¡Viva la República! - A Republican Spain TL

20, Zapatero Ministry (2004-2008) -5-
  • 20, Zapatero Ministry (2004-2008) -5-

    The terrorist attacks seemed to unite all the Spaniards regardless of their political ideas in their common suffering and in their absolute rejection of terrorism. However, when politics came to term with reality, the first cracks in the armor began to appear. When the Minister of Interior, Ruiz-Gallardón, began to draft a bill following the British and US models, problems arose. Zapatero thought that Ruiz-Gallardón's bill was too harsh. Suddenly, a Conservative member of the city council of Llodio (Basque Country), Santiago Abascal, demanded that the police could arrest any suspected terrorist without a court order. In the end, the Bill which Ruiz-Gallardón presented to the Cortes aimed to create new criminal offences intended to help the police to fight terrorism. However, the Bill, which was soon termed as "Ley Mordaza" (gag-law), was considered by many to go too far and, even if its function was to be directed againt terrorism, it could be easily turned againts any protests against the government. The press pointed out that even every kind of peaceful protest could be prohibited in Spain. Of course, a popular uproar followed and Zapatero reacted quickly. The Bill was not withdrawn, but he secured that most of his political group and most of their partners were to vote it down. Thus, Ruíz-Gallardón found himself in the awkward situation of being opposed by his own party and supported by the opposition. Boyer returned briefly from his retirement to threaten the Bill if it went ahead. On the following day to the failed votation (January 12, 2008), Ruiz-Gallardón tended his resignation to Zapatero, who refused to accept it. It was obvious, however, that there was a huge gap (almost an abyss) between the Prime Minister and his Interior Minister.

    Then, Zapatero suffered an unexpected defeat in Aragon. There, Marcelino Iglesias, the incumbent Socialist leader and president of the Aragonese government since 1999, was crushed in the polls when his party lost a third of its supporters. Only the support of the Liberals and Chesús Bernal's Chunta Aragonesista kept Iglesias in his post. However, it was a lesson that both sides took to a heart.

    Many felt that it was a bad omen for the upcoming General Elections.

    21, Zapatero Ministry (2004-2008) -6-
  • 21, Zapatero Ministry (2004-2008) -6-

    Zapatero had, however, an ace upon his sleeve. Since 1997, the economic growth of Spain averaged 006 marked the ninth year of Brown’s premiership, longer than any other Labour Prime Minister in history. Brown had a lot to be proud of. The UK economic growth averaged 5% between 1998-2006, higher than any other European country, as unemployment dropped from 14% in 1998 to 7% in 2006 as the real incomes grew around 12% during that said period. However, Zapatero was aware that the terrorist attacks had hit hard the Spaniards and that the jingoist language of the Conservatives were hitting home. Thus, he began to work in earnest to win the votes of the younger voters and increasing the pace of his social program while turning also to embrace environmentalism, including a new green program within his already overcrowded list of "must do" affairs.

    Thus, Zapatero ennacted a new reform of the Spanish education system but reduced to buidling new schools, which was supported by a new generation of new teachers breed in the new university system of the new Republic. However, when his reform was to touch the areas transfered to the local governments, soon problems arose, as not only the Catalan and Basque government loudly protested by Zapatero's "encroaching" of their education systems, but the governments of Andalucia and Valencia, under Socialist control. Furthermore, Zapatero's implication with the reform attracted all the flak, as his figure had grown to overshadow his Minister of Education, María Jesús San Segundo.

    Thus, to Zapatero's surprise, he began to be heavily criticised by the Socialist voters, who were upset with him due to his devotion to control every single issue to the detail and reduced to a secondary role his ministers, something that led the Conservative press to target Zapatero and to label him as a "dictator". Then came real troubles when the president of the government of Castilla and León, the Conservative Juan Vicente Herrera, wanted to pass legislation to restrict restrict wearing the veil in schools, banks and other public areas in Castilla and León. Zapatero jumped at that, which promted Herrera to call for the legislation to be introduced nationally. President Boyer, on one of his last acts as President, threatened to veto the measures if they were brought to the Cortes. Herrera reacted by acussing both Zapatero and Boyer of acting like absolute rulers and claimed that Spain was a dictatorship. His outburst, which was utterly out of place, was cut short when his veil restrictions reached the European press and soon Herrera saw himself protraited as the Spanish "Jörg Haider", the ultra-right Governor of Carinthia (1999-2003) and brought memories of how he had been ousted of power when Austria had been on the verge of being boycotted by Germany and the United Kingdom if Haider remained in power. This caused the fall of Herrera, who found himself bereft of allies when his Liberal partners withdrew him his support and was defeated in a vote of no-confidence in July 2008. The new president of Castilla and Leon, the Socialist Ángel Villalba, quietly shelved the proposals of his predecessor and soon the dust settled.

    This controversy helped Zapatero, whose position in the pollings improved among the young voters thanks to his opposition to Herrera's legislation.

    Would that be enough for him to win?


    Juan Vicente Herrera, the unwilling "friend"
    that helped Zapatero's star to rise again.
    22. The Elections of 2008.
  • 22. The Elections of 2008.

    To the surprise of many, Mariano Rajoy withdrew from politics in July 2006 and was replaced by a virtually unknown: Alberto Carlos Rivera Díaz, even if he was soon known just as Alberto Rivera. The new leader of the Partido Conservador Progresista (PCP - Conservative Progresist Party) was born in Barcelona, the only child of Agustín Rivera, member of a working class family from La Barceloneta. When Albert was 13, they moved to Madrid (1992), where his parents opened their own business. He went on to study law, completing the degree in 2001 and a master's degree in constitutional law in 2002. He also studied for one year at the University of Helsinki in Finland, as part of an Erasmus scholarship and took a course at George Washington University in political marketing. Once he completed his university studies, Rivera entered politics in 2002 and began working as a legal counsel at the Bankia bank. He stopped working for Bankia in 2008 when he replaced Rajoy as president of the PCP.

    His fast rise in the Progressive-Conservative ranks surprised many, and soon Rivera became a source of wonder when he proved to be quite different from the other "traditional" politicians when he appeared naked in the propaganda of the party for the electoral campaign of 2008. He became the source of many jokes and amused commentaries in the press, but soon he began to rise in the polls, which caused many concerns to the PSOE and the Liberals. It's direct style was soon termed as populist, and indeed, Rivera was a shameless demagogue and his speeches were filled with sheer populism However, he hit the jackpot and soon he began to lead the polls. Apparently, neither Zapatero nor Mas could counter Rivera's moves.


    "We only care about people"
    "We don't care about where you were born"
    "We don't care about the language you speak"
    "We don't care about where you live"
    "We only care about you"

    Then, he made his first and worst mistake. He included in his team Esperanza Aguirre, the former Liberal minister of Education who had joined the PCP in 2005, and her two protegées, Jose Luiz Martinez Almeida and Isabel Díaz Ayuso. The former soon attracted some flak for his past, he had studied in a school related to the Opus Dei (1) and the latter would soon made herself a name taking charge of the Twitter account of Pecas, the dog of Aguirre (2). However, this could not tarnish Rivera's rise.

    Thus, when Election Day came, everybody was sure that Rivera was going to win by landslide. In the end, it was a great victory, as Rivera went from barely one million two hundred thousand votes to eight millions and a half. Even Rivera could not believe his eyes. However, it was not a landslide victory as it had been foretold with the press, it was a victory, after all. (3) In the Liberal and Socialist ranks the defeat was taken with a grin and a sigh of relief, as they had not been crushed as they had feared, even if the PSOE had been hit hard. However, many felt happy as the Catalan nationalists had been almost wiped out and lost two thirds of their seats. Furthermore, as Rivera had not the majority in the Cortes, he would be forced to ask for support. There the Liberal grin and the Socialist sigh grew bigger.

    Later on there would be plenty of time to ask for responsibilities in the defeat. Many began to point at Zapatero, who, suddenly, went from being a dictator in all but in name to being portrayed as a weak and ineffective leader. The Liberals, on their part, were quite aware of their shortcomings but, guessing that Rivera was to need their support, they closed ranks and shutted their mouths. For a while, at least.


    (key: "Elecciones generales": General Elections"; "congresista": congressman/congresswoman; "senador": senator
    "candidatos": candidates; "Congreso": Congress; "Senado": Senate
    "participación": turnout; "población": population; "Hab. inscritos": registered; "votantes": voters:
    "votos válidos": valid ballots; "votos nulos": invalid votes: "votos en blanco": blank ballots
    "votos": Popuiar vote; "diputados obtenidos": seats won -to the right, seat change-)​

    (1) Opus Dei, formally known as the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (Latin: Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei), is an institution of the Catholic Church known for being ultra-conservative both in religion and politics. ITTL it's considered on the verge of being a sect.
    (2) No kidding. Isabel Diaz Ayuso's beginning in politics with Aguire were doing that IOTL. Of course, I couldn't miss it.
    (3) ITTL we are going to strictly follow with the habits of the Spanish press of hugely overestimating the electoral results of Rivera. You might very well think I'm a sadistic and vicious story-teller, but I couldn't possibly comment.
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    23. Football in Spain (2005-2010)
  • 23. Football in Spain (2005-2010)

    From 2005 onwards, the Spanish championships were marked by the huge expenses of even the most humble teams. This was seen in the 2005-2006 season, when Atlético de Madrid struggled to retain their title, being the key to their success based in the 29 wins in home and away campaigns. The next year Real Madrid ended as champion after Barcelona and Atlético lost their opportunities towards the first half of May and were even unable to finish in the second and third positions, which went to Sevilla and Valencia. Ironically, it was Atlético which set two new reconds in La Liga: Longest winning run (9 games) and longest unbeaten run (14 games).

