regional parties

regional parties
   Although regionalist groups have existed since at least the First Republic (1873–4), their proliferation and institutionalization is largely a consequence of the transformation of Spain into a quasi-federal state following the approval of the constitution of 1978. By the mid-1990s, regionalist parties had gained seats in nearly all the parliaments of the seventeen autonomous communities.
   Regionalist movements received a considerable boost from the example of Catalonia. Over one million people marched in Catalan streets in the Diada de Catalunya of 11 September 1977 demanding "freedom, amnesty and the Statute of Autonomy". Similar demonstrations soon sprang up in other regions: over 800,000 people turned out in Valencia on 9 October with comparable slogans. On December 4, nearly a million marched throughout Andalusia demanding Andalusian autonomy.
   Nevertheless, despite their self-legitimation as "nationalists", there is a clear distinction between the aspirations of regionalist parties and regional nationalism proper, represented by organizations such as the PNV, Herri Batasuna and CiU. Except in Andalusia, there is often only a token emphasis on cultural distinctiveness, and little attempt to claim common descent or separate historic identity. Indeed, many of these regional parties are fundamentally conservative, oriented towards an all-Spain perspective, and affirm regional identity either as protection against more assertive varieties of nationalism (Catalan and Basque), or in pursuit of economic interests. This is the case with the Aragonese Regionalist Party (Partido Aragonés Regionalista—PAR), which was founded in 1977 by Zaragoza's conservative élites formerly linked to Francoism. Until 1986, it remained an electoral partner of the right-wing Popular Coalition, but subsequently ran alone. Its regionalism originally reflected a concern over the rise of Catalanism, which prompted demands that Aragon be granted a similar degree of autonomy. A new name, Aragonese Party (Partido Aragonés), was chosen in February 1990 to stress its "nationalist" credentials while retaining the older acronym (PAR).
   The archetype of "pro-centralist" regionalism which emerged in response to the ethnonationalist challenge is Valencian Union (Unión Valenciana— UV). With its anti-intellectual overtones and absence of a coherent programme, it easily enlisted popular support for a crusade against perceived pan-Catalanist threats to merge Valencia with Catalonia proper. In the 1982 elections it stood together with Popular Coalition, securing two MPs. In 1986 it gained one seat, and two in 1989. There is a comparable movement in the Basque province of Alava, where Union Alavesa has emerged in the 1990s in opposition to the radical nationalism of PNV and Herri Batasuna.
   The Partido Regionalista Cántabro (PRC) was founded in 1978 with the aim of making Cantabria a region separate from Castile. A similar aim was sought by the Partido Riojano Progresista (PRP) also founded in 1978. Both Cantabria and La Rioja were granted Statutes of Autonomy. By far the most intricate case is that of the Canary Islands. Coalition Canaria Nacionalista (Nationalist Canarian Coalition—CCN) was born in February 1993 from the merging of five local parties. Its main component was AIC (Agrupaciones Independientes de Canarias—Independent Canary Island Groups), itself an umbrella coalition of seven insular parties formed in the early 1980s. In the 1986 general elections AIC won one deputy and two senators, and in 1989 one deputy and one senator. In the June 1993 general elections, CCN gained four seats in the Congress and five in the Senate. CCN became the majority party in the 1995 regional elections. The first CCN-led government was formed in April 1993, after the collapse of a coalition in which AIC had shared power with the socialist PSOE. After its 1995 victory, CCN was again entrusted with the task of assembling the regional government. CCN also controls most town councils and three of the seven cabildos (island councils).
   Once in power, CCN obtained several concessions from Madrid, including the regional government's authority to levy its own taxes and an Economic Law introducing a sort of "compensation" for the islands" distance from the mainland. This brought an unprecedented boost in subsidies and investments, particularly in road construction. Official rhetoric stresses Canarian unity, in an effort to overcome the islands" legacy of political fragmentation and reciprocal insularity (known as pleito insular). CCN's long-term goal is the maximum of autonomy within the Spanish state, short of independence. Its aims include a reform of the Statute of Autonomy, the development of Fiscal Economic Status (Regimen Económico Fiscal—REF) and a "permanent status" within the European Union as an extra-peripheral (ultraperiférica) region. The new Autonomy Statute should define the islands as a "nationality", equating the Canaries to the three "historic nationalities".
   Though Andalusia was the only region to take advantage of the "exceptional" route to autonomy envisaged in article 151 of the constitution (which permitted any region to bid for the same measure of autonomy as the historic regions), regional parties in Andalusia are relatively weak. The Andalusian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Andaluz—PSA), separate from the PSOE, emerged in 1979–80, later renaming itself the Andalusian Regionalist Party (Partido Andalucista —PA), but its development has been impaired both by internal wrangles and by the strength of PSOE in the region, its traditional heartland. After the 1996 general election, Andalusia had a socialist administration while the central government was conservative. There is nevertheless a strong sense of regional distinctiveness, and research on all aspects of Andalusian culture, economy and politics has boomed in recent years.
   Further reading
   - Heywood, P. (1995) " The Government and Politics of Spain", London: Macmillan (see chapter 1 on "Reconciling State and Nation").
   - Ross, C.J. (1997) Contemporary Spain: A Handbook, London: Arnold (chapter 3 gives an excellent overview of the whole regionalist question, and the emergence of regional parties).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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