• Short Summary

    Spanish voters go to the polls on Wednesday (6 December) in a referendum that is aimed at ratifying a new democratic constitution.

  • Description

    Spanish voters go to the polls on Wednesday (6 December) in a referendum that is aimed at ratifying a new democratic constitution. The one hundred and sixty-nine article charter was given overwhelming approval by Spain's parliament when it was put to the vote last month, after more than a year of debate.

    SYNOPSIS: Under the constitution Spain is defined as a parliamentary monarchy. King Juan Carlos is still Head of State, but the exceptional powers he inherited from the late General Franco have been reduced. If ratified, the constitution will formally mark the country's transition to democracy after forty years of dictatorship.

    The referendum is costing the government about twenty million dollars. Half has gone on a massive publicity campaign aimed at persuading people to vote. There is concern that high abstention rate might be capitalised on by those opposing the constitution. Hundreds of slogans, from various political parties, have appeared on street hoardings and the campaign has been extended to radio and television.

    The most determined opposition to the constitution, according to observers, has come from the Basque separatist group, ETA, who stepped up a guerrilla offensive in the apparent hope of sabotaging the constitution's passage into law. The organisation claimed responsibility for the September killing of these two policemen in the Basque town of San Sebastian. ETA claim the constitution does not give enough self rule to the region - their aim, an independent, Marxist Basque state.

    This demonstration, five days after the killing of the policemen, was called by the main Basque nationalist party in parliament, the PNV, in protest at the escalation of violence. The party is opposed to the constitution and has called on people to abstain from voting. The Basque region is the only area of Spain where any serious opposition to the constitution is expected.

    The Communist Party, is common with other major opposition and government parties, are campaigning for a 'Yes' vote. It was the 'Yes' vote of Dolores Ibarurri, a legendary communist figure, along with those of right-wingers, which indicated the extent of parliamentary support. Under the constitution, which replaced General Franco's authoritarian laws, the death penalty is abolished, trial b jury guaranteed and Spaniards will be able to officially for political parties, join trade unions and enjoy free speech and a free press.

    The extreme right-wing Fuerza Nueva party wants a 'No' vote, and their leaders have accused the government of betraying the Spanish people. Some observers say there are indications of a slow but steady growth of right-wing feeling in Spain this year and are looking to the referendum to show how far it has developed.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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