167. Second Verstrynge Ministry (1988-1993)

Barcelona, 1992

167. Second Verstrynge Ministry (1988-1993)

Verstrynge's second tenure was less calm than the previous one. The economic recession that had reared its ugly head during the last months of 1988 proved to be the Achilles' heel of the government. When by 1989 the recession began to worry the government, Verstrynge proposed a rise in taxes that was contested from all sides. He managed to have it passed in the Parliament but the Senate shot it down over and over again. And to add salt to the injury, as the polls showed that as many as 70% of Spaniards were opposed to the tax, the first pages of many newspapers were daily covered with bad news for Verstrynge. The heir of the throne, Juan, Prince of Asturias (b. in 1950), had attracted many flak by his relaxed bacherlorhood and his amorous liaisons with a number of women and his expensive way of life. By 1989, he came under fire precisely for his financial carelessness in a moment that Verstrynge announced his austerity measures to the nation, which cause a widespread uproar worsened by the disastrous management of the public relations with the heir of the Spanish throne, that was caught by the press expressing himself in a quite telling way about the criticisms directed towards him. When an exasperated Verstrynge turned to king Federico II to have his measures passed by royal decree, the uproar became almost a mutiny. That the king, father of the wasteful and arrogant Juan of Asturias, was going to help Verstrynge to raise the taxes while his son was throwing about money like if there was no tomorrow hit hard the good name that, until that moment, the Spanish Royals had. When Federico II joined Verstrynge by signing the royal decree, the popular anger focused also on him, much to the shock of the king.

Then the Catalan government threatened Madrid with taking most of the new legislation to the Spanish Supreme Court as, according to the Catalan president, Miquel Roca, who had replaced Tarradellas in 1984 at the head of the Generalitat , many of its parts were unconstitutional and breached the Constitution itself. Ironically and unwillingly, Roca's action sparked a revival of Catalan separatism, which soon spread to the Basque Country. The popular pressure provided Roca with a powerful weapon and offered Verstrynge to open negotiations. His offer was quite plain. In exchange for not going ahead with his appeal to the Supreme Court, he wanted extensive changes to the Spanish constitution, including recognition of Catalonia as a nation within the many nations that made up Spain. This would take a long and complicated turn as both sides talked about the issue, with Verstrynge unwilling to recognize Catalonia as a nation. Thus, by late 1990, Verstrynge broke the talks and Roca took the war path. In 1991, the Supreme Court shot to pieces the bulk of the economic legislation of the government.

By 1992, a revised version of Verstrynge's reforms were passed after being carefully prepared and with the support of the Liberals, that joined the Conservative to offer an united front in face of the "Nationalist threat". By then, Spain had spent four years in the economic maelstrom of the recession with a government unable to cope with it and with Prince Juan making more mistakes which further angered the Spaniards. Verstrynge's inability to improve the government's finances, cost him most of his support within and outside the party. As its tax rise was perceived as a pro-business measure, the position of the government became more and more shaky. The only thing that endeared Verstrynge with the Spaniards was his reluctance to join the Third Anglo-Boer war of 1991, when London finally directly led with the racist regime of Pretoria. Even if it was a just war (perhaps the last one), most of the Spaniards were unwilling to join a war that took place so far away and had so little relation with them. By then, however, the Bank of Spain began to raise interest rates in order to meet the zero inflation target set by the government; the measure was a failure and exacerbated the effect of the recession in Spain and damaged its international credit rating . With national debt dangerously close to the psychological benchmark of 100% of GDP, Verstrynge position was untenable. Thus, in early 1993, he announced that he, at the end of his term, would not seek reelection and would withdraw from politics. Then, on March 21, 1993, he resigned as Prime Minister, being replaced by his vice-president. Isabel Tocino.

By then, the popular discontent had become a firestorm.



Isabel Tocino,
Spanish Prime Minister (March-October, 1993)
 
168. The General Elections of 1993

168. The General Elections of 1993

The few months of Isabel Tocino as Spanish Premier convinced many that she was unsuited for any kind of leadership. Thus, a process to replace her ensued and caused a split in the Progressive Conservative party when Jaime Mayor Oreja left the party and created a Christiandemocratic party the Partido Demócrata Popular (PDP - Popular Democratic Party) along with Javier Rupérez. Soon the party was flooded with deserters from the Progressive Conservative party (Javier Arenas, José María Álvarez del Manzano, Luis de Grandes, José Antonio Bermúdez de Castro, José Ramón Pin Arboledas, Jaime Ignacio del Burgo and José Ignacio Wert ). Esperanza Aguirre, who once had been considered a suitable candidate for the Liberal party, left the formation to join the new PDP.

Meanwhile, Suárez had surprised the nation in 1990 when he resigned from the Liberal leadership due to the illness of his wife and was replaced by Miguel Boyer, a very talented Spanish economist and politician who had been minister of economy, treasury and commerce with Garrigues Walker (1982-1984). Boyer is remembered today as the re-founder of the Liberal party and his promotion of new and promising figures like Cristina Cifuentes (who was promoted to be the spokesperson of the party in the Parliament in 1995), Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón (who rose to become the President of the Regional Government of Madrid in 1995), María Jesús San Segundo and, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.

The electoral campaign saw the bitter competition of the right wing forces for winning the attention of the voters and, eventually, managed to do little. The sovereigntist Alianza Demorática smashed the other parties in Galicia, Basque Country and Catalonia and performed quite well in Valencia and the Balearic Islands. Furthermore, Barranco's PSOE made an impressive campaign and rose to become the fourth party of Spain.

