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Felipe González Márquez (born 5 March 1942) is a Spanishmarker socialist politician. He was the General Secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) from 1974 to 1997. To date, he remains the longest-serving Prime Minister of Spain, after having served four successive mandates from 1982 to 1996. He is married and has three children.

Early life

Felipe González was born in Sevillemarker, son of a farmer who had a small dairy. He has a sister named Lola González y Márquez, married to Francisco Germán Palomino y Romera, by whom she has two sons, Felipe and Germán Palomino y González. He studied Law at Seville Universitymarker and started his career as attorney specializing in labour. While at the University he met members of the socialist Trade Union UGT (Union General de Trabajadores) that was clandestine at the time. He also contacted members of the PSOE and started taking part in the Party's clandestine activity. During that time he adopted "Isidoro" as nom de guerre and moved to Madrid. He was elected Secretary General of the Party at the Suresnes Congress, in France. When Franco died, Gonzalez became the prominent head of the opposing movement to the remnants of the dictatorship, and was capital, along with then serving prime minister Adolfo Suarez, in the Spanish transition to democracy. In the first democratic general election after Franco's death, held in 1977, the PSOE became the second most voted party, and this served Gonzalez to appear as a young, active and promising leader. However, he did not win the 1979 election and had to wait for 1982 and the debacle of the governing UCD party to come into office.

Prime Minister

In the 1982 general election held on 28 October 1982, the PSOE gained 48.3% of the vote and 202 deputies (out of 350). On 2 December 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, 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 23 February 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. When they tried to similarly tackle the debt problems in the dock industry in 1984 the dockers went on strike. The (UGT), or Workers' General Union, called a general strike on 20 June 1985 in protest against social security reforms. The same year his government began a massive privatisation both partial or full, of the 200 state owned companies, as well as the hundreds of affiliates dependent on these companies.

In the 1986 general election held on 22 June 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 second term, Spain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986. González supported Spain remaining in NATOmarker that same year in a referendum reversing his and the party's earlier anti-NATO position. A general strike on 14 December 1988 completely paralysed the country and caused the Unions and the PSOE left wing to describe González as moving to the right.

On 29 October 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 the other side, events like the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona or the Universal Exposition in Seville helped consolidating Spain´s international image as a modern, affluent country.

On 6 June 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 nationalist political parties from Cataloniamarker and Basque countrymarker in order to form a new government.

Towards the end of 1995 there was a debate about whether González should lead the PSOE in the forthcoming general elections. The People's Party intensified its campaign to associate his period in office with a poor economic situation (although unemployment had begun to decline and the economic reforms of the previous decade initiated a lasting period of economic growth!A1) and with accusations of corruption and state terrorism scandals, including allegations of waging a dirty war against the terrorist group ETA by means of the GAL. There was speculation in the press about Javier Solana as a possible replacement, but Solana was appointed Secretary General of NATOmarker in December 1995.

Left with no other suitable candidate, the party was again led by González and in the 1996 general election held on 3 March 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 González as prime minister ("presidente" in Spanish, but not to be confused with the English use of the term) on 4 or 5 May 1996.

The legacy of Felipe González's long mandate left a bittersweet taste: on the one hand, under his tenure, Spain initiated a period of thorough modernisation; on the other hand the scandals that monopolized the news in his last years still preclude a dispasionate consideration of his tenure. His Ministers of Economy and Finance (notably Miguel Boyer, Carlos Solchaga and Pedro Solbes) implemented a vigorous program of economic reforms that included privatization of public companies such as Telefónica or ENDESA, liberalization and deregulation of the economy and restructuring of whole industry sectors such as steel or mining which left many people unemployed and created resentment among the working classes and the trade unions. This situation was worsened by the massive influx of women baby boomers into the labour market, which further increased the unemployment rates.

