Zapatero announces constitutional reform in Spain


Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero continues to surprise many sectors in Spain with the speed at which he is working to fulfill his electoral promises.

Yesterday in what many newspapers hail as a historic occasion in the Spanish Senate, Zapatero led a debate centred around the theme of constitutional reform, one of the most controversial items in the Socialist electoral campaign for the Popular Party, who throughout the campaign warned that the unity of Spain would become more precarious under a Socialist government and maintained that the Spanish constitution should never be reformed. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero however has always insisted that a the constitution should reflect the will of its people, and that successful constitutional reform, achieved by dialogue and consensus, reflects the maturity of a nation rather than its weaknesses.

Yesterday Zapatero, flanked by 10 of the 16 government ministers, made a speech in the Senate which stressed his wish to give the Upper House a greater role in policies affecting regional autonomies, so that it effectively has more executive power and relevance in Spanish politics. The Spanish President wants all proposals for legislative reform affecting the powers and financing of Spain’s autonomous regions to receive their first reading in the Senate, and to do this the text of the Third Chapter of the Spanish constitution has to be changed. Zapatero said he sought the support of all parties in this process “The best reform is that which achieves consensus” he said. At the beginning of his speech, Zapatero was booed by representatives of the Popular Party. “I told you that the Senate needed this debate” he replied, “and I hope that nobody will exclude themselves or will feel excluded” (from the process leading up to the eventual reform of the Spanish constitution).

During the debate the spokesmen of all the Spanish nationalist parties in the Senate welcomed Zapatero’s appearance in the Upper House as well as the contents of his speech, and for the first time the Popular Party spokesman in the Senate said his party would not oppose constitutional reform if it served to give the Senate a new, relevant role in Spanish politics.

Yesterday was the first time since 1986 that a President of Spain has participated in a debate with representatives of the Spanish Senate, and the majority of Spanish newspapers this morning are supportive of Zapatero’s decisive appearance in the Senate and of a new atmosphere of general consensus (this is the first time the PP has not opposed the notion of constitutional reform) in Spanish politics.