Felipe González

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Felipe González Márquez

File:Felipe gonzalez.jpg
Prime Minister of Spain

Tenure December 2, 1982 - May 5, 1996
Preceded by Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo
Succeeded by José María Aznar
Date of birth March 5, 1942
Place of birth Seville
Party Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)

Felipe González Márquez (born March 5, 1942) was a Spanish socialist politician. He was the General Secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) from 1974 to 1997. He was also the longest-serving Prime Minister of the Spanish government, in four successive mandates from 1982 to 1996.


González was born in Seville. When he became a student at the University of Seville he was a Christian Democrat and was active in 2 Roman Catholic organisations.

He joined the PSOE, an illegal organisation since 1939, in 1962. As a party activist he used the nom de guerre Isidoro. In 1965 he became a part of the PSOE Seville Provincial Committee, serving until 1969.

In 1966 he graduated in law before setting up an practice specialising in representing workers. During this time he also taught law at Seville University. In 1969 he married Carmen Romero.

He served on the PSOE National Committee between 1969 and 1970, when he became a member of the party's Executive Commission. He was arrested in 1971 for attending protests against Franco. He was elected PSOE General Secretary in the Congress of Suresnes (France) of 1974 which represented a victory for the young renovating wing of the party over the traditionalist veterans.

After Franco's death in 1975, González became one of the leaders of the legal democratic opposition as a part of the Platform for Democratic Convergence that in March 1976 became a part of the Democratic Junta (front) of Spain. In February 1977 the PSOE was legalised, and participated in Spain's first post Franco general election on June 15 where they gained 29.2% of the vote and 118 seats, making González leader of the opposition in the Parliament.

González wanted to rid the PSOE of its Marxist character in order to convert it into a modern socialist party that appealed to all classes. On May 20, 1977, accompanied by Javier Solana, he went to see King Juan Carlos in the Zarzuela Palace. He was named Vice President of the centre left Socialist International on November 7 1978. On March 1 the PSOE consolidated their position as the main opposition party, gaining 30.5% of the vote and 121 seats. González then resigned as Secretary General on May 17 1979 during the XXVII Congress. In September the PSOE called a special XXVIII Congress in which he was re-elected Secretary General by an overwhelming 85.9%.

González reportedly refused a celebratory drink offered by a comrade on the news of Franco's death saying I will not drink to the death of any Spaniard.


In the 1982 general election held on October 28, 1982, the PSOE gained 48.3% of the vote and 202 deputies (out of 343). On December 2 González became the prime minister, with Alfonso Guerra as his deputy. His election was met with tremendous expectation of change amongst Spaniards. Under his government education was made universal and free until the age of 16, the university education was expanded, the social security system began, and a partial legalisation of abortion became law for the first time, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. González pushed for liberal reforms and a restructuring of the economy.

On February 23, 1983, the Government passed a law nationalising Rumasa, a private business that included merchant banking interests, on the grounds that it was at the point of bankruptcy and the government needed to protect the savings of depositors and the jobs of its 60,000 employees, a decision that aroused considerable criticism and a judicial conflict over the law that was only resolved, in favour of the government, in December 1986.

Having promised in the election to create 800,000 new jobs his government's restructuring of the steel industry actually resulted in job lay offs, especially in the provinces. When they tried to similarly tackle the debt problems in the dock industry in 1984 the dockers went on strike. The Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), or Workers' General Union, called a general strike one on June 20 1985 in protest at social security reforms. The same year his government began a massive partial or full privatisation of the 200 state owned companies, as well as the hundreds of affiliates dependent on these companies.

In the 1986 general election held on June 22, 1986, the PSOE gained 44.1% of the vote and 184 deputies in Parliament. González was elected prime minister for the second time. During this mandate, Spain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986. González supported Spain entering NATO that same year in a referendum reversing his and the party's earlier anti-NATO position. A general strike on December 14, 1988 completely paralysed the country, and caused the Unions and the PSOE left wing to describe González as moving to the right.

On October 29, 1989, he won the 1989 general election with 39.6% of the vote and 175 seats, his third successive mandate. In the First Gulf War in 1991, González supported the USA. From 1991, the PSOE started losing its urban vote in favour of the reformed People's Party.

On June 6, 1993, González won the 1993 general election with 38.8% of the vote and 159 deputies. His fourth victory was marred by the fact he was forced to form a pact with small political parties from Catalonia and Basque country in order to form a new government.

Towards the end of 1995 there was a debate about whether González should lead PSOE in the forthcoming general elections. He was associated in the public mind with the bad economic situation (with the unemployment rate approaching 25%) and with lots of corruption and state terrorism scandals, including that of GAL and its fight against ETA,which used methods like making two ETA supporters dig their graves,shooting them, and burying them under quicklime(Most of this scandals were discovered by the newspaper El Mundo). There was talk in the press about Javier Solana (who was the only member of González original cabinet, and as foreign minister was not linked to these scandals), but Solana was appointed Secretary General of NATO in December 1995.

Left with no other suitable candidate, the party was again led by González, and in the 1996 general election held on March 3, 1996, they gained 37.4% of the vote and 141 deputies. They lost the election to the People's Party whose leader José María Aznar replaced Gonzales as prime minister ("presidente" in Spanish, but not to be confused with the more common use of the term) on May 5, 1996.

After the presidency

Since September 1996 he heads the Madrid-based Global Progress Foundation (FPG). At the beginning of the XXXIV PSOE National Congress on June 20 1997 he made a surprise resignation as leader of the party. He also resigned from the federal executive committee, though retaining his seat in the Congress. With no clear successor he continued to exert an enormous influence over the party. He was only replaced at the XXXV party Congress in July 2001 when José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero became the leader.

In 1999 González was put in charge of the party's Global Progress Commission in response to globalisation. The Commission's report formed the basis of the closing declaration of the XXI Socialist International Congress on November 8-9 1999.

He stood down as a deputy in the Spanish Parliament in March 2004.

One of his hobbies is tending bonsai trees. During his tenure at Moncloa, he received and cultivated several of them, mostly Mediterranean species, that he later donated to the Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid.

Published works

  • "Un discurso ético" (co-authorship with Víctor Márquez Reviriego, 1982)
  • "El Socialismo" (1997)
  • "El futuro no es lo que era" (co-authorship with Juan Luis Cebrián, 2001)
  • "Memorias del futuro" (2003)

External links

See also

Preceded by:
Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo
Prime Minister of Spain
Followed by:
José María Aznar

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