The Liberal victory surprised to no one. Boyer had carefully prepared the campaign and won the attention of the media. His detailed inagurational speech of the tour that took him around all Spain managed to win the hearts of many voters, even those who were not Liberals, for its finesse and attention to detail. In contrast with the bickering of the Conservative efforts, which were defined by the conservative newspaper ABC as the most incompetent campaign in modern political history." It is worth noting that, while the Conservative were quite expressive in their defence of the monarchy from the continued barrage that was falling over La Zarzuela for the mistakes of some royals, the Liberals did not mentioned neither the king nor his family.

The PDP's populism won them many voters, but also doomed the formation to be a third-rate party during its short life. However, in 1993, the PDP was considered the new hope for the Spanish right. Time would prove them wrong.

Party
Seats
%+/-
Partido Liberal (Miguel Boyer)164/29540.85+91
Alianza Democrática (José Antonio Ardanza)54/29513.52+30
Partido Demócrata Popular (Mayor Oreja)42/29518.69+42
Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Juan Barranco)36/29516.32+12
Partido Conservador Progresista (Isabel Tocino)2/2959.79-152
 
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169. First Boyer Ministry (1993-1997) -1-

"I went with Mary and the kid to watch the Lion King
Joseph".

169. First Boyer Ministry (1993-1997) -1-

Without a shred of a doubt, Miguel Boyer is today remembered as the best Spanish prime minister. During his first tenure he had not only to deal with the challenge offered by the Nationalist coallition which, eventually, would result in the Catalan independence process of 1999, but also with the beginning of the crisis that would put the Spanish monarchy at stake. His experience as minister of economy, treasury and commerce with Garrigues Walker (1982-1984) gave him knowledge of the Spanish parliamentary system and help him not only to keep both challenges under control but also to keep them within peaceful and democratic limits in spite of the provocations presented by the radicals. He established a very centralized and highly effficient government following the example of the last Liberal Prime Minister. However, he would be also remembered for his cautious, managerial approach to governing, reacting to issues as they arose, and was otherwise inclined to inactivity.

His tenure started with a confrontation with the United States when Boyer canceled the contract to buy the Sikorsky H-92 Superhawk to replace the aging Westland Sea King, forcing the payment of $500 million of cancellation fees. Instead of the Superhawk, Boyer selected the Westland's new Merlin. Thus, a few months later, the Boyer government announced the purchase of 25 EH-101 helicopters for the Navy plus 20 EH-101 for the Spanish Army to replace the Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma. This cancelation of the Superhawk contract, signed by Verstsrynge in 1987, caused an inmediate worsening of the US-Spain foreign relations, as Boyer returned to the Anglophile policies of his predecessor. Following in that direct, she signed in early 1944, with the British Prime Minister, the fellow Liberal David Steel, the Anglo-Spanish Trade Treaty and made it a big victory in the press. During the talks, the Spanish delegation also broke a deal with British Aerospace to take charge of the modernization of the EF-18 Hornet fighter-bombers, which would become one of the most controversial moves of Boyer, as we shall see in due time.

Furthermore, as part of the efforts against the large national debt that had been inherited, Boyer fired the governor of the Bank of Spain, Luis Ángel Rojo, who was replaced with Carlos Solchaga on February 1, 1994. Rojo's policy of high interest rates, inherited from his pedecessor, Mariano Rubio, to achieve zero percent inflation was quite unpopular, and thus Boyer waited little to replace him after Rojo refused to forgo his zero percent inflation target and end the punishingly high interest rates. He also trimmed the civil service, replacing the older civil servants with the younger and talented generation that the Spanish universities were churning out in considerable numbers by then. This "purge" also afected several deputy ministers that were deemed to be to inclined to the right. These measures were to prove a great public relations sucess for Boyer, who was highly praised in the press. Thus began the creation of the legend that surrounds him since then.

His first budget, however, was described as a "mild and tame". It aimed mainly at reducing the deficit to 3 percent of Gross National Product (GNP) within three years, and brought in modest cuts, mostly to defence spending (this would lead to the cancelation of the Barret M92 contract, replaced by the Russian rifle OSV-96). This tendency would be kept until the terrorist attacks of 2005. Thus, Boyer's mesures would keep reducing the military spending to such a point that he would be accused of having reduced the Spanish Armed Forces to merely "a bloated police force". Boyer would also claim, during a TV interview, that "major cuts to government spending outside of defence are out of the question" and placed his trust in the economy. In his view, the growth of the Spanish economy would be enough to annhilate the deficit without any further cuts. Thus, he favoure the increse of the Spanish exported by embracing globalization and free trade with as many nations as possible. However, in spite of Boyer's good intentions, the stock market reacted quite negatively to his annoucement. Many economists claimed that Boyer was doing nothing to reduce the debt problem, but the prime minister went ahead with his plans. On his part, Mayor Oreja attacked the government and demanded far more drastic cuts, but Boyer, supported by Ardanza in the Cortes, ignored this view. However, this would change when many foreign investors began to express about buying Spanish bond. To change this, in 1995 the Bank of Spain raised the interest rates in order to attract investment, but this, in turn, damage the government's ability to collect taxes and increased the doubts among investors that they would be repaid. Thus, by late 1994, Boyer decided that a deeper change was needed and a more drastic pack of cuts was implemented, going even further than the cuts proposed by Mayor Oreja.

In November 1995, the radical Nationalist politician Angel Colom won the Catalan elections and became the new president of the Generalitat and began to demand a referendum at once. Boyer decied to use this as an opportunity to destroy the Catalan sovereignty movement once and for all. Colom was a "hard separatist", determined to press for the total independence of Catalonia, but Boyer made the mistake of cosnidering the "mild separatists" like the Socialist Joaquin Nadal, as the "enemy" too and then compounded this mistake by courting the Conservative leader in Catalonia, Alejo Vidal Quadras, who was despised by even the less Catalan nationalists for his radical views on Spanish and Catalan nationalism. If Boyer had wanted to secure the victory of Colom, he could not have it helped in a better way. However, the Spanish prime minister was convinced that the separatists were to suffer such a defeat that it would be the end of Catalan separatism and an excellent warning for the Galician and Basque nationalists.

