Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party

Published 2nd November, 2011

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party or PSOE was originally founded in 1879 by Pablo Iglesias and others. It describes itself as centre-left and believes in democratic socialism, progressivism and the third way. In 1976 it described itself as Marxist but in 1979 renounced this as an ideology. It has very close ties with the General Union of Workers.

The party established itself as a champion of ordinary workers and its founder and leader was elected to the Congress of Deputies in 1910. By 1921 it had around 40,000 members, but then saw a split which led to the creation of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). Despite a period of dictatorship the PSOE doubled its membership in the 1920s and took about a third of the seats in the 1931 election.

With the rise of Franco the party was banned and many of its leaders were exiled in France. In 1975 the PSOE joined other non communist parties in the Plataforma Democrática alliance.

In December 1976 the party held its first congress in 44 years and in February 1977 was formally legalised.

The PSOE, along with the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC), fought the 1977 general election and between them they took 118 seats in the Congress of Deputies. In 1978 the PSOE absorbed the Popular Socialist Party (PSP) along with other smaller parties from Aragon and Galicia.

In the 1979 elections the party won 121 seats and in 1982 it won 48.7% of the vote and an absolute majority for the first time with 202 of the 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies. It went on to win the 1986, 1989, and 1993 elections but with its majority shrinking each time.

In the 1994 European elections the party slumped to 31.1% of the vote and took just 22 of the 64 Spanish seats in the European parliament. In 1995 they did badly in local elections and in 1996 they lost the general election on the back of a series of corruption and security scandals. They held 141 seats with 37.5% of the vote.

The PSOE also lost the 2000 general election with their tally of seats dropping to 125 of 350 and their leader was replaced by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero who embarked on a modernisation of the party which moved it more to the centre.

Zapatero’s efforts worked and in 2004 the PSOE won once more, taking 164 seats and 43.6% of the vote. They won again in 2008, increasing their tally to 169.

In August 2011 Zapatero announced that he would not be standing in the next general election and was replaced by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

The party is a member of Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists. In the European Parliament it is part of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

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