    The 2007–08 season was a strange one. The "Big Four" (Barcelona, Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad) dominated the season and to the top positions, even if it was more thanks to the mistakes of their rivals than for the excellency of their games. Barcelona ended in the first place, followed by Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Atlético de Madrid. In Europe, both Real Madrid and Valencia made great games, even if only Madrid took benefit from them reached the European Cup final. This was the first time that an Spanish team managed to get so far since 2004. Alàs, their luck ended there. as they were an easy prey for Manchester United.

    Then, the Spanish Liga changed again with the arrival to Barcelona of Leo Messi. With him, Barcelona not only defended their tittle in 2008-2009 but also dominated the season from beginning to end and crushed Manchester United in the final match of the Champions League. Real Sociedad, Atlético de Madrid y Real Madrid followed Barcelona in the top and going to the Europa League. Three new records were set during this season: Longest winning (Barcelona, 11 games), longest unbeaten run (Real Madrid, 21 games) and longest losing run (Mallorca, 6 games).

    The 2009–10 season was marked again by Leo Messi, who helped Barcelona, with Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, to dominate again in such a way that most of the sport journals termed the whole season as being "boring and without any possible surprise". However, they were wrong as Barcelona had a terrible ending of the season and Atlético de Madrid managed to win the championship in the last match by defeating Barcelona 5-4. Valencia and Athletic Bilbao ended 3rd and 4th. It was a sweet season for Atlético de Madrid, as they also managed to win the Europa League

    24. News of the World (2005-2015): Russia
  • 24. News of the World (2005-2015): Russia

    Zyuganov's fall from power after the elections of 2006 was the result of his terrible political miscalculation. He believed that he could win the popular support to have a majority government, but the voters thought otherwise and Grigory Yavlinsky, who was the visible head of a center-left coalition which was formed by centrist and communist parties and factions. Yavlinsky began his term by reinforcing the Russian relations with the United Kingdom and Germany while trying to preserve Russia's independence. Thus, when Émile Lahoud, the Lebanese president, was deposed by a coup d'etat, Yavlisnsky did not hurry to support the Anglo-German intervention. In fact, he criticized London and Berlin's actions, which he defined as a "grave mistake". Thus, he sent his foreign minister, Mikhail Madinski, to Paris to attempt to form a Russian-Franch; however, as it became a failure, Yavlisnky agreed to send troops to Lebanon in February 2007, joining the multinational peacekeeping force there.

    Saint Petersburg led negotiations with the Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem to join the peacekeeping mission, which was heavily opposed in Russia itself by the center-right opposition. Zyuganov labelled the peacekeeping operations as a "kamikaze" mission, with the Russian soldiers trapped between the supporters of the new president, Elias Hrawi, and the well-armed guerrillas who fought to restore Lahoud into power. Supported by the United States, they were better equipped than the regular army and soon began to push back their enemies. Eventually, Hrawi was ousted by an internal putsch and replaced by his Minister of Education, Fouad Siniora (December 2007). From then on, the peacekeeping force dropped all pretensions of neutrality and openly supported the government against the rebels. It was the beginning of the second chapter of the Lebanese civil war that was to last until 2015 and would end with the withdrawal of the international force. Siniora's government would collapse in 2018 and open the Lebanese age of the warlords (2018-2022).

    Barely nine months after his victory in the general elections, Yavlinsky began to have problems in early 2008 over the funding for Russian troop deployments in Lebanon. It was made worse when Yavlinsky himself criticised the members of the coalition who did not support the government and called him traitors, prompting the Minister of Justice, Sergey Fradkov, to resign, outraged by the outburst of the Prime Ministers. When tens of thousands of people marched in Moscow against the Russian intervention in Lebanon and after harsh debates followed in the Senate, on February 9, 2009, Yavlinsky stated that, lacking support, he would resign. However, fearing that this would mean having Zyuganov back, the coalition reformed its ranks and supported Yavlinsky, even if his foreign policy was still under fire. In the end, on February 21, Yavlinsky tended his resignation to President Yevgeny Primakov. Yavlinsky again insisted that he would only form a new Government "if, and only if, I have the full support of all the parties in the majority from now on." President Primakov then held talks with all the political leaders on the nexts week and, on February 26, he asked Yavlisnky to remain in office but to submit to a vote of confidence; Yavlinksy refused and thus Primakov called for new elections, that were held on April 6. To the surprise of both Primakov, Yavlnsky and Zyuganov, victory went to the United Russia coalition led by Vladimir Putin (1).

    The first thing that Putin died was the 2010 Justice Reform Bill (declared unconstitutional and repelled in 2012). which granted immunity from prosecution to the president and the prime minister, including himself. Then, in 2011, he reformed by decree the justice code by including a new a set of measures against criminality and illegal associations and allowed for the use of private patrols (which were only lightly implemented in Moscow, Kiev and Saint Petersburg and had neglilible actual impact) and a hardening of the punishments for sex offenses. Putin also offered a regularisation of capitals illegally bought abroad, which was heavily criticised for "white-washing" tax offenders.

    Putin also attempted to stabilize the size of Russia's population between 2011 and 2015 following a long period of demographic fall that began in the 1990s. By 2012, however, Putin's party began to split when Dmitry Medvedev left it to form his own political party, Our Home – Russia. However, a vote of no confidence held on October 14, 2012 was defeated by the government when a few of the PMs that had sided with Medvedev, deserted him. However, the majority of UnitedRussia was reduced to barely five seats. The instability was reflected in the constant drop of the Russian financial market and the inability of Putin to renegotiate new loans with Germany and the United Kingdom. Thus, in November 2102, Putin resigned, blaming the German chancellor.

    On November 12 2012, Medvedev was invited by President Primakov to form a new government. Medvedev's cabinet was made mostly by independent figures and found wide support in the Russian Parliament, Medvedev's reforms bought him wide popularity among the Russian public opinion, which was reinforced when he cut government expenses and lowered taxes. However, he was defeated in the elections of February 2015 by no one else but Vladimir Putin.


    A moment for history: when Putin, said to Medvedev "I'm going to cut your ***** and put them up your ****"
    without noticing that the micrcophones were on. That made him to win the elections of 2015.

    (1) Yes, that one.
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    25. News of the World (2005-2015): Germany
  • 25. News of the World (2005-2015): Germany

    Schäuble called for a snap election in 2005 after the bad results in the local elections in the länders of Eastern Germany, hoping to redress the situation with the good situation of the German economy. However, he suffered an unexpected defeat by the social democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was supported by 43.27% of the German voters, while Schäuble was only supported by 37.81% of the Germans.With the backing of the Bavarian and Renish nationalist parties, die Grüne and the Left Party (Die Linke), Steinmeier was elected chancellor of Germany on April 16th.

    Steinmeier began by introducing the minimum interprofessional salary (Gesetz zur Regelung eines allgemeinen Mindestlohns) and by announcing that Germany would reduce the size of her armed forces, but, in the following months, he increased the German military spending and send a humanitarian mission to Haiti. Then, on July 26 2005, he met with the minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia, Jürgen Rüttgers, a former member of the CDU until he moved closer to nationalist position and left the party in 1998. On July 13, he hoisted the international meeting that gathered the British and French prime minister in Berlin, where the three agreed on a common foreign policy. Later on, some French newspapers lamented that the French prime minister had little option but to abey by the policies of his more powerful colleagues. Steinmeier also worked hard to improve the German relations with the Middle East, taking an independent course from the British Foreign Office. However, his relations with the United States went from bad to worse.

    Then, on February 1st, 2006, in spite of the agreement reached with Rüttigers in the past July meeting, the SPD, along with the CDU/CSU, voted down the reform of the Reinish constitution, which not only damaged the relations of the chancellor with Rüttgers, but also with the Bavarian president-minister, who had supported the Reinish reform as it closely resembled the one he was drafting for Bavaria. The SPD reaped the whirlwind on April 17th, when Rütgers' Renish Conservative Party became the most voted party with the uncanny support of the Renish Communist Party. The SPD, which lost 4 seats in the Renish Parliament, became the second political force in North Rhine-Westphalia. Then, when the CDU/CSU launched a vicious campaign against the reform of the Bavarian constitution. Hubert Aiwanger, the Bavarian Minister-President accused the CDU of attempting to destroy the federal status of Germany. It was the beginning of a heated period in German politics.

