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National and subnational democracy in Spain: history, mmodels and challenges

AuthorsPino, Eloísa del ; Colino, César
KeywordsRegional Government
Issue Date2010
PublisherConsejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (España)
SeriesDocumento de trabajo [Instituo de Políticas y Bienes Públicos (IPP)]
AbstractLiberalism arrived early in Spain with the 1812 Constitution, which followed the War of Independence against the Napoleonic occupation. But the Constitution was influenced by the very country – Revolutionary and Napoleonic France – against which Spain was fighting, and it proclaimed the idea of national sovereignty and universal male suffrage. Spanish liberalism, however, was weak and had several peculiarities. It had to struggle during the whole nineteenth century with the supporters of the ancient regime —absolutists and Catholic traditionalists concentrated in some of the north-eastern territories. This meant that, although the moderate liberals who dominated the second third of the century favoured state centralization and created provinces on the model of the French départements in 1833, they failed to abolish some of the ancien régime privileges or charters (fueros) in such territories as the Basque Country and Navarre. Instead, they formed alliances with the local nobilities and bourgeoisies, who retained some special institutions and tax exemptions. Hence, there was never a true Spanish liberal Jacobinism seeking to overcome the remains of the ancien régime in several of the provinces (González Antón 2007). Centralism remained at the formal level but in practice localism prevailed. Liberal progressives, republicans and democrats were excluded from government for most of the century and when they came to power after the 1868 Revolution many of them also supported a more ‘girondin’ vision based on the old liberties of the old provinces and kingdoms as the basis of the Spanish democratic tradition. In contrast, other republicans and socialist parties would identify democracy with a new centralized state against the forces of the old regime. These forces would attack the First Republic again in the 1870s, with the second Carlist war (Nuñez-Seixas 2008).
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