The Canadian economic meltdown of 1996 semeed to shake Boyer's complacency and forced him to change his policy. Deeped cuts were introduced in all of the departments of the government in spite of the complaints of the ministers. He had no troubles to replace his Defence Minister, Julián García Vargas, with Gustavo Suárez, and implement a strict control of the backbenchers and Cabinet ministers, in such a way that he was privately called "the Rockefeller of the dictators". Even if Boyer was quite reluctant to introduce in social programs, the Social spending fell from 20.35% in 1993, to 18.35 percent in 1996 and 16.94 percent in 1998. It would not be until 2003 when the social spending rose again. In spite of this, Boyer's popularity remained untoched.

Then, the 1996 Catalan referendum made Spain to shake.
 
170. First Boyer Ministry (1993-1997) -2-

170. First Boyer Ministry (1993-1997) -2-

It must be said that the 1996 Catalan referendum was the culmination of multiple years of useless debate and failed meetings that ended leading to such a level of mutual misunderstanding and disrespect that any attempted negotiation was fated to lead to nowhere. Thus, that both sides agreed to hold a referendum was a great political success that took both sides by surprise.

As a preparation for the referendum, every Catalan household was bombed with propaganda that foretold a terrible future for an independent Catalonia. Then, the PDP and the Conservative boycotted the electoral campaign. Finally, as the campaign began on October 2, 1996, the "No" strategy designed by the government focused on a single topic: that the independence was only wanted by the rich Catalan bourgeoisie. The 0Yes" campaign, on its part, was based in the unequal economic relationship of Catalonia with the rest of Spain, the refusal of the different Spanish government to negotiate any reform of the Federal status of Spain and, finally, appealed at the hearts of the Catalan voters, playing with the emotions with a high degree of success. It was then when Boyer and his cabinet began to panic as the polls reflected a higher degree of "Yes" voters than expected. Even worse, Angel Colom, the radical leader of ERC, had been replaced by Lluis Carod-Rovira, who was slightly less radical but far wiser and able than Colom. Furthermore, the strong Catalan Socialist Party (PSC - Partit Socialista de Catalunya) decided to take profit from the situation and replaced his leader, Joaquin Nadal, with Pasqual Maragall, who had a great support among the Nationalist wing of the PSC, hoping that this would improve their stance in the local elections of 1999.

As polls showed that the support to the "Yes" came close to the 40% (but never to exceed it), the political campaign and the debates soon became quite heated with the "No" campaign accusing the Nationalist of wanting to break Spain for their sheer egotism and going as far as to claim that they were a bunch of racist extremist demagogues. This was followed by the other side publishing some old articles of several Spanish politicians and intellectuals (Azaña, Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset). By then the campaign had reached such a level of dirtiness that the average voter turned its back to it. In a final and desperate attempt to win the moderate Catalan voters, the leader of the Catalan branch of the Liberal Party, Raimon Obiols, suggested that the federal status of Catalonia could be renegotiated to give the desired economic partnership with Spain. However, this offer backfired when the governments of Andalucia, Aragón and Valencia demanded that their status were also enhanced to the Catalan level; even worse, when Carod Rovira accepted that plan but demanded that it included a clause that granted the Catalan Government to declare immediate independence if the new status were not fully implemented, Boyer hurried to withdraw his offer and the polls reflected a sharp rise in the "Yes" voters and a deep decline in the "No" option. It looked as if the Spanish government was on the way to suffer a terrible disaster.

On October 25, David Steel, the British Prime Minister, while recognizing the referendum as an internal issue of Spain, expressed his support to the "Yes" campaign by praising the virtues of a united Spain. While the statement provided relief in the unionist circles, it hardly had any impact on the "Yes" position, as many remembered the British opposition to hold a similar referendum in Scotland. The same night, Prime Minister Miguel Boyer, gave a televised address to the nation in Spanish and Catalan, promoting the virtues of the Spanish federalist system, the shared values of the country and warning against any attempt to declare independence if the "Yes" option won. Boyer's speech was criticized by both sides. The unionists raged with Boyer's perceived "weakness" and by the use of Catalan in an official speech; the Catalan nationalists made endless jokes at Boyer's bad Catalan accent (and to some odd and bizarre sentences) and, all in all, they claimed that the offer made by the Spanish premier came "too late". The perceived threat hinted in the warning was also used against Boyer. On October 26, the polls reflected that the support to the "Yes" came close to 50% and, for the first time since the beginning of the campaign, it took the lead in the polls.

The high turnout on election day threw dark clouds over the "No" option, who feared that Boyer's speech had galvanized the Catalan nationalists. The first polls hinted at a landslide victory for the Catalan Nationalists that diminished as the day went on. In the end, the "No" option won by the narrowest of the margins. For Boyer, it was a bittersweet victory; for the defenders of an united Spain, it was a nightmare coming true; for the Catalan independentists, it was just another step in the right direction.

 
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171. First Boyer Ministry (1993-1997) -3-


171. First Boyer Ministry (1993-1997) -3-

Just as the Catalan referendum vanished from the first pages of the press, the eye of the storm was fixed again on the Spanish Royal Family. To be precise, in one of his members, Federico Juan de Todos los Santos, Prince of Asturias and heir to the Crown. (born 1952), better known as the "playboy prince", whose many extramarital love affairs had made him a juicy target for the press. It all began when El Pais, a center-left newspaper, published in its first page the dubious business of the sisters of the king, the Princesses María Antonia and María Teresa, that Federico II had either ignored or swept under the carpet. Then, it was claimed that Princess Victoria, the wife of Prince Federico Juan, wanted to divorce him due to his many love affairs and his lack of education. A few weeks later, in early December 1995, the press began to publish damning reports about Federico Juan, who, apparently, was also involved in the uncanny deals of his aunties.