    In January 2007, Steinmeier and Alwanger met again. It was a long meeting (six hours), which resulted in a small reform of the Bavarian Treasury, that would increase its control over the Bavarian taxes. Everything seemed to be ripe for the voting of the Bavarian reform of the constitution, as a similar reform for Brandenburg was passed in the German parliament (April 6); however, to the general surprise, with half of the deputies of the SPD and the CDU/CSU against it, the reform was voted down. (June 18). Aiwanger resigned at once, being replaced by Ulrike Müller, whose party, the Liberal-Conservative Bavarian Party (LKBP - Liberal-Konservative Bayerische Partei), was the most voted party in the elections of July 21; however, Franz Maget, from the SPD, became the new Minister-President of Bavaria thanks to the support of the CSU.

    Steinmeier would win the elections of 2008 after being voted by 40% of the Germans. Even if managed to be elected with the support of his own party, the SPD, both the Bavarian and Renish nationalist parties voted against him. In September, the German economy began to show signs of slowing down after five years of continuous rise. Then, in October, for the first time since 1979, the number of unemployed German rose as did inflation, which was then 5,1%. However, Steinmeier declared to the newspapers that there was no economical crisis in Germany. Hardly two weeks later, the Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse (Frankfurt Stock Exchange) suffered its worst trading session and retreated 9,1% , its worst single-day percentage drop since 1981. In January 2009, 17,03 of the German workers were unemployed (1) and the industry levels fell to the ones of 1993. The economies of Austria, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, closely related with the German one, soon entered into recession.

    Thankfully for Germany, Steinmeier found support in his British partner and London granted the first of many loans to Germany in March 2009. The German economy began to redress by March, even if Steinmeier cut the German military intervention in Lebanon, something that felt in Downing Street as a despicable treason. The tax raise which followed was not taken well by the Germans and Steinmeier's popularity began to sharply fall. On June 23, 2009 he announced 21 reforms designed to aid economic recovery. However, by 2012, the German Unemployment Rate rose to 20.33%. On September 29, 2012, Germany went on strike. Amidst the crisis, Ulrike Müller replaced Maget after the LKBP was the most voted force in Bavaria, just 4 seats short of the majority. The SPD lost 9 seats in one of its worst results in Bavaria.

    In 2013 the Lebanon crisis reached new levels of violence and Germany reinforced its military force in the country. Siniora's government only kept its hold on power thanks to the British and German bayonets. With the unemployment rate rising to 22,85 %., Germany went to vote again. The CDU/CSU returned to power with Angela Merkel after winning its biggest majority since the 1970s. Merkel's U-turn on economic policy did not bode well with the Germans. Even if she had promised to lower taxes during the election campaign, new tax rises and spending cuts were introduced, followed by a harsh labour reform, which were met with widespread protests and two general strikes in March and November 2013. Thus, new British loans stabilized the situation, followed by new spending cuts and legal reforms followed throughout 2013 and 2014, including cuts in the health care and education systems as public funding to rescue some German banks from bankruptcy. Even if Merkel argued that "reality" had forced her to take a different path from the one promised during the campaign elections, her popularity kept falling down. Merkel's reforms, however, began to have some effects. The unemployment rate fell to 11,05% by late 2015, even if this was achieved, in part, by an increase in temporary contracts. Public deficit had been reduced from 10.3% in 2012 to 4.8% in 2015, while public debt peaked at 78.0% of the GDP in mid-2015 from 39.2% in 2011.

    However, the cuts on the health care and education systems had fueled an increase in the popular anger. Merkel's attempts to reform the educational system were met with heavy opposition in Bavaria and North-Rhein Westphalia, while in Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia there were claims that the reform only succeeded in promoting segregation in primary schools.

    Then, in October 2015, Müller demanded Merkel to acknowledge "the Bavarian people have, for reasons of democratic legitimacy, the nature of a sovereign political and legal subject", and that Bavarians had the right to decide their own political future. Soon Bavaria was rocked with demonstrations demanding the independence of Bavaria.

    There is no doubt about it: 2015 was Angela Merkel's Annus horribilis

    (1) 7,74% IOTL.
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    26. News of the World (2005-2015): France
  • 26. News of the World (2005-2015): France

    The attempted coup carried out by Jean Marie Le Pen (July 7, 2005) caused a massive impression in France and an even greater discredit of the French traditional parties that opened the way for Dominique Voynet to win the elections of 2006. Even then the victory of the Green party came as a surprise for many people, both in France and outside its borders, but even more for the winners themselves . The Green Party was, suddenly, the most voted force and it was interpreted as a proof of the increasing distrust towards tradition. However, Voynet wasted no time in becoming a disappointment for her voters, as she soon turned into very conservative positions and "turned traditional''. The abrupt change from the electoral promises to real facts were, in to some measure, due to her attempt to court the center-right and center-left voters, but, in the end, it failed, even if during the first months of her term, this proved quited successful and her approval rose in the polls. Then, she made a mistake by getting too close to Germany and to appear to willing to agree with the German chancellor. Thus, with the popularity of the government falling sharply in the polls and, by late 2006, with half of her party revolting against her for her policies, with the Parliament stalled and unable to work and with François Hollande and Jean Pierre Raffarin too willing to let her fall, Voynet gave up and called for new elections.

    Raffarin won, thanks, it is claimed, to his nationalist debauchery. Even if most of his speeches were mocked and derived later on, in 2006 Rafarrin simply walked over Hollande and won easily. And then, it happened again. Those who expected an authoritarian prime minister were disappointed as Raffarin adopted a moderate liberal approach to deal with the pressing matters that worried the average French citizen. This was implemented with his nationalist discourse, when he attempted to put behind the carpet the rise to power of Jean Marie Le Pen. This was cause of concern in London and Berlin. While Le Pen was still stigmatized for his actions, his attempted coup d'etat was considered something foreign to the real French "raison d'etre". This soon created a lot of controversy and gave rise to the myth of the "clean France", the fictitious notion that the followers of Le Pen were only a few hundreds of fanatics and that the party itself had little support; thus, the bulk of the French population had nothing to do in his madness and few were involved in his failed coup d'etat. Thus, London and Berlin, became reluctant to keep France under scrutiny and wanted business go to back to normal as soon as possible; thus, Raffarin had their support in this.

    However, when he unashamedly began to court the moderate faction of the former Lepenist and enacted amnesty laws, this was too much for the French. It all began on May 19th, 2007, when the Institute for Social Research of Lyon organized an exhibition centered on the "Three Days of Rage'', showing "ordinary" French citizens taking part in violence acts and rioting, something that sparked a long-running public debate. Then, a similar exhibition was held in the George Pompidou museum but related with the Lepenist rise to power. Then, the French Defence Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, said during an interview that "those average Frenchmen were, indeed, full of patriotism. They wanted the best for France, indeed, but they served an ideology of hate, totalitarianism and annihilation. Thus, their patriotism was for nothing". Politically speaking, it opened the can of worms. Raffarin's attempts to redefine his position were met with skepticism. The quarrels between ministers, that had been the source of some jokes in the press, became a common thing and left the Prime Minister and his lack of authority "naked" in front of the public view and being mocked by the media.

    He managed to win some breathing space in 2008 with his cuts to government taxation and spending, However, the "clean France" became a poisonous topic and all of Raffarin's attempts to excuse himself and to change his discourse were met with disbelief. On May 29, 2008, Raffarain resigned, being replaced by his Interior Minister, Dominique de Villepin, who distanced himself from his predecessor, who he called "a good patriot that had stained the good name of Francee". Villepin was something that neither of his predecessors were: he was lucky. The economy was beginning to recover and 2008 closed with a significant drop in unemployment was yet to be seen. Villepin's hard work began to win him the support of the French. He reinforced his position by forcing out the "Raffarinists" and by replacing them with his own supporters. He also put some distance between him and both Berlin and London.

    His good luck ran out in 2010. The German crisis did not affect France too much initially. Then, during a TV interview (April 16, 2010) in an attempt to warn the French that, even if their situation was not bad at all, some efforts would have to be done to keep France on the right track. There was no problem. France was doing well. Hardly a week later, Paris Match called him a liar in the front-page. Someone within the government had leaked to the press that France was bankrupt financially; "For the last fifteen 15 years there has been in chronic deficit, and no one has voted a balanced budget for last twenty five years." De Villepin was fast to react and publicly promised to "bring the state budget to balance by the end of the five-year", He attempted a tax reform to encourage foreign entrepreneurs while keeping the welfare programs in place. When he cut 500,000 civil-service jobs, many French citizens wickedly rejoiced, but it led to a series of strikes among the civil service that paralized France for several weeks.

    De Villepin, however, did not surrender to the pressure and soon the streets were on fire again as the French police hit the strikers hard. Again, Paris was rocked by street battles. However, de Villepin reaped what his predecessor had sown: an impressive security force that had been built by Raffarin with the shock of the Lepenist coup in mind. Once the strikers refused to negotiate, de Villepin released the police. Isolated and successfully depicted by the government and the media as "selfish brigands who put their welfare above that of the nation", the strikers were first villfied in the press and beaten on the streets. Twenty nine after the beginning of the strike, it was over. It was a wonderful red-herring for de Villepin which kept the attention of the French citizens away from the incoming crisis and fixed on the civil servants. Then, he asked London for financial support, just as Germany had received. Number 10 replied something that can be summarized as "until you solve your debt crisis, no way".

