Jose Maria Aznar is a Spanish politician, former Prime Minister of Spain for eight years between May 1996 and April 2004 by the Partido Popular.
Jose Maria Aznar, the 4th president of the young Spanish democracy, was a controversial leader due to his internal politics and foreign politics; especially with the United States. Aznar was the president of Spain for eight years and the highlights of his policies included the integration of Spain into the European Union, the adoption of the Euro currency and joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (OTAN).
Biography of Jose María Aznar
Jose Maria Aznar is the grandson of Manuel Aznar Zubigaray, Navarre diplomat and journalist, and son of Manuel Aznar Acedo, also a journalist and broadcaster who supported the Franco regime.
At a young age Aznar became active in political organization such as Students Against Trade Unionists (FES), a movement critical of recent Franco regime policies that favored the Spanish Phalanx movement, founded by Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. It was through this association that Aznar developed conservative democratic views.
Aznar earned his law degree in 1975 from the University of Complutense in Madrid, where he met his wife Ana Botella. In 1979, Aznar joined the Alianza Popular (Popular Alliance or AP) Party, for which he would hold various positions and eventually become party president. The AP was founded by Manuel Fraga Iribarne, an ex-minister of the Franco regime. In 1982 he was elected to the parliament as the representative for Avila and by 1987 he became the leader of the Alianza Popular Party of Castile and Leon. The Alianza Popular Party would eventually become the Partido Popular (Popular Party) for which Aznar was selected as the presidential candidate in 1989. He did not win the presidency at this time, but became a representative of Madrid.
On the 19th of April, the Basque terrorist group ETA made an attempt on Jose Maria Aznar’s life when a bomb exploded in his highly armored official vehicle. The attempt was unsuccessful.
On March 3, 1996, the Partido Popular gained simple majority of the government. After negotiating with the representatives of the various nationalist parties in Spain, Jose Maria Aznar became the president of the government. In the 2000 elections, the Partido Popular gained an absolute majority in the Spanish government, permitting Aznar to more easily pass reforms.
Principal Actions of Aznar’s Government
Jose Maria Aznar inherited a country deep in crisis. The president initiated a series of economic reforms to help Spain become more competitive in the European Union and to improve Spain’s international reputation.
The economic reforms carried out by Jose Maria Aznar were based on criteria set by the European Union. The unemployment rate in Spain dropped by 7%, although the reform also increased job insecurity. The Spanish economy began to grow at a rate of 1.1% above the European average. Spanish companies were making 30% more profit but, unlike the rest of the European Union, the Spanish people saw a decline in their purchasing power.
In respect to Aznar’s foreign policy, he explicitly supported the United States in an American led war on terrorism and intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result, Aznar lost a lot of support, which he would never regain.
On March 11, 2004, just three days before the Spanish elections, terrorists bombed several trains in Atocha (Madrid) resulting in 191 deaths and 1,800 wounded. At first, the Partido Popular led government accused the Basque terrorist group ETA of the massacre but the group denied involvement. Later, investigators would discover that the culprit was actually a jihadist terrorist group.
The event led to the end of Aznar’s presidency when Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of PSOE socialist party, was elected the new president of Spain in general elections.