Soon the press was full of articles about Federico Juan, who soon was defined as a harmful and terrible character overwhelmed by political circumstances and his vices. This series of scandals benefited the Spanish Republicans, who began to press for the proclamation of a Republic and "to finish what our grandparents started in 1923". Even if there were rumours that Federico Juan renounce to his rights to the crown and be replaced by his younger brother Alfonso, Duke of Cádiz (either by his own demand or by his father being forced to do so by the government), the situation of the Crown Prince took a turn for the worse when Prime Minister Boyer stated, during a speech in the Parliament (January 12, 1996), that Federico Juan was endangering the position of the Royal Family and went further by doubting that the Crown had the support of the Spanish people after the last scandals. It goes without saying that Boyer's words were more devastating than an A-bomb.

At once, the Conservative Mayor Oreja told Boyer that he should remember that he was still a minister of the Crown, and that he should remain loyal to her. To this, Boyer said that he was fulfilling the role that the votes of the Spaniards had given him, and that his loyalty was placed in the Spanish democracy. The political storm that followed that exchange in the Parliament proved how divided Spain was about the Royals. That same evening, José María Aznar, the then President of Castille and Leon, abandoned the PCP and created the Partido Popular (PP - Popular Party), along with Eduardo Serra, Margarita Mariscal de Gante and a former Liberal politician, Esperanza Aguirre. Aznar, in his first speech to the press, announced that his party was born to defend the Spanish democracy, and that could be no longer done in a party [that is, the PCP] "tainted by the defence of a corrupted institution like the Spanish monarchy". Many felt, then, that Aznar had not only backstabbed his party and the king, but that he was also acting out of sheer egotism and political opportunism. However, Aznar's charm seemed to win the upper hand in his dispute with Mayor Oreja for the center-right voters.

Boyer had to face, too, the internal strife in his party between the monarchist and republican factions. The former was led by Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and would also leave the Liberal party in February 1996. Many foretold that this strange alliance would not last but, for the next months, the new Convergencia Democrática Española (CDC - Spanish Democratic Convergence), held against all the odds. By late 1996, the Spanish political scene was clearly divided not by the usual Right-Left axis but for a Monarchist-Republican one. The strength of both factions would be tested in the local elections of 1997 that would take place in Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile-La Mancha, Castile-Leon, Valencia, Extremadura, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia and Navarre.

With many eyes fixed on the Prime Minister, Boyer remained silent on the issue after his speech of January 1996. When pressed, he simply stated that he would clarify his position on the issue during the campaign for the local elections. However, he made no secret of his position about this question with his closest friends and supporters.

The monarchy had to go.

 
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172. The local elections of 1997.

Madrid, June 4, 1997.

172. The local elections of 1997.

At the beginning, no one thought that the local elections of 1997 could become a plebiscite about the monarchy. However, as the media pounded Crown Prince Federico for his succession of scandals with his lovers and the political parties began to show their position about the issue, it soon looked as if the fate of the monarchy was going to be determined by them. Prime Minister Boyer stated many times that the elections were on the monarchy but on the local governments and refused to make any further statement on the issue. However, his neutral stance came to an end after a private conversation with some of his ministers was leaked to the press. In it, the prime minister launched a vicious tirade against the monarchy, blaming Prince Federico for his dissolute way of life and King Federico II for his lack of control upon his son. Even worse, around that time it was published to the press that the royal spending was to increase to 6,9% that year. The uproar that followed filled the first pages of the press for the following months. Not when the heir to the throne himself renounced (February 23, 1997) his rights to the throne and was replaced with his younger and more sensible brother, the Infante Alberto, the situation improved. By then Spain had become radicalized on the question. It was then when Boyer finally stated his support for the Republic. Little knew then that Boyer had been carefully playing his cards and hand joined the Republican side only when he was sure that they would win.

The first blow to the monarchy took place in the elections for the Parliament of Aragon (March 22), with the Liberal Party winning the elections. However, this result was initially downplayed was subsumed by the pro-monarchist speech of the Liberal candidate, Santiago Lanzuela, who was instantly removed from his position and forced out of the party by Boyer and replaced by José Atares, who was also the head of the center-left faction of the Liberal Party in Aragon. Again, the victory of the Republican forces (61,57% of the vote; 423,063 votes vs 263.969 of the other parties) was a hard pill to swallow for the king. When the elected President of the Andalusian government, Susana Díaz, in her first public speech, dressed herself in the colors of the Republican flag, many thought that it was a clear political statement (and also a poor show of her fashion taste). The Liberal victory in Asturias (April 28) along with the narrow victory of the Republican forces (50,8% of the votes) was not felt by the monarchist as a terrible defeat. The new president of the Asturian federal state, the Socialist Antonio Trevín, was quite neutral in his inauguration speech and did not take sides, even if Gaspar Llamazares, leader of the Asturian branch of the Communist Party, seemed quite eager to state his Republicanism on the press. However, the elections of the Balearic Islands, which also took place on April 28, seemed to give new breath to the monarchy, as the Republican parties only won 42,13% of the votes against 50,78 of the Monarchist parties.