    By 2012 de Villepin had managed to cut part of the debt, but the budget was still out of control. Without the British support, he resigned on March 31. He was replaced with Laurent Fabius, who had no better luck than his predecessor. In 2104 the Socialist Manuel Valls won the elections by a slim margin. He promised to end the crisis and to cut unemployment to a half in barely three years.

    He began well, it must be said.


    Not all was a mess for France.
    Les Bleus won the World Cup in 2010!
    27. News of the World (2005-2015): United Kingdom
  • 27. News of the World (2005-2015): United Kingdom

    When David Rendel and the Liberal Party defeated the incumbent Margaret Beckett, it came both as a shock and as a relief for many. It was a surprise that the Labour hold on power was so suddenly broken, even if one kept the South-African mistake in mind. Furthermore, David Rendel was not seen as a winner not even within his own party. However, the sudden loss of trust in Beckett, the troubles to find her a worthy successor and the own difficulties of the Tories to put forward a candidate that reaped the Labourist problems opened the way for Rendel to victory and No. 10.

    Rendel oversaw the end of the South-African war, helped to organize the first democratic government which finally gave a true representation to the black population and then, when the country voted in mass the Socialist Party of South Africa, Rendel cut any links with the country and ended the financial support of the reforms. Thus, as London withdrew from such a strategic place, Washington fully embraced the chance to replace the British influence and win such a valuable ally that fate seemed to offer him in a silver plate. However, South Africa would become a deep disappointment for the White House. Even if they had South Africa under their (financial) thumb by 2017, soon it proved to be an economical black whole which devoured one billion dollars a year. Thus, after several attempts, the United States also left South Africa on its one in 2021. Ironically, this helped Pretoria to come closer to China.

    This foreign fiasco was greatly diminished by Rendel's reforms: the upgraded the motorway and railways system, implemented a small tax-cutting programme while protecting the health, education and pension spending. With unemployment falling to 2.2%, and inflation dropping to just over 2% by 2007, Rendel simply enjoyed the good state of the most powerful nation in the world and simply let business "to run as usual". Only the Lebanese labyrinth broke from time to time the quiet life of the average Briton when the BBC reported any bloody battle of its endless civil war or the customary massacre of refugees. This would change in 2008, when the polls clearly showed that 60% of the Britons were against the British intervention in Lebanon. However, Rendel thought that it could handle it. By 2009, the anti-war protests proved him wrong. Even then, it was not until 2011 when the British Prime Minister began to plan how to withdraw from the country while giving a change to Sinora to keep the country working. In the end, Rendell was unable to find the way.

    Thankfully for him, he was supported by both the Tories and Labour. This, of course, changed during the electoral campaign of 2009. which it's still remembered as one of the dirtiest ever. Even with all the backstabbing and slander that each candidate threw at his rivals, Rendel managed to remain in Number 10, losing only 15 seats and its majority government. Even then, businesses went on, as usual, unchanged. Britain was, without a shred of a doubt, the most powerful country in the world, but also the most bored and the most boring. The British bail-out of the German economy and the violent turn of the Lebanese quagmire dominate the first pages of the newspapers. Then, in March 2010, Rendel surprised the country (and the world,too), when he cut to a half the salaries of the backbench MPs, minister and, of course, of the Prime Minister. To some extent, it was a rather pleasant show to the average Briton to see both houses voting in favour (March 21, 2010) of such a salary reduction that affected them so directly.

    Thus, the United Kingdom slowly went, boringly but happily, to the elections of 2014. By then, Germany was on the ropes and the British were tired of seeing their youth being massacred in Beirut, so it's hardly surprising that the Liberals were voted out of Downing Street. What was really surprising is that Gordon Brown won the elections. The new Prime Minister "inherited" the poisoned chalice represented by Germany and Lebanon and worked hard to get rid of them as soon as possible. While Merkel managed to redress her country, Lebanon was hardly improving. Brown, determined to put an end to the British "ulcer", implemented a plan to withdraw from the country while strengthening the Lebanese government. Thus, in 2015, the last British and Germans soldiers left Lebanon. To the world, Brown claimed that Siniora was strong enough to resist on his own, even if he had damning reports that said otherwise.


    David Rendel, British Prime Minister (2006-2014)
    28. News of the World (2005-2015): United States
  • 28. News of the World (2005-2015): United States

    The agony endured by Al Gore was somehow eased with Rendel's ending of the South African war and, when a Socialist regime ruled in Pretoria, Gore made all the possible actions to support the new government without losing his little credit in the process as London cut all diplomatic ties. Ironically, it was Gore's biggest success, as the South-African regime turned to Socialdemocratic ways and moderated itself; thus, the successful transition of South Africa to an stable democracy was the biggest success of Gore's tenure. However, it was not enough for the average US citizen. Thankfully for him, his defeat in 2009 was not the apocalypse predicted by the press and he left the Democratic Party better than expected. He was replaced by the former Governor of Virginia, the Republican Jim Gilmore.

    Gilmore's time in the White House (2009-2015) was marked by the ongoing effects of the financial downturn experimented by the United States in the late 2000s, that forced Gilmore to introduce austerity measures to correct the large deficit of the government finances, and managed to halve it by 2015. His administration passed the Health and Social Care Act and the Welfare Reform Act, which safeguarded the welfare reforms that began in Perot in the 1990s. To the surprise of many, Gilmore also enforced stricter immigration policies -specially with the increase of the security patrols in the Mexican border- and introduced reforms to education and oversaw the 2012 Los Ángeles Olympics. Internationally, learning from the troubles of his predecessors, his government withdrew to what it was called "a new Splendid isolation" and did not intervene militarily in the Lebanese Civil War but authorised the bombing of terrorist bases in Syria and Iraq. Gilmore also approached Saudi Arabia, even when a political scandal exploded when it was discovered that the Saudi military was using US weapons in their attacks in Yemen. To fight the accusations that his administration was supporting the "ethnic cleansing carried out by Ryhad '' against the Houthis, Gilmore made repeated calls for an independent investigation at an international level into the alleged war crimes during Arabian intervention in Yemen. However, by March 2014, the international inquiry was stalled and there were, again, demonstrations against the US foreign policy in the main cities of the United States, as it had happened with Clinton and Gore.

    GIlmore was praised for decreasing the US national deficit, However, his inmigration policies were criticised for being "grossly racist and elitist". After winning the elections of 2013, Gilmore resigned to allow his vice-president, Karen Garver, to have a chance to build his case for the elections of 2017. President Garver began by further withdrawing from the international scene and oversaw an increase in funding to the Educational and Health systems. She supported the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and defended selling arms to Saudi Arabia in spite of the alleged war crimes. By 2015, Garver's approval rate had risen to 49%.


    Moa Farah, a son of a Somali immigrant, with a goat-herding family still working the Somali scrublands,
    won the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races for Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics.
    29. Rivera Ministry (2008-2011)
  • 29. Rivera Ministry (2008-2011)

    Rivera's cabinet was a source of much discussion in the press and of surprise and jokes on the internet. The first surprise was when he picked out Victoria Prego, then working for the El Mundo newspaper, as the new head of RTVE -1-. Her tenure was quite short -barely five months- when she was accused of using RTVE as a propaganda channel for the PCP and came under attack by the media and the Liberal (who had supported Rivera's election in the Cortes as prime minister) and Socialists parties. When both parties announced that they were going to question Rivera about Prego and the situation of RTVE those days, Prego suddenly resigned two days before and went to work for Cadena COPE, the Spanish private national radio of the Spanish Catholic Church. The cabinet had a clearly conservative tone that made a strong contrast with the socialdemocratic stance of Rivera, as it was proved by some of the ministers of Rivera, like Teresa Giménez Barbat, who was replaced in 2009 as Minister of Education by Carlos Martínez Gorriarán; Carina Mejías (Minister of industry, trade and tourism); José Manuel Villegas (Deputy Prime Minister) and Carlos Carrizosa (Minister of the Interior).

    The first measure of the cabinet led by Rivera, to the dissapointment of his voters, was not the reduction of the powers of the local government and a beginning of a re-centralization of Spain, but a reform of the counter terrorism legislation while stating that civil liberties were to be reinforced nad the measures and sentences of the would-be terrorists hardened. In spite of the efforts of Carrizosa, the legislation was shut down in the Parliament by the PSOE as the Liberals abstained, while Rivera claimed that he had been betrayed by his Liberal allies. The accusation created a temporary state of crisis in the Conservative-Liberal relations that was solved when Carrizosa was replaced by Antonio Robles. However, by then the PSOE had turned its back to Rivera.

