Citizens (Spanish political party)

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Abbreviation Cs
President Albert Rivera
Secretary-General José Manuel Villegas
Spokesperson in Congress Juan Carlos Girauta
Founded 7 June 2005 (CC)
4 March 2006 (Cs)
Headquarters Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 751 A, 1º 2ª
08013 Barcelona, Catalonia[citation needed]
Youth wing Group of Young Citizens – J's
Membership (2016) Decrease 30,867[1]
Ideology Liberalism[2][3]
Political position Centre[10]
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours      Orange[11]
Congress of Deputies
32 / 350
3 / 265
European Parliament
2 / 54
Regional Parliaments
93 / 1,248
Local Government
1,527 / 67,611

Citizens (Spanish: Ciudadanos [θjuðaˈðanos]; Catalan: Ciutadans [siwtəˈðans]; Basque: Hiritarrak; Galician: Cidadáns; shortened as CsC's until January 2017), officially Citizens–Party of the Citizenry,[12] is a liberal[2] political party in Spain originating in Catalonia that is self-described as postnationalist.[13][14] Citizens was presenting itself as a centre-left party that offered a mix of social democracy and liberal-progressive positions on its platform;[15] however, the party has also been described by segments of the Spanish media as centre-right.[16]

It was founded in Catalonia, where it leads the opposition and in whose Parliament has 25 deputies. It is strongly opposed to Catalan nationalism.[17][18][19] The party uses the phrase "Catalonia is my homeland, Spain is my country and Europe is our future" to outline the party's ideology.


Citizens brands itself as a centre-left party in its statement of principles (ideario).[13] Albert Rivera refused to locate Citizens on the political spectrum for a time, though. And he has recently been placing Cs in the political centre. Although some observers agree with the party's ideario by describing Cs as centre-left[20][21][22][23][24][25] and others agree with Albert Rivera's last definition by describing the party as centrist,[26][27][28][29][30] the vast majority of them have positioned Citizens on the centre-right.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]

Official stance[edit]

Ideologically, Cs describes itself as a progressive,[41] secular, constitutional Spanish unionist,[41] European federalist and postnationalist political party.[14] Ciudadanos supports the current autonomous rights granted to autonomous communities in Spain, but rejects the autonomous communities' right to self-determination outside of the Spanish state. As an originally Catalan party it specifically opposes Catalan nationalism as an outdated, authoritarian and socially divisive ideology which fuels hatred among both Catalans and Spaniards.[17][18][19][clarification needed] Rivera uses the phrase "Catalonia is my homeland, Spain is my country and Europe is our future" to describe the party's ideology.

The party opposes separatist movements such as the Catalan independence movement[42][5][6] and opposes federating the autonomous communities. Even though Citizens is currently a supporter of European federalism,[43] it ran in the 2009 European Parliament election in coalition with the far-right, Eurosceptic party Libertas.[44] Although reconsidering the current head of state is not a priority for the party, Albert Rivera has said that Citizens is "a republican party which claims that Spanish citizens are who have to decide whether they prefer a once-modernized monarchy or a republic through a referendum in the context of a constitutional reform".[45][46][47] According to its declared identity signs, Cs advocates four basic lines of action:

  1. Defense of individual rights.
  2. Defense of social rights as well as the welfare state.
  3. Uphold the State of Autonomies and Europe's unity.[clarification needed]
  4. Regeneration of democracy and of political life.[clarification needed]

Specific policies[edit]

Citizens Headquarters in Barcelona, Spain.

The Cs have outlined some policies for the 2015 general election:

  • Lower corporation tax to 25%[48]
  • Lower and harmonise VAT to a rate between 16% and 19%
  • Cap the top-rate of income tax at 40%
  • Increase R&D spending to 3% of GDP
  • Abolish or merge municipalities with a population of less than 5,000
  • Reduce bureaucracy and red tape
  • More transparent party funding
  • Crack down on corruption
  • Reform or abolish the Senate.[49]
  • Instate an earned income tax credit to fight in-work poverty
  • "Austrian Backpack"[49] transferable unemployment compensation where a worker accumulates funds throughout his career which are accessible upon job loss or retirement
  • Devolve training to the citizens from employers associations and trade unions
  • Ease immigration policies to attract talent and investors
  • Legalize marijuana

Main tenets[edit]

Albert Rivera, president of the party

Cs is mostly considered a liberal party both in economic policies[clarification needed] and social issues[citation needed], but its political discourse is mainly centered around opposition to Catalan nationalism,[50] to the extent that it has been frequently criticised for being a single issue party, a label rejected by its members. In the period 2006-2012, the number of Cs voters who had voted for centre-right parties in previous elections was similar to the number who had voted for centre-left parties, suggesting that the party's positions on general economic and social issues are not its main draw.[51] Cs criticise any sort of nationalism, "including the Spanish nationalism that Mr. Ynestrillas defends".[52]

One of the main issues raised by the party is the Catalan language policy, which actively promotes the use of Catalan language as the sole working language of Catalan public administration.[53][54] The party challenges this policy and defends equal treatment of the Spanish and Catalan languages.[54] It also opposes the current language policy within the Catalan educational system, in accordance with which all public schooling is delivered in Catalan. The party also supports strengthening the powers of the Spanish central institutions and curtailing the powers of regional administrations.[55]