This was to change May 8. The elections for the Parliament of the Canary Islands were to shock the Monarchists when center-right Coalición Canaria, led by Manuel Hermoso, suddenly sided with the Republicans after winning the elections, giving them 56.53% of the votes. This "betrayal" was to deeply mark Canarian politics, even more when, in 2020, it was proved that Hermoso had been "bought" by some Republican businessmen. The stalemate in Cantabria (the Republican forces received 49.99% of the popular vote vs 49.95% of the Monarchist forces) was followed by the Monarchist victory in Castile-Leon (52.20% vs 45.74%) and the Republican success in Castile-La Mancha (both elections took place in May 18) with similar but opposite numbers to the former: 53.86% vs 46.08%. The tide changed on May 28 in Valencia: with the bulk of the Conservative forces taking a clear pro-Republican side in the last week of the campaign, the Monarchist forces were powerless to stop the bleeding of the votes: the Socialist Joan Lerma led the Republican coalition to victory (66.10% vs 23.28%). The same happened in Extremadura. There, the Socialist candidate had refused to take sides, repeating over and over again that all he cared was for the "workers and humble people" of Extremadura. Then, after winning with 44,33% of the votes, joined the Republican side with a demagogic speech that ashamed even of his new allies. Thus, the Republican parties had 58.86% of the votes for 39.82% of the baffled Monarchists.

This was the stage of the elections in Madrid (May 30), where the Liberals won the elections for Major and for the Parliament (65.72%). There, the new mayor of the city, Cristina Cifuentes, replaced the Monarchist flag for the Republican one for a very short time. By the time it was known that Navarre had also supported the Republican candidates (72.,09 of the votes), King Federico had begun to draft his abdication. Not even the Monarchist victories at La Rioja (50,31% of the popular vote) and Murcia (52.35%) changed his mind. Later on, he was accused of being a coward, as neither Galicia, nor Catalonia nor the Basque Country had voted on the issue and there was still hope (even if the polls proved that the Republicans were over 75% of support in the last two federal states). Thus, on June 4, Federico I of Spain announced his abdication and left the country. The Royal Family eventually settled in Great Britain.


Barcelona. June 5, 1997.
 
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173. News of the World (1985-1995): Russia

Boris Yelstin, a populist reformer who attempted to bring new life
to the paralyzed Mother Russia

173. News of the World (1985-1995): Russia

After the elections of 1987, and again at the head of a minority government, the Social Democratic Konstantin Bryusov was to suffer the most odd kind of opposition ever suffered in the Chamber of Deputies: while the opposition (that is, the Socialists and the Social Democrats) supported his measures, his own party abstained in the votations. Thus, after 11 days, Bryusov resigned. He would remain in office until 29 July 1987, when after a general election, a new government was formed with Vitaly Ivanovich Vorotnikov at its head. To the surprise of many, the distance between the Christian Democrats and the Socialists grew significantly instead of decreasing. During this Vorotnikov's tenure, Russia became the fifth-largest industrial nation and gained entry into the G7 and, in May 1988, it was approved a law that introduced a new benefit for salaried workers called "benefit for the family nucleus", with the amount varying depending on the number of family members and the family income of the previous year.

After a peaceful first year as a Prime Minister, Vorotnikov saw the resignation of many of his social democratic ministers, after the approval of the new law on private TV channels (which were quite favorable to several media tycoons closely associated with Vorotnikov). This led to the Socialist withdrawal from the coalition government in 1991 After this. Vorotnikov would create a new government consisting of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and Liberals. Vorotnikov would also be the first Russian premier that clashed with the President of the Republic, as the Russian President, Mikhail Sergeyevich Solomentsev, was also opposed to the law on private TV channels.

After the elections of 1992, Vorotnikov would lead another coalition government formed up by Christian Democrats, Socialists, Social Democrats, and Liberals. However, the delicate health of the Russian premier left the government in the hands of Vladimir Pavlovich Orlov, the Interior Minister, who became the de facto Russian Prime Minister in all but name. The 1992 elections were the first one for the Ukranian League, a Nationalist party led by Ivan Kazanets which advocated, then, for the transformation of Russian into a federal state with greater regional autonomy. Eventually, the Vorotnikov government came into crisis as Orlov was unable to make it work and faced the mutiny of the Liberal ministers led by Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, who replaced Vortonikov as prime minister in May 1994 after his massive victory in the elections of that year. However, Yeltsin would be ousted from power hardly a year after by an internal "coup" in his own party and replaced by Vitold Fokin.

In spite of the troubled times of her rulers (or simply in spite of them), Russia enjoyed an economic boom, as we have seen. As a result of this rapid expansion, in 1989 Russia overtook the Japanese and German economies, becoming the third richest nation in the world, after Great Britain and the United States. However, the Russian economy presented a problem: it was booming, thanks to increased productivity and surging exports, but unsustainable fiscal deficits drove the growth ( the public debt was at 104% of GDP in 1992). The early global recession of 1990 was to hit hard Russia, even if its effects were not to be noticed until the next decade. Furthermore. from 1992 onwards, the massive government debt and the political paralysis began to take its toll. The political strife between the different parties made political, economic, and ethical reforms almost impossible and, eventually, between 1992 and 1994 the Christian Democrats would suffer a severe crisis that would end up with the refundation of the party as Russian People's Party, from which a faction would split to create the Russian Christian Democratic Center. The Communist Party, which had risen to become the fourth most voted party, dissolved itself during those years, leaving the Socialist Party as the only Left formation in Russia. This political chaos was to worsen the economical crisis of the 2000s.
 