    The crisis of the German economy hit Spain in early 2009. Luis Garicano, the Minister of the Treasury, announced the country needed to apply an “emergency plan” that included a cut in the government's spending and in the federal governments, too, and that this cut could be enforced in the next two or three years. In Parliament the Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (who had replaced the defeated Zapatero) hit hard the Government for decimating the welfare state, to which Garicano replied that they were merely "adjusting our means to the Spanish reality". Then, in spite of his electoral promises, Rivera froze the salaries of public workers, reduced their workweek and halted the recruitment of new public employees. The cuts affected several programs which provided rent assistance for young people and to the minimum wage, which was frozen. A major labour reform was announced and bitterley opposed by the trade unions, who threatened with a General Strike. In spite of them, Rivera went ahead with his reforms even if the Catalan, Basque and Andalusian government were refusing to apply more cuts to their budgets.

    By 2010 it was clear that the austerity measures carried out had not only not helped to face the crisis but, in fact, they had worsened its effects. By that year unemployment rose to 30%, which led to a fall of the PCP and his Liberal partners in the polls. Eventually, Rivera turned to the United Kingdom and asked for financial help. Prime Minister Rendel offered help which was way smaller than the one demanded by Rivera and under more and harder conditions. When a draft of the agreement was leaked to the Spanish press, the popular uproar caused by it forced Rivera to break the negotiations with London. By late 2010, with the rate of unemployment rising to 35,6%, Rivera, in despair, asked again for British support. However, the Liberals, disappointed with the lack of ideas and solutions of Rivera, withdrew their support and the government fell just before the Christmas holidays season. New elections were called for February, 21, 2011.


    Rivera, seen here praying for the British help to come.
    Alàs, he had no luck.
    30. The Elections of 2011 (1)
  • 30. The Elections of 2011 (1)

    Against all odds, Albert Rivera remained at the helm of the PCP, in spite of the voices that asked for his resignation. Determined to go down fighthing, he surprised many by his determination and, above all, his blind faith in his chances to win, even if by the slightest margin. This determination caused a small earthquake within the ranks of the PCP and Santiago Abascal, a Conservative-Progressive served as legislator in the Basque Parliament, left the PCP and helped to found a new party, "¡España Primero!" (Ep - Spain First), with Alejo Vidal-Quadras, another former member of the PCP, as first president of the party, which presented itself to the Spaniards as a "social conservative" formation. Vidal-Quadras had made himself a name when he issued a manifesto in 2010 vouching for the recentralization of the State. However, EP wasted no time to prove that they were to the right of the PCP. In all but in name, EP was proving to be a ultra-right populist party in spite of Vidal-Quadras to present himself and the party as moderate and conservative patriots.

    In the polls, the PSOE had barely a four points advantage over the PCP. Pérez Rubalcaba's standing had also improved thanks to his moderate interventions in the Cortes, but many doubted that he was the man for the job. Nevertheless, the unpopularity of Rivera due to his austerity measures seemed to give Rubalcaba a safe net that he could use to gain further advantage over the Conservatives, which did not seem to be too affected by the split and the raise of EP, even if the party was beginning to crack under the internal pressure as the two leaders of the Catalan and Madrid branches of the party, Inés Arrimadas and Rocío Monasterio, respectively. Eventually, barely a month before Election Day came, Monasterio resigned from her position and left the party to join Vidal-Quadras, being replaced by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, an inexperienced and low profile politician of the PCP but fiercely loyal to Rivera and the new rising star of the Conservatives.

    Meanwhile, to the surprise of many, the Liberal Party was falling behind at the polls while EP rose at a fast pace, polling at 14% and 10% respectively. The Liberal support to Rivera had hit them hard and the party was losing support quite fast in spite of Mas' best efforts. Then, a fifth player joined the fight. Yolanda Díaz, member of the left-wing of the PSOE, left the party and created a new formation, Democracia Ahora (DA - Democracy Now). And to add further confusion to the political campaign, the Catalan, Basque and Galician nationalists formed again a coalition under the name Unión de los Pueblos (UP - People's Union).

    The Conservative's campaign proved to be a failure: its patriotic overtones were hollow in the face of the cuts to public spending; Rivera's attempts to portrary them as being in the interest of the nation and of the people only helped to sink the PCP in the polls even further. When this failed, Rivera resorted to frigthen his audiences by stating that the Socialists were to plunder the nation and to sink it with their mad adventures. On their part, Pérez Rubalcaba Labour’s campaign was based around honesty and straight talking, with constant effort to move closer to the average citizen and to prove that the politicians (at least the Socialist ones) were common people too. However, the rise of EP and its ultra-right message had an unexpected effect on the PSOE: it made the Socialists to moderate their message, fearing that they could be labelled as "radicals". This move would have consequences in the future for the PSOE, even if no one realized about it then.

    Sin título.png

    The polls. Election Day - 7.
    Blue: PCP; Red: PSOE: Green UP.​
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    31. The Elections of 2011 (2)
  • 31. The Elections of 2011 (2)

    The "emergency plan" carried out by Rivera had angered to no end a big part of the Spanish population. This, along with the rise of the ultra-right EP and the moderation of the PSOE led to a mobilization among the youngest and more radical Socialist voters which exploded in the last week of January 2011. After several months of conflicts between students and authorities in several Spanish universities (the Complutense in Madrid and the UAB in Barcelona were the most "hot" places during the protests), Rivera resorted to shut down both universities on January 20, 2011. Then, students in Barcelona met there on January 21 to protest against the closure and the threatened expulsion of several students. On the following day the national student union and union of university teachers called a march to protest against the measure. Prime Minister Rivera announced that he would not allow the country to go down because of "some Anarchist strikes" and threatened that he would not be shy to order the police to use their batons. To his great surprise, there was no march on that day. Then, he appeared to claim victory and boasted that he knew how to deal with strikers. Little he knew what was in store for him.

    On Facebook, one student began to talk aobut the "Spanish revolution". Soon the message ran wild through the Spanish social media networks and forums. Then, on January 25, small groups of young people began to gather in the squares of several Spanish cities (A Coruña, Alicante, Badajoz, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cadiz, Castellón, Córdoba, Gijón, Granada, Guadalajara, Huelva, Jaén, León, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Lleida, Logroño, Lugo, Madrid, Málaga, Mérida, Murcia, Ourense, Oviedo, Pamplona, Plasencia, Salamanca, San Sebastián, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Santander, Santiago de Compostela, Sevilla, Soria, Tarragona, Toledo, Valencia, Valladolid, Vigo and Zaragoza). By the end of the day, those gatherings had evolved into peaceful sit-ins, while, in Madrid, a group of 100 people headed to Puerta del Sol and started camping in the middle of the square, That same day, small demonstrations in support of the Spanish ones were organised in Lisbon, Amsterdam, Bologna, London and Paris.

    On the next day, as most of the sit-ins were dissolved when the protesters marched peacefully to their homes, those people gathered in Puerta del Soldecided to stay in the square until the election day. A similar event happened in Barcelona that same day, when 200 people sat down in Plaça Catalunya. Then, In Madrid, police initially attempted to disperse the crowds, but when they were booed by the on-lookers, the policemen withdrew in confusion. That day the tag #spanishrevolution, as well as other ones related to the protests, became trending topics on Twitter. Meanwhile, on Twitter, thousands of messages began to organize further sit-ins in several cities while advising the protesters not to drink alcohol or to organize into groups of more than 20 people, as these acts could provoke a legal police crackdown. Meanwhile, the police, after receiving contradictory orders from the government, withdrew to their barracks. The Spanish journalist Antonio Maestre wrote that day in eldiario.es that "Rivera's time in politics is over".

    One the following day, Antonio Robles, the Interior Minister (Rivera could not be found), issued clear instructions to the police, which returned and dissolved several sit-ins in Valencia, Tenerife and Las Palmas. In Granada, three people were arrested. Speeches continued throughout the afternoon in several Spanish cities and new sit ins took place in León, Sevilla and Bilbao. This time, the police stood aside as it was feared that any intervention could end to violence. Meanwhile, the protesters created support groups for each campout on Twitter and other national and international networks. Google Docs and other servers began to receive download requests for documents needed to legally request permission for new protests. On the following day, The Washington Post, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Jornal de Notícias, and The New York Times covered the protests. That same day, Rivera issued a statement declaring the protests illegal because the protesters "called for a responsible vote that can change the results of the elections." Police units stationed at Plaza del Sol, however, received orders from Robles not to take out any further action as there was no disturbance of the peace. By 12.00 pm, 16.000 people had gathered at El Sol and 14.000 in Plaça Catalunya. Other cities also gathered large numbers of people: 15,000 in Malaga, 10,000 in Valencia, 8,000 in Zaragoza, 6,000 in Seville, 4,000 in Bilbao, 3,000 in Palma, 2,000 in Gijón, 2,000 in Oviedo, 1,500 in Granada, 1,000 in Vigo, 800 in Almeria, around 800 in Avilés, 600 in Cadiz, 200 in Huelva, and around 100 in Jaen.