His cabinets, on the other hand, paved the way to a long period of declining interest rates, low budgetary deficits and stronger economic growth than the European average . Spain was a founding member of the transition to the single currency (Euro) based on the measures of his last government . Other reforms had also a deep impact on the Spanish economy,such as the extension of a network of highways, airports and the creation of new infrastructures,including the high speed train. Gonzalez-led cabinets were the first to implement a national, comprehensive infrastructure program. Besides, under his tenure certain social benefits such as free universal health care were expanded, reform of the pension system extended it to needy people and universal public schooling came in for all children under 16 and the creation of new Universities was implemented.

Felipe González also secured Spain's entry into the EEC, which the country joined in 1986 and consolidated democratic government. Together with François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, they gave an injection of new life to Europe's public face. In the terrorist fight, an intense police campaign secured several victories that left the terrorist organisation ETA severely debilitated. Among those were the capture of the ETA central arsenal in Sokoa and the capture of the organisation's ruling cupola in 1992.

However in the final years of his mandate several cases of corruption, the most notable of which were the scandals involving Civil Guard Director Roldán, further eroded popular support for the PSOE. Nonetheless González and most of his ministers generally managed to leave office with their reputation intact although there had been some singularly unfortunate choices made in the case of some of the lower ranking public servants, according to María Antonia Iglesias (La memoria recuperada. Lo que nunca han contado Felipe González y los dirigentes socialistas, 2003);this author is very close, though, to the PSOE official line, since she even served as head of the public TV broadcast Televisión Española appointed in the post by one of the Gonzalez's cabinets.

González's Government 1982–1996

Cargo Titular
President of the Government
Vice President of Government
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Justice
Minister of Defence
Minister of Economy and Finance
Minister of Interior
Minister of Publics Works
(Minister of Public Works and Transport since 1991)
Minister of Education and Science
Minister of Labour and Social Security
Minister of Industry and Energy
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Minister of the Presidency
Minister of Public Administration
Minister of Culture
Minister of Health and Consumption
Minister Social Affairs
Minister of Transport
(included in the Ministry of Public Works after 1991)
Spokesman of the Government
Presidents of the Congress of Deputies
Presidents of the Senate

After the presidency

González ended his fourth term on 4 May 1996. Since September 1996 he has headed the Madrid-based Global Progress Foundation (FPG). At the beginning of the 34th PSOE National Congress on 20 June 1997 he surprisingly resigned 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 35th party Congress in July 2000 when José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero became the leader.

In 1997 he was considered a leading candidate to take over the position of President of the European Commission after Jacques Santer. The position ultimately went to Italy's Romano Prodi.

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 21st Socialist International Congress on 8 November–9 1999.

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

On 27 July 2007 the Spanish Government appointed him as plenipotentiary and extraordinary ambassador for the bicentenary celebrations in commemoration of the independence of Latin America. The celebrations will begin in September 2010 in Mexico.

On 14 December 2007 heads of state and governments of European Union members, in a summit held in Brussels, appointed Gonzalez as chairman of a think tank on Europe's future, consisting of up to nine well-prestiged personalities,and given the task of writing a report, by June 2010, on the challenges the European Union will face from 2020 to 2030. It will also look at how to achieve a closer understanding between citizens and the Union.

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

Member of the Club of Madrid.

Marriage and family

He married María del Carmen Julia Romero y López in Sevillemarker on 16 July 1969 and had three children:
  • Pablo González Romero
  • David González Romero
  • María González Romero

Published works

  • (co-authorship with Víctor Márquez Reviriego, 1982)
  • (1997)
  • (co-authorship with Juan Luis Cebrián, 2001)
  • (2003)

See also


  2. Spain's Ministry of the Interior: Official election results
  3. [1], Cadena SER (in Spanish).
  4. [], Público news (Spanish).
  5. Home - Club of Madrid - Democracy that Delivers
  6. The Club of Madrid is an independent organization dedicated to strengthening democracy around the world by drawing on the unique experience and resources of its Members – 66 democratic former heads of state and government.

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