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174. News of the World (1985-1995): Germany

German soldier patrolling the outskirsts of Tripoli

174. News of the World (1985-1995): Germany

The unparalleled string of Socialdemocratic victories from 1982 to 1996 were to shape the fate of Germany, first under the leadership of Helmut Schmidt and then under Oskar Lafontaine. It was not an easy task, as Schmidt directed a very controversial modernization of Germany. This process of modernization and adaptation to the new standards demanded by the market required harsh adjustments that implied restructuring and workforce cuts. It was in the 1980s that these harsh and unpopular measures were carried out. Many state-owned companies (or just subsidized by the government) had enormous losses that accounted for 1.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). Therefore, the state needed to get rid of these companies in order to clean up its accounts. The sectors that most rigorously suffered from this reconversion process were mining, steel and shipyards. This process, which had started slowly in the early 1980s, began to gather new pace from 1986 onwards and it met a strong social rejection. Such was the social conflict that caused the closure of companies, the dismantling of production centers and the wave of layoffs, that the trade unions called for two general strikes in 1988 and 1991 However, the protests were in vain, as the reform process instead of stopping, began to accelerate. The reform caused a notable increase in the unemployed population, higher levels of indebtedness, as well as a decrease in production and profits as the economic growth began to lose steam until it stopped in the brief but intense crisis of 1992-1994, which led to record records in unemployment rates.. This would eventually lead to the victory of the CDU/CSU coalition led by Edmund Stoiber in 1996. Ironically, these years saw a massive spending on social services, pensions, infrastructure and revitalization of the economy.

In foreign matters, both Schmidt and Lafontaine were a loyal British ally, which led the Bank of England to make a special sterling credit line available to the German government to support Schmidt's reform process in 1984. However, Franch was entirely a different matter. The instability that characterized the Quai d'Orsay in that age made Berlin not to trust Paris too much until 1991, when Britain, France and Germany deployed their troops in the Middle East to ease the tensions in the area after the second Gulf War (1988-1991), and again in 1993, during the Iraq missile strikes (1993), when Iraq attacked the oil terminal and oil tankers at Kharg Island in early 1993, thereby bringing Allied intervention. The Libyan civil war (1990-2005) which followed the assasination of Muammar Gaddafi, "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution" of Libya , spiralled out of control in spite of the Egyptian mediation and, by 1991, after the massacres of Tripoli and Benghazi, the Egiptian army entered in Libya in late 1991, which prompted the British and US intervention. Again, an international mediation fostered by Saudi Arabia led to the hostilities being officially paused at this point, and an uneasy quiet settled over the country.

War resumed again in 1992 when the Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Belqasim Haftar and supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched a violent airstrike to decapitate the high command of the Libyan Ground Forces, the Qadaffi-loyalists led by Muhammad Muammar Gaddafi, the eldest son of the late leader. The attack failed but opened a new episode of the Libyan Civil war as Egypt, backing Belqasim, and Algeria, backing Gadaffi, increased their commitment in the war until April 1994, when a truce divided the country in two with the British, French and US Forces standing in the buffer zone between the two enemy forces. Germany, which had a very little role until then, withdrew from Libya due to the anti-war demonstrations, as Chancellor Lafontaine famously stated "Libya is not worthy of the healthy bones of a single German Ländser".
 
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175. News of the World (1985-1995): France

175. News of the World (1985-1995): France

1985 to 1995 are remembered as the "grey decade of France". Laurent Fabius came after the "golden" times of Servan-Schreiber and was received with hope. Riding the wave of the famous French "Roaring Eighties", Fabius promised a complete overhaul of France that was only applied in a quite timid way due to the obstinacy of his Treasury Minister, Pierre Bérégovoy, his successor, who followed with Fabius' legacy but with his eyes fixed in the budget. His only real success was an increase in funding for the Air Force and the Army until his career was cut short by the disaster of the Mirage VI, the vaunted replacement of the strategic bomber Mirage IV, which kept flying until 1996, eight years after the Mirage VI program was cancelled among accusations of bribery and replaced with the British Blackburn Buccaneer.

Jacques Chirac is remembered by his brief tenure (March 1989-January 1991) and the beginning of an industrial reform that mirrored the German one in some aspects and that was implemented by his successor, Michel Sapin, who controlled the reform with an iron grip. However, his military intervention in Iraq would led to his fall due to the antiwar feeling in France. He was replaced in 1992 by Michel Rocard, who attempted to instill some sense of stability to the trembling Quai D'Orsay. Nevertheless, Rocard was not to be more successful than the preceding premiers and by July that year would be replaced, too, by Édith Cresson, who pulled out the French soldiers from Iraq in 1993. When she managed to win in the General Elections of 1993 by the narrowest of margins, it seemed that France could settle for once and all. However, it was not to be. The Libyan carnage forced her hand and she had to deploy troops to stop the killing spree. This military intervention resulted, again, too controversial and Cresson resigned in site of the efforts of the party to persuade her, and this led to downfall of the Socialist government and the premiership of Edmond Alphandéry (July 10 - September 11, 1994), the seventh prime miniser in nine years.

By that time, France was deeply divided. However, the situation was not as bad as one may think. The economy was strong, the state more open and federalized and the political and economical crisis contained. It was true that the French economy was technologically lagging behind the German and English ones, but France had the means to remedy that. The question of the rising employment and the lack of investment from the government was a different matter, though, and this last point was heavily damaging the French infrastructure. Politically speaking, this long decade finally defined the political scene of France, with the Union pour la démocratie française (UDF - Union for French Democracy) led by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, clearly established as a centrist force, flanked by Alain Juppé's Rassemblement pour la République (RPR - Rally for the Republic) on the right and the Socialist Party (PS) led by Lionel Jospin on the left. Most troublingly, this decade saw the rise of the far right with the Jean-Marie Le Pen and his National Front. With the increasing instability in the government, no one took seriously the steady rise in revisionist attitudes, a failure that it would be regretted later on.
 