    Then, on January 28, after a "mute scream" followed by cheers and applause. at 12.00 pm, the sit-ins dissolved themselves.


    "Hear the wrath of the people," Puerta del Sol, Thursday morning, January 28
    32. The Elections of 2011 (3)
  • 32. The Elections of 2011 (3)

    By the time that Election Day came, the PSP began to recover some lost ground as the polls reflected that the PSOE was going to annihilate his rivals. Thus, a small peculiarity of the Spanish political system began to take shape as some Socialist voters began to overestimate the chances of his party and thought that nothing would be lost if they went that day to the beach while the disgruntled conservative voter, afraid of having a majority enemy of their hated rival, decided to put aside their differences with Rivera and support the party, attracting to their side a sizeable part of the Liberal voters that were disappointed with their own party and in no mood to have a majority government of any kind (unless it was a Liberal one).


    In the end, the Socialist victory was not as big as foretold nor the defeat of the PCP as terrible as feared. The Liberal Party suffered badly, but Mas pointed out at the desertion of the right wing voters of the party, who had flocked the shore the results of Rivera. If it were so, Rivera's support was even shakier than the polls had predicted. Meanwhile, the Basque-Catalan Nationalist coalition had failed to emerge but Junqueras had managed to reduce losses to a minimum while the PNV had won 3 seats thanks to the Conservative and Liberal disaster in the Basque Country.

    Even more, the ultra right party EP had failed to even reach the bare minimum of votes to win a representation in the Spanish Cortes, in spite of all the support received during the campaign. The polls, which had predicted that the party would enter with 20 seats in the Spanish Parliament, had proven to be completely wrong. It was then when an idea began to sour in the political debates that followed the elections on the radio and in the TV. Perhaps Rivera had not only been supported by the rightist Liberals, but also by a sizable chunk of ultra-right voters. Thus, Rivera had reasons to smile. Not only he had stood his ground (somehow) but those who had defected to join the EP had got nothing in exchange for their betrayal.

    However, Rivera's happiness proved to be short-lived, apparently. What had happened in the Progressive ranks gave rise to a rumour: that Rubalcaba could call for new elections again in six months. Before those six months were past, however, Rubalcaba would have himself good reasons to not to play with fire...
    33. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2105) -1-
  • 33. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -1-

    Rubalcaba was supported by the Liberals and the Catalan and Basque nationalists. Many journalists reflected, later on, that the coalition negotiations looked as a bizarre chess game, with the Liberals only willing to support Rubalcaba if they were rewarded with some ministries -Rivera kept them out of the government- while Catalan and Basque politicians were determined not to accept any ministries and Rubalcaba wanted them "in"; however, eventually, he accepted their conditions and a Socialist-Liberal government was created. The Liberals -or, better said, Artur Mas- were desperate to prove that the party could be trusted on the economy, whilst Rubalcaba backed from his promises of getting rid of all the austerity measures and claimed instead that they needed to be loosened a bit; this was the price of having the Liberals in the coalition, which put reducing the deficit on top of all the government's compromises. Mas, determined to be "the brain behind the Socialist muscle", wanted also to "rewrite" his tenure through the coalition government. However, Rubalcaba proved determined not to be ruled by Mas, who was offered no ministry. Mas came close to reject the Socialist offer, but the pressure of his own party forced his hand. The main disagreement between the two partners laid on the issue of cuts. While the Liberals had proposed cuts of 80 billion pesetas over a four year period, Rubalcaba wanted to reduce it to 60 billion.

    The anti-austerity wing of the PSOE wanted to keep the minimum wage out of any spending cut and proposed to raise it a .065% at once. Furthermore, they also pressed Rubalcaba to reduce the deficit by raising taxes rather than by cuts in public services. Of course, the right wing of the PSOE and the Liberals were point blank against these proposals. Thus, Rubalcaba and some of his ministers began to realize that, at this pace, the government was not to last until 2015. Then, Rubalcaba began to consider calling for new elections, trying to reduce the weight of the left wing of the party by reducing its representation in the Congress while increasing the center-right faction's one.

    However, when the polls suggested that the PSOE would only get increase its seats in 9 while the PCP would lose 16 and the Liberals 17, the prime minister changed his mind about it, even more when the EP appeared to recover from the fiasco of the elections and rise in the polls with 22 seats. This, the advance elections project was quietly shelved, but not as a whole, as in five weeks, Murcia would held their local elections. Apparently, the polls suggested that nothing would change and Murcia would still be ruled by a Conservative-Liberal coalition.


    On the left, Rubalcaba with Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the radical wing of the PSOE,
    On the right, Rubalcaba with Mas after the end of the coalition negotiations.
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    34. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2105) -2-
  • 34. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -2-

    Murcia covered the headlines during the following months but, in the end, it changed little. The Conservative Pedro Antonio Sánchez López, who took the leadership of the Murcian wing of the party after his predecessor, Ramón Valcárcel Siso, withdrew from politics in 2014, won the elections while losing around 2% of the voters. The Liberals were even worse: they lost 3% and one seat in the Murcian parliament; the PSOE, even if they rose by 1,1%, were still the third party in Murcia. However, the darkest aftermath of the elections was the presence of the ultra-right party EP, which became the sixth party with 4% of the total vote and 1 seat in the parliament.

    Facing the fact that a sizeable part of the voters of Murcia had trusted the ultra-right and thinking of these results extrapolated to the rest of Spain, Rubalcaba moved to his first "tour de force", that is, securing a new round of German loans. In spite of the barrage of vicious criticism that Conservatives and ultra-rightists launched against the move, the Spanish Prime Minister returned from Berlin with a smaller loan than expected but victorious, as he claimed that the German support had not curtailed the sovereignty and independence of Spain.

    Another self-imposed task that Rubalcaba put on himself was to form a wide front of "progressive" parties and, even if he had formed a government coalition with the Liberals, he attempted to have a common understanding with the Spanish Green party (and its only member of the Cortes). However, he was blamed by many within the party of either ignoring or not devoting too much attention to the demands of reform put up by the "25-J" (January 25) movement. This created some internal trouble within the PSOE which took Rubalcaba by surprise, as it did not came from the expected direction (that is, Pedro Sánchez), but from a relative unknown group of members of Socialist Youth led Pablo Iglesias Turrión and Miguel Urbán. They issued the convertir la indignación en cambio político ("Moving the counter: converting indignation into political change") manifesto on 14 June 2015, which was considered a deep charge against the "conservative" attitude of Rubalcaba and which, eventually, would led to Iglesias and Urbán leaving the Socialist ranks to create a new party, Podemos ("We can") on July 16, 2015, which vindicated itself as a social-democratic party. Eventually, however, Podemos and Iglesias would move, gradually, further to the Left.

    As the Parliamentarian group of the PSOE was not hit by the split and as Iglesias and Urbán were mocked as the "new Largo Caballeros", Rubalcaba remained calm and focused on keeping Sanchez under his thumb and governing Spain. He appeared on television to announce proudly to the country the deficit was to be reduced thanks to the economic growth and consumer spending that Spain was undergoing and announced a big economic package in transport, housing and energy schemes. Included in this package was an ambitious attempt to reduce the privatized motorways, as they were proving to be too expensive for the public purse. Also in this package was a reduction in military spending that caused uproar among the PCP and the EP ranks. However, they were powerless to do anything about it but for their rants in the media.

    Rubalcaba, seeing here shaing a joke with Angela Merkel
    the German Health Minister, during his German tour.
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    35. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -3-
  • 35. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -3-

    By early 2012 it was no secret that the coalition government was on the verge of collapse due to the different views of the two partners in several topics, mainly social and economic ones. Thus, it was not surprising either when Rivera presented a vote of no confidence against the government. However, the real surprise came when the Liberal partners and the Catalan"half"-partners of Rubalcaba closed ranks behind the prime minister and berated Rivera for his selfishness. Thus, before even the votation began, Rivera had lost it. Not even the previous debate helped to improve his standing. All in all, it was a waste of time as nearly half of the Conservative's parliamentarian group did not attend the votation or abstain when voting. By the end of the session, Rivera was, politically speaking, a walking corpse. Even then, he would attempt to redress the situation, until he faced a mutiny among his closests supporters and the top ranks of the party in September 2012 and was forced to resign. However, Rivera would return to politics in August 2013 with a new party ("El Centro" - "The Center"), which included former members of the PCP (Juan Carlos Girauta and Toni Cantó). In his first speech after the creation of the party and his election as its first president, Rivera would claim that his party had been created to fill the gap in the "Center-Left" of the Spanish political system. A few days later, he corrected himself and stated that the party was neither "Center-Left" nor "Center-right", but "pure Center".

    Meanwhile, Rubalcaba faced another major test with a teacher's strike over the Government's plans to cut teachers pensions, cuts that had been leaked to the press, making true the old statement made by Sir Humphrey Appleby when pointed out that "the Ship of State is the only ship that leaks from the top". The teachers' unions were campaigning to reverse those cuts and this led to the bigger teachers strike since the 1980s. The solutions offered by Ángel Gabilondo, the minister of Education, disappointed the trade unions, so the teacher's strike went on. Rubalcaba was incensed when one of the trade union leaders stated that they were "disappointed with the reaction of the government, as it proves that the PSOE is out of touch from the Spanish society; we would not be surprised by a similar reaction among the Conservatives, but it is really shocking to see a so-called government of the Left acting like that".

