The party has its roots in the People's Alliance founded on 9 October 1976 by former Francoist minister Manuel Fraga. Although Fraga was a member of the reformist faction of the Franco regime, he supported an extremely gradual transition to democracy. However, he badly underestimated the public's distaste for Francoism. Additionally, while he attempted to convey a reformist image, the large number of former Francoists in the party led the public to perceive it as both reactionary and authoritarian. In the June 1977 general election, the AP garnered only 8.3 percent of the vote, putting it in fourth place.
In the months following the 1977 elections, dissent erupted within the AP over constitutional issues that arose as the draft document was being formulated. Fraga had wanted from the beginning to brand the party as a traditional European conservative party, and wanted to move the AP toward the political centre in order to form a larger centre-right party. Fraga's wing won the struggle, prompting most of the disenchanted reactionaries to leave the party. The AP then joined with other moderate conservatives to form the Democratic Coalition (Coalición Democrática, CD).
It was hoped that this new coalition would capture the support of those who had voted for the Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD) in 1977, but who had become disenchanted with the Adolfo Suárez government. In the March 1979 general election, however, the CD received 6.1 percent of the vote, again finishing a distant fourth.
At the AP's Second Party Congress in December 1979, party leaders re-assessed their involvement in the CD. Many felt that the creation of the coalition had merely confused the voters, and they sought to emphasise the AP's independent identity. Fraga resumed control of the party, and the political resolutions adopted by the party congress reaffirmed the conservative orientation of the AP.
In the early 1980s, Fraga succeeded in rallying the various components of the right around his leadership. He was aided in his efforts to revive the AP by the increasing disintegration of the UCD. In the general elections held in October 1982, the AP gained votes both from previous UCD supporters and from the far right. It became the major opposition party to the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, securing 25.4 percent of the popular vote. Whereas the AP's parliamentary representation had dropped to 9 seats in 1979, the party allied itself with the small Christian democratic People's Democratic Party (PDP) and won 106 seats in 1982.
The increased strength of the AP was further evidenced in the municipal and regional elections held in May 1983, when the party drew 26 percent of the vote. A significant portion of the electorate appeared to support the AP's emphasis on law and order as well as its pro-business policies.
Headquarters on Calle Genova in Madrid. As the party seat, the term Genova often used as a metonym for the party leadership.
Subsequent political developments belied the party's aspirations to continue increasing its base of support. Prior to the June 1986 elections, the AP joined forces with the PDP and the Liberal Party (PL) to form the People's Coalition (CP), in another attempt to expand its constituency to include the centre of the political spectrum. The coalition called for stronger measures against terrorism, for more privatisation, and for a reduction in public spending and in taxes. The CP failed to increase its share of the vote in the 1986 elections, however, and it soon began to disintegrate.
When regional elections in late 1986 resulted in further losses for the coalition, Fraga resigned as AP chairman, although he retained his parliamentary seat. At the party congress in February 1987, Antonio Hernández Mancha was chosen to head the AP, declaring that under his leadership the AP would become a "modern right-wing European party". But Hernández Mancha lacked political experience at the national level, and the party continued to decline. When support for the AP plummeted in the municipal and regional elections held in June 1987, it was clear that it would be overtaken as major opposition party by Suarez's Democratic and Social Centre (CDS).
After the resignation of Manuel Fraga and the successive victories of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in the general election of 1982 and 1986 general election, the Popular Alliance entered a period of deep crisis. Fraga then took the reins and, at the Congress of January 1989, the constituent parties of the CP were folded into a new party, the People's Party. While the AP was the nucleus of the merged party, the PP tried to bill itself as a more moderate party than the AP. Fraga was the first chairman of the party, with Francisco Álvarez Cascos as the secretary general.
Aznar years (1989–2004)
On 4 September 1989, and at the suggestion of Fraga himself, José María Aznar (then premier of the Autonomous Region of Castile and León) was named the party's candidate for Prime Minister of Spain at the general elections. In April 1990, Aznar became chairman of the party. Fraga would later be named Founding Chairman of the People's Party.
The PP joined the European People's Party in 1991.
The PP became the largest party for the first time in 1996, and Aznar became Prime Minister with the support of the Basque Nationalist Party, the Catalan Convergence and Union and the Canarian Coalition. In the 2000 elections, the PP gained an absolute majority.
The People's Party fiercely defended Spain's agricultural and fishery rights within the EU.
Known to have a strong Atlanticist ideology, the People's Party fostered stronger ties to the US.
Rajoy years (2004–2018)
In August 2003, Mariano Rajoy was appointed Secretary General by Aznar. Thus, Rajoy became the party's candidate for Prime Minister in the 2004 general election, held three days after the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings, and which Rajoy lost by a big margin to Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
The PP under Mariano Rajoy opposed the PSOE government after the PP lost the general election in 2004, arguing that this victory was influenced by the Madrid bombings of 11 March 2004. At a national level, its political strategy has followed two main axes, both linked to Spain's delicate regional politics: Firstly, opposing further administrative devolution to Catalonia by means of the newly approved "Estatut" or Statute of Catalonia that lays out the powers of the Catalan regional government. Secondly, opposition to political negotiations with the Basque separatist organization ETA.
