poderes fácticos

poderes fácticos
   This phrase, which means "the de facto powers", was used during the transition to democracy in the late 1970s to refer to the non-elected institutions within the state which were in a position to exercise considerable influence over the course of political life, without being accountable to the parliament. Initially, these were defined principally as the armed forces and the Roman Catholic Church. The army in particular was accustomed to seeing itself as the ultimate arbiter of political developments, a position which was implicitly recognized by Adolfo Suárez in September 1976, when he submitted his plan for political reform to a meeting of senior officers. By the 1980s, however, particularly after the failure of the Tejerazo, the armed forces had increasingly come to accept the ultimate authority of the elected civilian government.
   The church had exercised considerable power during the Franco regime (see also church and state), but had gradually begun to distance itself from the dictatorship from the mid-1950s, and did not attempt to impede the movement towards democratic politics after Franco's death. Nevertheless, the church has clearly been more comfortable with right-of-centre governments such as those of UCD (1977–82) and PP (1996-). During the socialist PSOE administration (1982–96), there was tension over such matters as the place of religious teaching in schools, and proposed legislation over divorce and abortion. Though the church can no longer be considered a poder fáctico in the sense in which the term was used in the 1970s, the presence of a significant number of Christian Democrats and members of Opus Dei in the ranks of the PP give it considerable indirect influence.
   Some commentators, particularly since the late 1980s, have begun to apply the term to the media, particularly the press, which, though it has acquired a healthy independence under democracy, has not always exercised its considerable political power in a disciplined manner. Discussions of policy often rank a poor second to personalized attacks on individuals holding public office. Furthermore, open discussion in some sections of the press of prominent criminal and civil cases while they are before the courts has undermined respect for the presumption of innocence and the independence of the legal system.
   A further agency to which the term poder fáctico might appropriately be applied is the security services. Whether the police officers involved in the operations of GAL are eventually proved to have acted independently, or whether they were operating under the authority of senior members of the government, the fact remains that parliamentary control over the security services is weak. This is particularly true of the military intelligence agency, the CESID (Centre Superior de Information de la Defensa—Centre for Defence Information). Though in the nature of things its operations have to remain secret, it has often acted in ways prejudicial to good government. In the late 1970s it withheld from the cabinet information about military conspiracies, and in 1995 was found to have tapped illegally the telephones of senior public figures, including the King. In 1998, it was revealed that for the previous six years it had had listening devices planted in the headquarters of the ultra-nationalist Basque party Herri Batasuna, without judicial authority.
   Further reading
   - Heywood, P. (1995) The Government and Politics of Spain, London: Macmillan (chapter 3, "The Institutional Legacy of Francoism", gives an excellent account of the poderes fácticos).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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