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Jose Maria Aznar: 1953—: Prime Minister of Spain - Assumed National Political Role

popular government party partido


Despite a public persona widely described as dull, Aznar moved towards greater political roles. "Aznar has always been considered somewhat colorless and lacking in charisma," noted www.spainview.com. Partido Popular, unfazed by his dourness, elected Aznar as the president of the party. Though Aznar had already done much to revamp the conservative party, steering it free of any lingering Francoist elements, the party failed miserably in the first national elections under Aznar's leadership. The incumbent Socialist party which had assumed control of the presidency and congress did so under the leadership of the charismatic Felipe Gonzalez. Spain, still smiting from Franco's ultra-conservative dictatorship, were not yet ready to elect a conservative prime minister, especially a lackluster taxman whose family included members of Franco's government.

At a Glance . . .

Born February 25, 1953, Madrid, Spain; married to Ana Botella, three children. Education:Law Degree, Complutense University, Madrid. Religion: Catholic.


Career: Politician. Tax inspector, 1970s and 1980s; general secretary, Alianza Popular, Logrono region of Spain, 1979; general secretary, Alianza Popular, 1982-1987; congressional representative, Spanish Parliament, 1982-1987; elected president, Partido Popular, 1991; Prime Minister of Spain, 1996–.





Four years later, in 1993, the Socialists won again, however by a much narrower margin. The Partido Popular gained a large portion of congressional seats, just twenty short of a majority. Support for Gonzalez's government had began to erode in the late 1980s and early 1990s when a rash of scandals surfaced. Involving some of the highest members of government and their family members, the scandals—both financial and criminal—were serious enough to force Gonzalez to call for early national elections. Even before the first scandals were made public, Aznar had already begun to vocally promote the need for clean government.

With the support of over 99% of Partido Popular members, Aznar embarked on a vigorous campaign to become prime minister in 1996. Capitalizing on the vulnerability of the ruling party, one of Aznar's campaign tenets was the eradication of corruption in government. He also managed to turn his own subdued personality into a plus by declaring that "Spain has had enough charisma," as quoted in The Economist. The implication was that the time had arrived to get serious and tackle the country's financial and social woes. Who better to do the job than a tax inspector? The voters agreed and in a historic election, Aznar was elected Prime Minister. According to www.cnn.com, "[The election] was only the second time in 60 years that power passed from one elected party to another."

Despite Aznar's victory, the Partido Popular did not gain a majority of congressional seats. Rural voters, government workers, and those old enough to remember the terror of Franco's regime chose to vote for the incumbent Socialists. The idea of a conservative party in power reminded them too much of Franco's dictatorship. However, young voters and women voters, as well as Spain's new burgeoning middle class, were forward thinking in their vote. They chose to vote for the future of Spain, not in fear of the past. They would become Aznar's most important constituents.


Following his election, Aznar began to institute reforms designed to "cut back the bloated government bureaucracy, balance the budget, root out corruption, and crack down on Basque terrorism," according to www.cnn.com. Another goal of the new prime minister was to further Spain's role in the European Union (EU), and specifically, to improve the economy sufficiently enough to meet the European Union's standards for inclusion in the single European monetary system of the Euro. At the time, both Spanish and foreign economists, openly declared that it would be impossible for the Spanish economy to improve enough to qualify for the first round of the Euro in 2001. Aznar didn't listen to the pundits and Spain met the EU standards just two years after his election. The Economist noted, "[Aznar] managed to confound Europe's doubting bankers by getting Spain to ride the first wave of single-currency surfers." What he lacked in personal style and charm, he made up for with economic reform. "He sets about the job with a seriousness and single-mindedness that have suited the moment," The Economist noted.


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