    When Carles Pugidemont, the most suitable candidate to replace Mas in the Liberal ranks, plainly stated that the government was "missing the point by a long shot", Rubalcaba complained about the "disloyalty" of his partners. However, when workers of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Zaragoza, Bilbao, Valencia and Oviedo joined the strike in support of the demands of the teachers, Rubalcaba was left without arguments. He offered the trade unions to open new talks, but bearing mind that "the government is to give ground, but also the trade unions", By early April, in the third week of strikes, the talks began, Eventually, the government had to give his plans to cut the teacher's pensions in an humiliating defeated that ended with Gabilondo being sacked when he was "promoted" as the leader of the PSOE in Madrid and the presidential candidate of the Community of Madrid. His replacement, Mercedes Cabrera, would begin an ambitious reform program of the Spanish university system to adapt it to the German and British standards. She also attempted to grant the much needed regulatory stability for the Spanish educational system, as well as a stable financing proposal and commitment over a decade. However, this proposal came to nothing due to the crisis of the PCP. When Inés Arrimadas replaced Rivera in the leadership of the Conservatives, her proposals about the reform were completely disregarded due to the weakness of the PCP. Even worse for Arrimadas, all the polls suggested that his parliamentary group would be reduced to less than 30 seats if new elections were called.

    With the teachers strike over, the popular unrest remained in place. The reforms of Rubalcaba's cabinet had hardly changed anything and many Spaniards were dead tired of the "austerity measures". Rubalcaba seemed to be more and more disconnected from the developments in the country as he seemed to cling to his hold to power as Pedro Sánchez, from within the PSOE, and Pablo Iglesias, from outside its ranks, launched vicious attacks against his failed reforms. Iglesias went as far as to suggest that Rubalcaba should quit the PSOE and join the PCP, as he "would be, with no doubt, more at ease among the Conservative old guard". To the escalating protests on the streets Rubalcaba reacted by reinforcing the police in the main cities while Abascal demanded to use water cannons and soldiers to put down the strikes and demonstrations. The position of the prime minister was made worse when the minister of the Interior, José Antonio Alonso Suarez, censored Rubalcaba's lack of support of the policemen on the streets. The tense situation led to the newly elected President of the Republic, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, meeting Rubalcaba to ask him to end first the strife among the PSOE and then to end the crisis in Spain. The prime minister threatened to tender his resignation, but Zapatero bluntly told him that he thought about resigning to call for new elections with the hope of taking profit of the troubles of the PCP, he should kept in mind that Sánchez was behind his back and that Iglesias could also harm his chances. Suddenly aware to those news and facing that the PCP's distressing situation may benefit the ultra right EP more than him and he could be weakened by Iglesias' new party and even by Sánchez's criticism, began to think in a small reshuffle of the cabinet, just to be plainly told by Zapatero that it would not be enough. If Rubalcaba wanted to go on and to end his term, he needed to have Sánchez in his government.

    With death in his heart, Rubalcaba opened talks with the leader of the radical Socialist faction.


    Inés Arrimadas, the leader of the PCP, was shocked when she discovered that
    her support within his party was close to non existent.
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    36. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -4-
  • 36. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -4-

    Just as Rubalcaba attempted to reach an agreement with Sánchez, troubles exploded in North África when Rabat demanded that Ceuta and Melilla were returned to Morocco. This demand baffled many in Spain and many more were angered by this move, that went "against the sovereignty and integrity of Spain. Of course, Rubalcaba simply ruled out even bothering to listen to what Morocco had to say. Then it was believed that Mohammed VI of Morocco had made this move to divert the public opinion attention from the ongoing crisis that was storming through the North of Africa and many thought he was hoping to take advantage of Rubalcaba's troubles to secure some trade concessions or even Spanish funding for the Moroccan industries. If he had expected also to cause some popular uproar in the two cities, he was sorely disappointed. In the end, money flew, indeed, but only to Melilla and Ceuta, which saw their infraestructures boosted by a sudden burst of public works. Meanwhile, the Spanish economy was still in tatters, and it shrunk by 0.1%.

    The situation began to become tense. As Pablo Iglesias wrote, "the Spanish economy had ensured in the last twenty years that the profits of the industry remained as high as possible as the workers' wages were frozen. The "austerity" measures had only helped to worsen the situation of those in the bottom half of the wage distribution. Indeed, wages had suffered similarly in most of the rich nations, but this process has been especially sharp in Spain. The international help has been used to rescue banks and not the jobs of the average Spaniard. Right now, the PSOE is a prisoner of the finance sector of the economy, and with the party, the country too ” - pabl0iglesi@s.wordpress.com, May 1st, 2012.

    Ironically, not even with the worsening economic situation seemed to bring the PCP back to life. The constant bickering within the Conservative ranks exploded when, in November 2012, fifteen Conservative members of the Cortes led by Antonio Robles and José Domingo, left the party to create a new party called Unión, Progreso y Democracia (Union, Progress and Democracy - UPyD); then, in February 2013, another ten led by Jorge Cañas, also left the PCP. They were to create the short-lived Coalición Democrática (Democratic Coalition - CD). In July 2013, Carina Mejías and three demochristian candidates followed the example set and created the Unión Democrática Popular (Popular Democratic Union - UDP). Then, the following month, as we have already seen, Rivera returned to politics.

    With the Conservatives in disarray, Rubalcaba had only to fear Sánchez and Iglesias. While the latter proved impossible to persuade or to buy with a ministry, the former was more ready to listen and to pact, while also less easy to put into line. Sánchez, knowing that Rubalcaba needed him more than he the prime minister, simply accepted those pacts that did not force his hand but rejected those who tied him to Rubalcaba. Thus, by the end of the talks, Rubalcaba still had Iglesias open set against him and a vague promise of loyalty by Sánchez "if he could do it without troubling his conscience". In the end, Rubalcaba had nothing and had weakened his position by showing his weak control over the PSOE. In fact, this lack of authority among the party was to give way to an increasing number of high rank members of the party to begin to thing about replacing Rubalcaba. Ironically, even in Sánchez was the least likely of all the possible candidates, the turn of events would turn him the only suitable Socialist candidate.

    Meanwhile, the Liberal party was hit by a hard scandal that rocked the very soul of the party. It all began with the Catalan branch of the PSOE. Two politicians of the PSC, the major of Sabadell, Manuel Bustos, and the vicepresident of the PSC, Daniel Fernández, were arrested by the police after being accused of having taking briberies and of peddliong of political flavours. Then, six months later, in April 2013, three former high rank members of the Liberal Party in Catalonia (Jordi Pujol, Lluís Prenafeta and Macià Alavedra) and two members of the PSC (Luis García Sáez and the former major of Santa Coloma, Bartomeu Muñoz) apparead on the frontlines of the major newspapers of the ocuntry. All in all, they were accuse of offering political favours to several financiers and bussiness if they donated at least 1,000,000 pesetas a year to the party. In addition to this, around 5% of that money ended in the bank accounts of those politicians.

    The situation worsened when Prenafeta hinted that it was a common practice in the Catalan Liberal party to have that kind of "donations", even if he later denied having meant that. Both the PSOE and the Liberal he parties quickly moved to contain the damage control, and a new and cohesive legislation was passed on December 19, 2013 forcing the parties to disclose the full details of any gifts of over 50,000 pesetas. Ironically, this was to hit hard the ultraright EP, as Santiago Abascal and his right hand, Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, refused to give any details about their bank accounts, something that sounded deeply suspicious after it was discovered Abascal bought a new house worth 200 million pesetas in on of the finest areas of Madrid, in Pinar del Rey. This shadow would return to cast its darkness over Abascal and the EP during the elections of 2015.


    The fate of Abascal (Right) and Ortega Smith (left),
    who seemed to be rising fast in popularity among the Spanish voters,
    suffered an deblace in late 2013
    37. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -5-
  • 37. Rubalcaba Ministry (2011-2015) -5-

    In addition to its previous problems, Abascal found himself fighting against the increasing dissent among the ranks of the party during the last several months, The electoral results, from the general to the local elections, were quite disappointing and Abascal and to struggle to keep the flame alive, in spite of the failure at Murcia. Then came 2013 and with it, the great chance of EP. There were local elections in Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla and León, Valencian Community, La Rioja, Murcia and Navarra. It was the greatest opportunity for EP and Abascal to make themselves a name before the Elections of 2015. To do so, they hid some of their more radical elements and moderated their image.