176. News of the World (1985-1995): United Kingdom New

176. News of the World (1985-1995): United Kingdom

The United Kingdom became, by 1990, the first world economy. As most of the international trade went through the City, the sterling pound became an attractive resource and was used by many countries as a replacement of the gold reserves. Such was the prestige and the economic power of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth towards the end of the century. Ironically, the industrial and financial reorganization carried out by Bill Rodgers from 1982 to 1991 not only gave new life to the British economy and propelled to the first ranks of the world-wide economies after the economic malaise of the late 1970s-early 1980s but also it pushead ahead the German recovery and contributed to the success of the continuist Liberal-Conservative coalition that won the elections of 1991, when the Britons turned their back to their successful but grey Rodgers and wanted for something different.

Michael Heseltine, the Conservative Prime Minister, enjoyed a few months of triumph as the British economy kept growing stronger until he made his fateful move just a few months after winning the elections of 1991: First he began by his decision to reverse Rodger's cuts in defence. Thus, he pushed ahead the development of new weaponry like the Avro Lancaster II bomber (1), the FV510 Warrior fighting vehicle, and the FV 4030 Challenger tank, the construction of three new King George V class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (2) and added a last Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) for the two HMS Queen Elizabeth class carriers (3), which had been originally scheduled to be decommissioned in 2000. With the SLEP, this date was to be moved to 2015. Five new guided-missile cruisers would be added to the fleet while the two most older ships of the eight Bristol-class destroyers would be decommissioned. Then, along with France and Germany, Heseltine sent British and Commonwealth troops to the Middle East to act as a peace corps after the second Gulf War (1988-1991). This was followed by the intervention in the Libyan civil war in 1994 and, when the Apartheid South Africa collapsed in a "low-level war" which erupted after the assassination of Nelson Mandela in 1995, Heseltine had no qualms to also send troops there, along with forces from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and India. With the arrival of the Commonwealth forces, violence peaked and the conflict escalated and soon Heseltine found himself ruling South Africa as the authority of Frederik de Klerk's cabinet did not extend beyond Pretoria. It was the beginning of a nightmare that would haunt the residents of Downing Streets for the next twenty years.

It was a bad timed adventure, as Hesseltine had been heavily censored by the Pakistani and Indian Prime Ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi, for his "mad neocolonialism" during the Commonwealth Conference of 1993. It was the beginning of hard times for the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, as this period of reckless spending coincided with a recession, which saw unemployment hit 2 million at its peak along with a raft of business closures. Inflation had also reached 8.9% in 1995, as government's spending skyrocketed even more and tax intakes declined. Heseltine resorted to cut interest rates to stimulate the economy, which led to a partial economic recovery, but it was already too late for him. In the elections of March 1996, the Liberals and the Conservatives were wiped out by Margaret Beckett's "New Labour" (4).


(1) You could very well think that the B-1B got a British cousin, but I couldn't possibly comment.
(2) A "pocket" version of the Nimitz class around 60,000 tons
(3) The CVA-01 project went on.
(4) No, it's not Tony under a new disguise, trust me.
 
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177. News of the World (1985-1995): the United States New

Harold Stassen,
a man with a wig

177. News of the World (1985-1995): the United States

Luck smiled at Jimmy Carter to win the elections of 1984 but, at the same time, laughed at him by having the shadow of Reagan "lour'd upon" the White House. Thus, the most enduring image of Carter's tenure was his "habit of showering public money on any problem" and, in all, being "averse to tough decisions". One of the first measures he carried out as soon as he took office was to tiry to heal the relations with the Arab countries. with limited success in spite of his great efforts, something that was perceived as a complete defeat by the public opinion. This drew criticism from the Republican party, who held the view that he was ceding to the pressure of the terrorists who attacked the United States. However, he had promised to do so during the electoral campaign, well before the terrorist attack of November 3, 1984.

Much of Carter's world centered on social issues, including gender and racial discrimination. He signed the Department of Energy Organization Act of 1986, forming the Department of Energy, the first new cabinet position in twenty years. However, he soon ran into trouble for his incapacity to play by Washington's rules. His lack of diplomatic qualities made some of his projects opposed by members of his own party and he found himself at odds with Congressional Democrats many times. In spite of this, his legacy included an improvement in public education, lowering the deficit and fighting to end the outsourcing of jobs. He also reduced the national debt and has passed the Family and Medical Leave Act 1987, allowing workers to take unpaid time off in the event of a family or medical issue.

In the elections of 1988, Carter was crushed by Harold Stassen, the former governor of Minnesota who, during the electoral campaign, had promised to continue Reagan’s policies but with a kinder and gentler approach. He faced large budget and trade deficits and was handed the exploding national debt. On top of that, there was the AIDS epidemic, which his administration fought with moderate success. He increased federal spending for education, childcare, and advanced technology research. His second term, after defeating Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts in 1988, was less successful. He was forced to raise taxes in 1990 due to the stunning deficit. In foreign matters, Stassen, after having a discrete paper during the first term, ordered the invasion of Panama to remove trouble-causing Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega (December 20th, 1989) and then became conspicious for his lack of participation in the international force in Iraq in 1991.

Ross Perot's unexpected victory in the elections of 1992 caught many by surprise and caused the two traditional parties to undergo a critical moment that ended with an internal overhaul of their structures. Meanwhile, President Perot followed Carter's steps by improving public education and lowering the deficit; he also reduced the national debt and signed the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993; ,Under his presidency, there were the terrorists attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City, leaving six people dead and over 1,000 injured (February 26th, 1993) and approved the Anti-Terrorism Act 1993 hardly a month later. Perot was famous for starting a trade war with China -some called it a revenge for the Vietnam War- and for improving the US relations with Russia.
 