The People's Party has supported the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) with respect to the Government's actions concerning ETA's ceasefire, and was able to mobilise hundreds of thousands of people in demonstrations against Government policies that, in its opinion, would result in political concessions to ETA. Nevertheless, the end of the ceasefire in December 2006 ended prospects for government negotiations with ETA.
The prospect of increased demands for autonomy in the programs of Catalan and Basque parties, and Zapatero's alleged favouring of them, became a focus for the party's campaign for the March 2008 general election. Basque President Juan José Ibarretxe's proposal for a unilateral referendum for the solution of the Basque Conflict was another important issue.
The People's Party under Rajoy has an increasingly patriotic, or nationalist, element to it, appealing to the sense of "Spanishness" and making strong use of national symbols such as the Spanish flag. Prior to the national celebrations of Spanish Heritage Day, Rajoy made a speech asking Spaniards to "privately or publicly" display their pride in their nation and to honor their flag, an action which received some criticism from many political groups of the Congress.
PP demonstration in 2007 in opposition to releasing an ETA
member from prison
2008 elections and convention
On 9 March 2008, Spain held a general election, with both main parties led by the same candidates who competed in 2004: 154 People's Party MPs were elected, up six on the previous election. However, the failure to close the gap with the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (which increased its number of MPs by five) provoked a party crisis, in which some internal groups and supportive media questioned the leadership of Rajoy, who was said to be close to resigning.
After an impasse of three days, he decided to stay, and summoned a Party Convention to be held in June 2008 in Valencia. Speculation about alternative candidates erupted in the media, with discussion of the possible candidacies of Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruíz Gallardón and Premier Esperanza Aguirre creating a national debate, calls for support and opposition from the media, etc.
In the end neither one stood, with Gallardón explicitly backing Rajoy and Aguirre refusing to comment on the issue. The only politician who explicitly expressed his intention to stand was
Juan Costa, who had been a minister under Aznar, but he was unable to garner the 20% support required to stand in the election because of the support Rajoy had received prior to his nomination. At the convention, Mariano Rajoy was re-elected chairman with 79% of the vote, and in order to "refresh the negative public image of the party", which had been a major factor in the electoral defeat, its leadership was controversially renewed with young people, replacing a significant number of politicians from the Aznar era.
Among the latter, most resigned of their own accord to make room for the next generation, like the PP Spokesman in the Congress of Deputies Eduardo Zaplana, replaced by Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría; and the party Secretary-General Ángel Acebes, whose office was taken by María Dolores de Cospedal.[a]
The convention also saw significant reforms to the Party Statutes, including the reform of election to the office of Party Chairperson, which was to be open to more competition; and linking that office to the party candidacy in the general elections, etc. María San Gil, Chairwoman of the Basque PP, left the party (even resigning from her Basque Parliament seat) over disagreements on the party policies towards regional nationalisms in Spain, and particularly over the deletion of a direct reference to the Basque Nationalist Party accusing them of being too passive and "contemptuous" regarding the armed Basque group ETA. Most PP members rallied behind San Gil at first, but when it became clear that her decision was final the national leadership called a regional party election, in which
Antonio Basagoiti was chosen as the new Basque PP leader.
The PP won a clear victory in the 2011 general elections, ousting the PSOE from government. With 44.62% of the votes, the conservatives won 186 seats in the Congreso de los Diputados, the biggest victory they have ever had. On the other hand, the center-left PSOE suffered a huge defeat, losing 59 MPs. The PP, under Mariano Rajoy's leadership, returned to power after 7 years of opposition.
In May 2018 the Audiencia Nacional declared the PP as guilty part "on a lucrative basis" in the Gürtel corruption scheme, understanding the organization profited from the corruption scheme "to the detriment of the State's interests". This led to a motion of no confidence to the prime minister Mariano Rajoy, led by socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, which eventually succeeded, thus forcing Rajoy to quit his position, and ultimately resign as the party's leader. His substitute would be determined in July 2018.
Leadership of Casado (since 2018)
Pablo Casado's victory in the July 2018 PP leadership election was considered a party swing towards the right.
Polls indicated a continual decline in support for the PP in the lead-up to the 2019 general election. Ultimately, the party achieved the worst result in its history, winning just 16.7% of the national vote – a decline of almost 16% from the 2016 election – and losing over half its seats. Though becoming only the second largest party in the Congress of Deputies, it held almost half as many seats as first placed PSOE, and was less than a single percentage point and just nine seats ahead of third placed Ciudadanos.