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The basics of Spanish politics

by The Big E on June 11, 2011

I just got back from a fascinating trip to Spain.  I tagged along to Barcelona while my wife attended a Brookings Institute conference on regional planning.  I intend this to be a series of posts about stuff I learned on the trip.

Although Spain is a democratic Republic, Spanish politics is fundamentally different than ours.  They have a much more complex political landscape.  Not only do they have a multiplicity of parties, the dynamic isn’t simply left-right.  There is also the independence/autonomy/secession versus the pro-Spain/pro-Republic dynamic.

For example, a lefty from the Basque region (the Basques having the strongest secessionist movement) would be in the upper left of the green circle.  Whereas a conservative who has pro-Franco leanings would be in the lower right.  So on some issues you’ll find liberals who want more autonomy for the provinces agreeing with more libertarian conservatives because they both swing toward independence on the circle I’ve drawn.  Conversely, you’ll often see both conservative and liberal southern Spaniards agreeing on a number of issues when they coalesce around a stronger federal government.

Just so you know, the Catalans (the northeastern region that includes Barcelona) and the Basques (northern coastal region that abuts France) are the two regions who have long had separatist movements.  While Catalans have long considered themselves an independent people, they don’t have the recent violent history that the ETA in the Basque country has.

With that said, Spain has identified itself as a unique nation since around the 1300s even while the Moors were driven south and east and eventually out of Spain.  To me, this explains why there was no blood-letting after Franco’s death in 1975, but a blossoming of democracy, culture and especially (at least for me) food.

The economic engines of the country are Barcelona and Madrid.  Barcelona has always had a very strong manufacturing sector even while the region was to varying degrees suppressed under Franco.  These two regions also dominate Spanish politics.

Next up: Barcelona’s entrepreneur incubators…

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