The last decade has been a period of historical changes in Spain that have transformed its political culture and society forever. This historical phase is parallel to the European economic crisis and its aftermath, which were particularly intense in Southern European countries like Spain. Arguably, most of the last decade’s events were ultimately motivated by this unstable setting.
2010 was the last year of PSOE’s (social democratic party) government after the 2008 crisis. The party’s denial of the crisis left the country unprepared and resulted in historic unemployment numbers and the introduction of austerity measures. This situation resulted in millions of civilians spontaneously taking over main squares around the whole country in the form of protests, in what is called today 15-M. For many historians it marked the end of the old democratic era of Spain.
Months later, general elections were held and PP (right-wing party) won. During this legislature emeritus King Juan Carlos I abdicated in his son Felipe VI, after a corruption case involving the royal family. Under these political circumstances two new parties entered the scene: Ciudadanos (centre) and Podemos (left, born out of 15-M). The 2015 elections constituted the end of the bipartisan parliament, but after not being able to form a governing majority, elections were held again in 2016 and PP managed to stay in power.
Meanwhile, the independence movement in Catalonia (North-Eastern area of Spain), a phenomenon that has centuries of history, had been strengthening and separatist parties had formed a majority in the Catalonian parliament. In 2017, Catalonia`s government held an illegal independence referendum and declared the formation of the Republic of Catalonia. The Spanish central government intervened with armed forces and separatist political leaders fled the country after being sentenced to prison for rebellion and have not come back since.
In 2018, a no confidence vote against PP was put forward due to the many corruption cases uncovered during their legislature. After a year of provisional government, elections were held giving a majority to PSOE, but their inability to reach an agreement with Unidas Podemos led to another set of elections in November. PSOE won again and have agreed to form a coalition with Unidas Podemos after the threat of the rise of VOX (alt-right party).
This last decade of Spanish politics witnessed the end of the old political system, exposed the fragility of the social structure and demonstrated the necessity of addressing Catalonia’s separatism. We begin this new decade with the possibility of a left government, a chance for change and a future of democratic prosperity.