    It was a disaster. While the Liberals won in Valencia, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands and Asturias, the PSOE in Aragón, Madrid, Castilla and León, and the Conservatives in La Rioja and Cantabria -In Navarra won the Unión del Pueblo Navarro (UPN Union of the Navarrese People)-, EP did not reach the required electoral threshold (5%). Their "best" results were in Madrid (37.491 votes and 1.18%) in La Rioja (2,005 votes and 1,22%) and in Castilla-La Mancha (10,866 votes and 0,99%). After this disaster in the local elections, Abascal came under fire from his own ranks. The first to open fire was Javier Ortega Smith, then followed by Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, who not only suggested that Abascal should resigned, but also openly mused about challenging him for the party leadership if its fortunes were not turned around, Then, December came and with it Abascal and Espinosa de los Monteros' refusal to to give any details about their bank accounts.

    However, Abascal had a last ace upon his sleeve. In 2014 there were the last local elections before the General ones: in Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Catalonia. In spite of its internal turmoil and multiple controversies from women to LGBT rights, EP managed to have a great campaign in Castilla-La Mancha. Even if Extremadura and Castilla La Mancha went for the PSOE and Catalonia for the Nationalists, VOX managed to have an incredible result: they won two seats in Extremadura and two more in Castilla La Mancha. In Catalonia, however, another disaster fell upon the party: 327 votes and 0,01%. However, Abascal had saved his neck. He had four seats in two local parliaments and he was to do the most with them.

    Rubalcaba, however, did not spend too much time thinking about the EP's results. He was more concerned with his Liberal rival's success and with the rise of Podemos. Iglesias' party had become the third most voted party in Aragón (14 seats), Asturias (9 seats), Balearic Islands (10 seats) Castilla La Mancha (2 seats), Castilla y León (7 seats), Extremadura (6 seats), La Rioja (4 seats), Madrid (27 seats) and Murcia (6 seats), the fourth in Navarra (7 seats). Canary Islands (7 seats) and Cantabria (4 seats) and the fifth in the Valencian Community (12 seats).


    Pablo Iglesias,
    a serious contender for the premiership?
    38. Elections of 2015 -1-
  • 38. Elections of 2015 -1-

    Three weeks prior to the elections, Inés Arrimadas surprised everybody when she reshuffled the direction of the Conservative Progressive Party during the Conservative Convention which took place in Madrid. All of the sudden, all the members of the Conservative "old guard" (Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Dolores de Cospedal, Ignacio Zoido and Luis de Guindos) were removed and replaced by a younger generation of politicians: José Luis Martínez-Almeida, Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Pablo Casado. However, the beginning of the campaign in March was marked by the final breakup in the PSOE: Rubalcaba, who had attempted to turn Sánchez as a kind of protegée, was incensed when he discovered that he had plotted Rubalcaba's downfall. Of course, the two Socialist leaders were not on speaking terms. This quickly became a problem for the campaign, as the two made their own campaign, which were not only different but, sometimes, also contradictory. For instance, while Sánchez promised a more active foreign policy mainly centered in Europe, Rubalcaba kept firm to his policy of letting his foreign minister to run his business, even if it was an open secret that the minister was doing very little but for reacting to any foreign stimulus. The two also differed on future coalition partners. While Rubalcaba wanted to keep the collaboration with the Liberals, Sánchez seemed more inclined towards Podemos (later on he would change his mind quite often on this subject).

    Meanwhile, Arrimadas was facing troubles of her own. His popular image was tarnished by the chaos that Rivera had left her and she had not managed to overcome. Then, when she promoted Martínez-Almeida as her future Minister of Interior, Casado began to complain of being sidelined, much to his rage. The conflict of egos within the Liberal party was worsened by Díaz Ayuso "help" to the leader of the party due to her erratic and controversisal style. This led to instances where Arrinmadas would attack Government policy only for having Díaz Ayuso stating the goodness of that policy and how she would make it even better. Eventually, Díaz Ayuso's role in the electoral campaign would be reduced until she vanished from it, being replaced by Martínez-Almeida and Casado.

    Abascal and his party were under fire for the so-called "donationgate". The ultra-right leader, however, managed to evade some of the pressure when he hit the nail during the campaign by making immigration a major issue of the campaign. While the PSOE and Podemos to loath the racist arguments of the candidate, Arrimadas was particularly keen to be seen as “listening” to anti-immigration voters (mainly in Andalucia and Murcia, where the number of immigrant workers had been doubled in the last five years) and even offered a set of measures on immigration which she would implement within the 100 first days of her ministry. Ironically, while the extreme speeches of Abascal made him little popular among the most moderate sectors of the Spanish population, Arrimadas ``sensitive" arguments seemed to attract many possible voters. On this issue, Iglesias accused Rubalcaba "of abandoning the issue to Arrimadas" and of being apparently afraid of crossing his possible future partner and allowing Arrimadas to launch racist tirades against the immigrants. Then, Díaz Ayuso suddenly returned to the campaign. In order to keep her "quiet", she became the Conservative candidate for the presidency of the federal state of Castilla-LaMancha. Thus, due to the nomination or to any other reason, Díaz Ayuso returned with a more sober and moderate attitude, she began her tour around the state in Madrid, even if the elections in that state were not to happen until 2018. There she offered a robust defence of immigration and social liberalism, moving away from the racist remarks of Abascal and embracing a moderate position by claiming that immigrants were welcomed in Spain but within a system of quotas that regulated their arrival.

    Meanwhile, in those first stages of the electoral campaign, the situation of EP went from bad to worse. The donationgate simply eroded the trust of its voters and when Abascal, Ortega Smith and Espinosa de los Monteros attempted first to place the blame on his rivals (who had declared their incomes and their properties while Abascdal et al hadn't) and then to claim that it was all a conspiracy to tarnish their image, the ultra-right party began to lose steam very fast.

    Thus, prior to the first national debate on TV, the polls claimed the following results:

    PSOE 38% of the vote
    Liberal Party 31% of the vote.
    Podemos 22% of the vote.
    EP 9% of the vote.

    Then, all of the sudden, Alfredo Rubalcaba died on May 10, 2015 (1) from a heart attack.


    "Godbye to a men of state"
    Meanwhile, 48.6 of the Catalan voters doesn't want
    the independence of Catalonia while 47.2 says "aye" to it.
    Casado adds Mariano Rajoy to his poltical campaign
    and Donald Trump, the notorius leader of the
    American First party, keeps his personal war against China.

    (1) IOTL, he died that day but of 2019.
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    39. Elections of 2015 -2-
  • 39. Elections of 2015 -2-

    Towards the end of the political campaign, few doubted that the PSOE was going to win again. The death of Rubalcaba had given them an emotional advantage over their adversaries, and the debates on the TV did not help to change that perception. Sánchez, with his youthful look and his speeches, which were full of strong statements and aimed at the soft spot of the voters, both emotionally and ideologically, emerged as the strongest candidate. Pablo Iglesias was the only one to best him in youth and oral skills, even if his looks were clearly different than the ones of the Socialist leader. However, Sánchez had a safe margin over Iglesias.

    On the other side, while Mas was considered as fairly bland, his closest rival, Inés Arrimadas, was deplored for her aggressive style, which made little to improve her standing. The same accusation was thrown at Abascal, but the ultra rightist leader did not care at that time and used the criticism to bolster his position as a "hard and determined" leader. However, the polls proved that few bought that line. Furthermore, his lack of topics, reduced to inmigration and to "stop the Communist threat represented by Commissar Iglesias" did little to encourage non EP voters to support him or his party. Finally, the "resurrected" Rivera and his "Unidos por el Centro" (UC - United for the Center) discovered, to his shock, that he had hardly any covering in the news and he was not invited to the most important debates on the TV. In fact, as the polls reflected, seven days before the elections, only 60% of the Spanish voters were aware of his return to politics.


    One of the most celebrated "bloopers" of the Spanish version of Wikipedia,
    which gave Mas ten times the voters he trully had: 4,351,330 votes.
    Even if it was corrected almost inmediately, it became source of
    endless jokes and pranks on the Spanish net.

    In the end, Podemos ended being less threatening to the status quo than previously thought, and the PSOE was able to improve its results while the PCP kept falling down and the Liberals recovered themselves a bit. The Nationalists parties, exemplified by the Catalan party led by Junqueras, suffered badly and, a few weeks later. Junqueras would be replaced in the leadership by Jordi Portabella, who would take an even stronger Nationalist stance: being a federal state within Spain was over. Catalonia had to become independent, whether Madrid like it or not.


    Jordi Portabella, the new leader of ERC
    Meanwhile, Podemos had received 7,10% of the popular vote and 5 seats, while EP came close to having a seat in the Cortes, but the party, as UC, failed to have the required electoral threshold (5%).

    Sánchez wasted no time to offer a pact with Mas, who, however, put a price too high. And then, to the surprise of many, Sánchez closed an "unholy" alliance with ERC, Podemos and the PNV (4 seats), which made Sánchez Prime Minister with the support of 176 seats in the Cortes. Mas, shocked by Sánchez's "betrayal" and swallowing the bitter pill of no longer being needed to form a government, reacted with a shout of anger and warned the country that, thanks to Sanchez´s ego, the evil of extremism (the "Communist" Iglesias and the Nationalist ERC and PNV) had a saying in the future of Spain.
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