178. Football in Spain (1985-1995) New

178. Football in Spain (1985-1995)

After the last victory of the Real Madrid in the 1984-1985, many foretold that a new champion had been born to defy and even to replace the dominion of FC Barcelona in the Spanish League. So it seemed, with an extraordinary set of players (Camacho, Martín Vázquez, Míchel, Juanito, Gordillo, Butragueño, Hugo Sánchez and Valdano). However, it was not to be. The best football teams were, again, Barcelona and the Basque teams (Athletic Club and Real Sociedad), with Valencia CF being the exception from time to time. The "merengues" were plagued by ill luck and a series of injuries that let their best players out of the competition, as it happened with Butrageño in 1986 and 1987 and then to Hugo Sánchez in 1988. However, Diego Armando Maradona, Bernd Schuster and Gary Lineker gave four championships to FC Barcelona and widened the legend of the blaugrana team.

In Europe, however, Barcelona was not so lucky. Defeated in the European Cup final match by Porto (2-1) in 1987, PSV (1-0) in 1988 and Milan (4-0) in 1989, it seemed as if the team was doomed to meet success in the international competitions... until 1990. The rival was the formidable Milan led by legendary figures like Tassotti, Maldini, Costacurta, Baresi, Ancelotti, Rijkaard, van Basten and Gullit which had defeated them the previous year. However, the Praterstadion of Vienna Ronald Koeman scored the only goal of the match in a remarkable example of his powerful right-footed free kicks. This victory was repeated again in 1991 against Papin's Marseille, even if the match was decided on penalty kicks.

Then, luck changed sides. Barcelona had what was called then "the Dream Team" (Koeman, Guardiola, Amor, Gascoigne, Stoichkov, Romário, Laudrup, Zubizarreta o Bakero and the manager of the team, Johan Cruyff). However, victory proved hard. Ironically, success seemed to settle in Madrid from 1990 to 1992 beofre going north again, until Barcelona recovered from its bad spell from 1990 to 1993 (including Gazzza breaking his leg in training) when it cruised from victory to victory in the 1993-1994 season without losing a single game, with a recovered Gascoigne making an immediate impact after his long spell out of the team. The defeat suffered in the final match of the European Cup in Athens at the hands of Barcelona's bête noir, Milan (4-0) was the end of an age for the Catalan team, and the beginning of a new one.

It seemed, too, the the supremacy of Barcelona had come to an end with the rise of new teams like (RCD La Coruña, with his star player, Bebeto) and the return of old great times like Zaragoza, Valencia, Betis and Sevilla, who had included within their teams great players like Valdo and Robert Prosinecki (Zaragoza), Litmanen and Donadoni (Valencia), Zamorano (Betis) and Martin Kree (Sevilla).

Time would tell...
 
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179. Republican Spain. New

The city hall of Eibar following
the proclamation of the Republic.

179. Republican Spain.

Later on, a Spanish historian said about the proclamation of the Republic: "It was not born amidst neither wars nor chaos, but it is no less so that its origins were unlawful".

Once the royal family had left the country, Parliament resumed on June 6. The president of the Cortes, the Liberal Luisa Fernanda Rudi, said in her inauguration speech: "the abdication of Don Federico de Hohenzollern restores the integrity of sovereignty and authority to the Spanish Cortes". Thus, she proposed to vote that the Cortes were to be empowered to rule without a king. There, indeed, a problem with this: the Spanish Constitution did not allow to do so. This question, however, was sidelined. First the Cortes and then the Senate voted in favour of the measure. Furthermore, the Parliament was renamed as "Asamblea Nacional" (National Assembly) for the duration of the reform process. There was a small opposition to this, as it was reflected in the words of a Conservative politician, Federico Trillo, who claimed that "what we are discussing clearly goes against the Constitution. If your first act to establish the Republic goes against the law, how are you going to pretend to rule the country?". Once the two chambers voted for the measure, Fernanda Rudi asked Boyer and his government to remain in place while the new Constitution was drafted and new elections were called and the proclamation of the Spanish Republic was issued at dawn of June 7.

The cities of Sahagún (León), Éibar (Guipúzcoa) and Jaca (Huesca) were the only three cities that proclaimed the republic one day before the official date, June 5, on the very day that the king left the country. The first city in which the tricolor flag was raised was Eibar, at 6.30 in the morning of June 5, and in the afternoon of that same day it was followed by the main Spanish capitals, including Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid, in that order.

Due to the delicate situation of Spain, which had entered into a new recession process and unemployment had begun to rise, Boyer pressed the National Assembly for a fast drafting of the new Constitution to call for new elections as soon as possible. Thus, on September 21, the new Constitution was approved in the Cortes and, on November 3, was voted by the Spaniards, who supported the new Carta Magna. The federal structure was to be remain in place; in addition to this, it defined the role of the President of the Republic, which was to closely follow the French model: he would be the head of state and head of executive of Spain as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; thus, the Spanish Republic would be a semi-presidential system. His greatest power was the ability to choose the prime minister. However, he would be forced to name a prime minister who can command the support of a majority in the assembly (but he cannot dismiss him). He would also have the duty of arbitrating the functioning of governmental authorities and would have a mandate for five years. The president could promulgate laws and had a suspensive veto, but only once per law; he could dissolve the Parliament .

The Provisional government would last to February 28, 1998. It was a Saturday. The first elections (to choose the first president of the Republic, the first prime minister and the first Senate) of the Spanish Republic had already taken place on (November 15, 1997), as we shall see.
 
Well, one year, two months and ten days after this thread began, here comes to its end, as Spain is no longer a parliamentary monarchy but a Republic, and that needs, in my opinion, a different thread. I did not have a Republican turn of events, I promise, but, well, stories have their own life, so to speak and the narration takes a different way that, I hope, is going to be, at least, as good (I hope) as this thread that ends here.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next (final) part of this TTL!
KS
 
Look forward to see the evolution of TTl Spain new republican system (and how the President and PM cooperate). :)
When you start the new thread, please post the link here.
 
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