PLSC 367. Contemporary Spanish Politics

Semester: Fall

Offered: 2018

Since the 2008 economic crisis started, Spanish democracy has been in turmoil.  Gone are the times when two large political parties, the Socialist Party (PSOE, Partido Socialista Obrero Español) and the conservative PP (Partido Popular) occupied a dominant position in the Spanish parliament. The economic crisis helped Podemos and Ciudadanos to gain momentum. Today, the two parties are essential to sustain parliamentary majorities at the local, regional, and central levels of government.

The economic crisis was followed by an institutional crisis. Amidst several corruption scandals that involved members of the Royal Family, Juan Carlos I resigned in 2014. During the years that follow, new forms of protest were banned, two general elections were needed to form a viable central government in 2016, a referendum on independence was held in October 1st, 2017 in Catalonia, the Catalan parliament declared Catalonia’s independence in October 27th, the central government suspended the Catalan regional government, and a vote of no-confidence was successfully voted for the first time in the Spanish democracy in June 2018. 

This course main goal is to help students to become familiar with contemporary Spanish politics, and to understand the dynamics that lie behind the political change in the Spanish context. The Spanish case serves to motivate a broader reflection on relevant topics in comparative politics (e.g. transitional justice, processes of state and nation building, terrorism and its electoral consequences, secessionism, etc.). The course is addressed to undergraduate students with basic notions of comparative politics who want to specialize in the Spanish case, and students pursuing a Spanish major with an interest in the politics of Spain. Over the course, we will use visual materials and press articles to learn what's going on in Spanish politics today.

The course is divided into three parts. The first part of the course (sessions 2 to 4) provides a brief historical overview of Spanish politics from the end of the 19thcentury to date, examines the institutional configuration of the Spanish democracy, revisits the transition to democracy, often exemplified, and reviews the electoral system and the party system(s) in Spain. The second part briefly discusses the process of nation-building in Spain, it analyzes the failure of the Spanish state to create a uniform national identity by eliminating alternative territorial identities, and the lasting consequences of that failure. The third part of the course examines relevant topics in Spanish politics today: secessionism, the politics of collective memory, the lasting effects of the 2008 economic crisis, the boom in corruption scandals and its consequences, the electoral consequences of domestic and international terrorism, the emergence of new parties, populism and the absence of a radical right party in Spain.