo', or 'The Handsome One'.    
 
S is also for suits. Suits played a key role in the Caso Gürtel (see above), a long-running corruption scandal involving involving Francisco Correa, a businessman with links to the Popular Party. The suits in question were allegedly given away to Valencian politician Francisco Camps as part of a circle of favours. 
 
T is for transition. After the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain lived through the so-called 'Transición'. The monarchy was reinstated after several decades in the wilderness and Spain began its move towards parliamentary democracy. A new constitution was eventually introduced in 1978.
 
U is for Urdangarin. Iñaki Urdangarin, married to King Felipe's sister Cristina, is embroiled in a scandal involving money he may or may not have 'diverted' from the Instituo Nóos (see above). 
 
V is for Valencia, the Spanish region which has earned an unfortunate reputation as Spain's 'corruption capital' due to the large number of scandals to hit the region's politicians and businessmen. Former regional president Francisco Camps, for example, stepped down in 2011 after it emerged he was being investigated for his possible involvement in the complicated Gürtel affair (see 'G' above). The region is also famous for its architectural white elephants, including the ghost airport of Castellón.  
 
X is for xunta, a variant of the world junta, meaning government or parliament, as in the Xunta de Galicia.  
 
W is Wert. José Ignacio Wert is Spain's education minister. His ongoing campaign against the dominance of Catalan in Catalonia's classrooms hasn't won him many friends in that part of the world.
 
Z is for Zapatero, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is the ex-socialist prime minister of Spain. His party was routed in the snap elections of 2011. The party's perceived inability to deal with the country's crisis led to a 15 percent swing against it. 

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HEALTH

Ideological battle over abortion as Spain vote looms

A controversial anti-abortion proposal by the far-right Vox party has sparked heated debate in a key election year for Spain, with its left-wing government raising the alarm about extremist agendas.

Ideological battle over abortion as Spain vote looms

Last week, a Vox official in the northern region of Castilla y León, which is co-run by the right and far right, said doctors would have to offer women seeking an abortion the option of hearing the heartbeat of the foetus.

The measure is similar to that adopted last year by the far-right government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which requires pregnant women to listen to the foetus’ “vital functions’ before having an abortion.

The aim was “to promote childbirth and support families”, said the region’s deputy head Juan Garcia-Gallardo, a member of Vox which, like other parties of its ilk, has put a lot of focus on this ideologically charged issue.

READ ALSO: Spain’s Castilla y León to introduce measures to prevent abortions

Spain, a European leader when it comes to women’s rights, decriminalised abortion in 1985 and in 2010 it passed a law that allows women to opt freely for abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

A government bill which aims to guarantee access to the procedure at public hospitals is currently making its way through parliament.

‘Threat is very real’

Vox in 2022 entered a regional government for the first time since it was founded in 2013 when it became the junior partner in a coalition with the conservative Popular Party (PP) in Castilla y León.

The experiment in the region close to Madrid is being closely watched: polls suggest the PP would win a general election expected the end of the year but would need the support of Vox to govern.

Before that, Spain will vote in May in regional and local elections.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez used his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday to warn of the threat posed by the far-right, in what was seen as a reference to Castilla y León.

“We have to prevent these political forces from reaching the institutions… because the threat is very real, especially in those countries where far-right forces have the support of mainstream conservative parties,” he said.

He accused Moscow of using far-right parties to sow division in Europe, adding: “We will fight them with the same determination and conviction that the Ukrainians are fighting Russian forces.”

Sánchez’s executive has sent two notices to the regional government of Castilla y León reminding it that it does not have the authority to alter the abortion law.

READ ALSO: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

‘Drive a wedge’

Meanwhile, the main opposition PP has tried to distance itself from the controversy. It said the measure, which was first put forward by Garcia-Gallardo, will never come into force.

During a TV interview on Tuesday, PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said: “No woman who wants to voluntarily interrupt her pregnancy according to the law will be coerced anywhere where the PP governs.”

Feijóo, who has pushed the PP to the centre since becoming leader of the party in April, did not hide his discomfort with Vox, which he said was “clearly mistaken”.

He said the far-right party had sparked a controversy that “clearly” benefitted Sánchez’s government, which had “a lot of problems”.

The abortion row has overshadowed other disputes troubling the government. They include a row sparked by a flagship law against sexual violence that toughened penalties for rape but eased sentences for other sexual crimes. This has set some convicts free after their jail terms were reduced.

Antonio Barroso, of political consultancy Teneo, said Vox was “trying to drive a wedge within the PP by pushing for initiatives that pull the party away from the centre”.

Controversies over issues like abortion could help Sánchez “to mobilise the left-wing electorate by capitalising on their potential fears of a PP-Vox government”, he added in a research note.

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