The Tale of Two Spanish Presidents: Conclusions

In the last 150 years Spain has undergone periods of less and more stability. Going back to the late nineteenth century Spain’s political regime was a Monarchy from 1887 to 1931 under the auspice of Alfonso XIII, King Juan Carlos I’s grandfather. The last eight years under the ruling of Alfonso XIII were a military dictatorship. In 1931 Alfonso XIII is overthrown and the Second Republic started, a period that saw land reform and a center-left government.The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 and ended in 1939. Francisco Franco became Spain’s dictator and ruled from 1939 until his death in 1975. King Juan Carlos I, Alfonso XIII’s grandson, took over and made the transition into a democratic period possible and feasible. The spirit of the transition made left-wing and right-wing militants, along nationalists, come together and consensuate a Constitution that was approved in a Referendum on December 6, 1976.

Spain’s first two Presidents of the Government (referred to as Presidents hereafter) were the centrists Adolfo Suárez González and Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo. Felipe González Marquez became the first left-wing President of Spain in 1982 and renewed his mandate four consecutive times until he lost the 1996 general election again his opponent and then Opposition Leader José María Aznar. Aznar was the first President that explicitly announced his desire to only run two consecutive times. He gave up the Presidency in 2003 and chose Mariano Rajoy, the current People’s Party Opposition Leader, as his successor. Rajoy lost the 2004 election against José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s current President.

Analyzing the last two Presidents of Spain is fascinating because they represent the left and the right of Spain’s baby boomers that were born in the 1940s and in the 1950s. It is a generation of Spaniards that still remember those relatives and friends who died during the Civil War and suffered during Franco’s dictatorship. There is another generation of Spaniards that is not divided along the two sides that fought the Civil War. It is a generation of Spaniards that looks forward, feels European and wishes to go beyond historical differences that set us apart and divide us as citizens of a same country.

It is this generation the one that is best positioned to innovate and bring change in today’s Spain, improving the country’s poor educational system, increasing the rate of entrepreneurship, looking for sinergies, improving productivity, maintaining and improving Spain’s corporate business model, that of the Savings Banks, that of Mercadona or El Corte Ingles, of companies that are profitable but whose priority is not to maximize short-term economic profit, a corporate business model that takes care of the environment and of the individual before fulfilling the shareholders.

Aznar and Zapatero have done a good job at continuing Spain’s progress from a dictatorship based in a poor economy, to a modern democracy and a vibrant economy in serious need of new ideas. Both of them have been praised and insulted by those on the other side  of their political spectrum, those who have oftentimes not accepted their fair victory in transparent election processes. This essay aims at analyzing their Presidencies considering their human and psychological dimensions.

The present analysis aimed at analyzing the political trajectories of José María Aznar López and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, from a psychological and human of view. Both were born and brought up during Franco’s dictatorship in middle-income households. Both earned a law degree and started an early political career right after graduating from college.

Zapatero’s low-key profile and quiet approach to politics compares with Aznar’s energetic and successful climbing within his own Party. Aznar became a member of parliament in 1982, and Zapatero only four years later. Whereas Aznar was appointed Secretary General seven years after he earned a seat in Madrid’s Parliament (Congreso de los Diputados), Zapatero became Opposition Leader after 14 years of having been elected diputado.

Aznar was driven by his personal ambition, a healthy attitude until he forsook and ignored criticism in his own party and in the Spanish society vis a vis two important decisions: the invasion of Iraq and the election of his successor Mariano Rajoy, perhaps a less able candidate than some of his rivals, including Rodrigo de Rato Figaredo. He has been a pragmatist led by judgement, an appropriate economic vision and a misguided foreign policy understanding. His ambition has continue to drive him to a successful career in the private sector, where he has become a leading speaker, an advisor to private equity firms, and a member of the board of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Zapatero’s ambition was driven by his grandfather’s legacy, that his father maintained alive. He has remained a low-key politician that has an easy-going approach to politics. His ambition is always present but is not felt. He has been an ideologue and has based his decisions on rationality, as he has proven with some of his thoughtful albeit controversial withdrawal from Iraq or the legalisation of gay marriage. He lacks the economic vision to propose and implement economic reform, and faces a staggering unemployment rate that is likely to drive Spain to the verge of an economic breakdown.

2 Responses to "The Tale of Two Spanish Presidents: Conclusions"

  1. N S   January 9, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I believe the Presidents referred to in his article are actually Prime Ministers. The head of state is the monarch, is it not? There usually are no Presidents if the country is a monarchy.

  2. jerry iroghe   June 25, 2009 at 9:10 am

    spain will be a very good place when the times come, economic that come when presient Zapatero his still in post, well for spanish people everything will be fine.