El Adiós de Zapatero Compared to the Departures of his Predecessors
El Adiós de Zapatero Compared to the Departures of His Predecessors
The Departures of Five Presidents
El Mundo: El adiós de Zapatero ante el espejo de sus antecesores
David Sanz Ezquerro reporting from Madrid April 4, 2011
Zapatero pensive during a congressional session
He had eight years, like Aznar, but in contrast he leaves his succession unresolved.
He arrives at a fin de siècle exhausted, like González.
Suárez left immersed in an immense political, economic, and social crisis.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the fifth president of the Spanish democracy, will be the first to leave power without tasting defeat at the ballot box. José María Aznar needed three tries to gain the keys to La Moncloa; Felipe González was thrown out by the voters after 14 years of governance; Calvo Sotelo was not validated by the voters after inheriting the presidency, and Adolfo Suárez met defeat during his political epilogue as the head of CDS.
Like José María Aznar, Zapatero will leave power on his own terms after having governed for eight years. The ex-“Popular” president announced from the first his intention to stay in La Moncloa for two terms at the most. His successor in office, on the other hand, has waited until the end of his rope to reveal his intentions, with all the polls predicting the electors will turn their backs on his PSOE in 2012. It seems certain that he would have descended from power under any circumstances.
When José María Aznar retired, he tapped Mariano Rajoy as his successor, a gesture that seemed to be a mere passing of the baton from one president to another. Instead, as you know, the current leader of the PP became the victim of an election campaign he hadn’t led. This antecedent will surely give food for thought to Socialists who dare to headline the PSOE in 2012, if Zapatero indeed fulfills his promise to lead until the end of his term.
Zapatero is retiring when his political project seems exhausted. During his first legislature, characterized by decisions like the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the revision of the federal model, or the Law of Homosexual Marriage, he maintained a high level of support from the public and governed comfortably though he had not won an absolute majority and had not signed a cooperation government with any other political parties. In recent years, of course, the tables have turned. The economic crisis has obliged him to renounce many of his principles, and his popularity has decayed and been drilled in recent months.
The sensation of a fin de siècle is similar to what Spain experienced in 1996. Felipe González, hemmed in by the phantoms of the GAL and an economy that was in the dust, finished his time in power in political agony; the conclusion seemed inevitable. The first Socialist president of the democracy could not finish his fourth term and had to call early elections which he lost to José María Aznar.
Fifteen years later, Zapatero, knocked out by the economic crisis and with scandals like the “Faisán case” and the “acts of ETA” on his shoulders, intends to complete his promise to finish this term and avoid at all costs an early election like the one visited upon González. But there is still a year to go: the PP will not make it easy for him, and his political capital in Congress is at the bare minimum. The power and charisma of Zapatero have been exhausted in recent months, even within the PSOE, a party which had come to appear omnipotent and which for years had been an undisputed and indisputable leader.
Adolfo Suárez, who on June 15, 1977 won the first democratic elections in Spain after the dictatorship of Franco, had to step down in 1981 with the country immersed in an absolute political, economic, and social crisis. He had lost all support both inside and outside his party, the UCD, which precipitated his fall with internal conspiracies. With the country in critical condition, Suárez renounced the presidency and ceded power to Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo, who lost the following elections, giving rise to Felipe González.
In recent weeks, with the debate over Zapatero’s succession on the lips of everyone, there had been speculation that he would emulate Adolfo Suárez by stepping down and ceding his duties to Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. The mystery was cleared up this April 2. If the vice president wishes to succeed Zapatero, he will have to earn it by winning a primary election. Though it seems like no one else wishes to take the reins of the PSOE.