How Political Parties Respond: Interest Aggregation Revisited

By Kay Lawson; Thomas Poguntke | Go to book overview

10

Latecomers but 'early-adapters'

The adaptation and response of Spanish parties to social changes

Luis Ramiro and Laura Morales

Compared with other Western countries, Spain has a short history of democratic party politics. Democratic government and party competition, prior to the 1970s, was reduced to the brief and turbulent period of the Second Republic (1931-36). After a long authoritarian regime, the death of General Franco in 1975 and the first democratic elections of 1977 heralded the longest era of democratic politics in Spanish history.

One of the main features of the party system that emerged in the 1970s was its discontinuity with respect to the previous democratic experience of the 1930s. On the one hand, the dynamics of the party system that was formed in 1977, and the patterns of interaction among its units, were defined by the strong tendency towards centripetal competition and ideological moderation (Gunther et al. 1986; Montero 1994). This was fundamentally different from the ideological polarization that dominated the dynamics of the Spanish party system during the 1930s. On the other hand, only some of the political parties that ran for the first democratic elections after the dictatorship had participated in the previous democratic regime. And even these had experienced important organizational and ideological changes (Linz and Montero 1999). 1

Spanish political parties regained their political activity in a different setting from that of the 1930s. But the context was also different from the one Western parties faced after the Second World War in countries such as Italy and Germany. It is commonplace to consider the social and political environment that Spanish political parties faced in the 1970s as one of the main determinants of their basic features (Linz and Montero 1999). First, political parties had to build their organizations quickly within a political culture characterized by demobilization and depoliticization (López Pintor 1982; Rodríguez Ibáñez 1987). Second, certain social changes - urbanization, expansion of universal education, secularization and increasing levels of wealth - hindered the possibilities for political parties to establish strong linkages with selected social strata. Third, the transition to and consolidation of democracy took place in a moment in which the expansion of television had a radical impact on political communication and, consequently, on party organizations. Finally, Spanish

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