Other topics include a thorough reform of the electoral system with the aim of creating greater proportionality that would give less weight to single constituencies. They also support some changes in the 1978 constitution, especially regarding regional organisation. Regarding the chartered autonomous communities' tax regimes, the party respects and does not want to remove the Basque Country's and Navarre's chartered regimes because it believes that "they aren't discriminatory in and of themselves"; however, it criticises what it calls the miscalculation of the quota or contribution which is negotiated between governments and has been causing significant differences that have become outrageous".[56] It proposes a review and a recalculation of the Basque Quota[clarification needed] and the Navarrese Contribution[clarification needed] in order to stop the Basque Country and Navarre being "net beneficiaries".[57]

Among other policies, they also support a regulation[clarification needed] of prostitution, marijuana and euthanasia.

Prominent meetings of the party have been reportedly picketed by Catalan separatist groups on several occasions.[58] Its leader Albert Rivera has received anonymous death threats urging him to quit politics. Two members of the ERC Youth were sentenced to prison for it.[59][60][61][62][63]

Alternative views and past membership[edit]

Xavier Casals, an expert on far-right movements, has described Cs platform as populist.[64][65] And another expert in far-right movements, investigative journalist ca:Jordi Borràs, characterized Cs as a "great magnet for the extreme right"—a trait, he alleged, they share with People's Party. Borràs also highlighted, in the same interview, two facts: Cs was not only the first political party that made a Parliament request to deprive immigrants of universal health care, but also the only party (along with PP) which refused to condemn the fascist coup d'état that led to the Spanish Civil War.[66] Although Cs identifies its core ideology as progressive, its campaign videos feature notorious right-leaning socialites, journalists and television personalities such as Carlos Navarro,[67] who is known for having voiced extremely xenophobic views[68] as well as having displayed sexist and violent behaviour[69][70][71][72] on television. More recently, another member was expelled after allegedly making xenophobic and anti-Catalan comments on Twitter.[73]

In 2006, the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya revealed that Rivera was a card-carrying member of the conservative People's Party (PP) between 2002 and 2006, and that he had left the PP only three months before running for election for the Citizen's Party; this was corroborated by El Mundo and El País.[74][75] Despite these revelations, Rivera denied having been a full member of PP and implied that he had voted for the PSOE until recently.[76] Past PP membership is common among Cs members. Former PSC activist Juan Carlos Girauta had joined the PP[77] and became a prolific contributor to conservative journalism from his Libertad Digital column,[78] before becoming a Citizens member and candidate in the 2014 European Election.[79] During his long tenure as Libertad Digital columnist and COPE debater, Girauta expressed strong sympathies for right-wing Zionism (to the point of calling then-president Zapatero an anti-Semite)[80] and lent credibility [81][82] to the now discredited book by Victor Farías[83] dismissing Socialist politician Salvador Allende as a racist and a Social Darwinist, without clarifying that the quotations about genetic determinism in Allende's doctoral dissertation were themselves quotations from other authors (mostly Cesare Lombroso) or the fact that Allende was highly critical of these conclusions in his thesis, which was later published [84] as a rebuttal to Farías' position. Farías was later sued for this[85] but Girauta never retracted his statements.

In 2015, a member of the Citizens electoral list for Gijón to the city council and regional elections posted pro-falangist, pro-Blue Division and pro-Hitler Youth messages on Facebook.[86] Those same elections carried news of at least five other former card-carrying Falange and/or España 2000 members.[87]


Ciutadans was formed in Catalonia in July 2006 in response to the call made in a manifesto by a group of well-known figures in Catalan civic society (among them Albert Boadella, Félix de Azúa and Arcadi Espada), in which they called for a new political force to "address the real problems faced by the general public". In this manifesto, they also warned that "the rhetoric of hatred promulgated by official Catalan government media against everything 'Spanish' is more alarming than ever" and that "the (Catalan) nation, promoted as an homogenous entity, has taken over the space where an undeniably diverse society lived".[88]

This group of personalities, almost entirely based in Barcelona, formed a political platform called Ciutadans de Catalunya, or Citizens of Catalonia, in July 2005. They organised several round tables and conferences and by 2006 they had announced the formation of a new political party, called Ciutadans, or Citizens. In their first conference of 2006, a young lawyer from Barcelona, Albert Rivera, was elected president.

In the 2006 elections for the Parliament of Catalonia, Cs won 3% of the votes and returned three MPs. Four years later, in 2010, a similar result was achieved (3.4%, 3 MPs). Mainly as a counter to the growing public support for independence in Catalonia, Cs – as one of the most outspoken opponents of this movement - has since further grown substantially in support. In the 2012 snap elections the number of votes more than doubled (7.6%, 9 MPs). All but one of these seats were in the Province of Barcelona. In the 2015 Catalan elections, Cs more than doubled its votes again (17.9%, 25 MPs), becoming the second largest fraction in the Catalan parliament.

In 2013, the party started organising in the rest of Spain with a manifesto called "La conjura de Goya" (The Confederacy of Goya) that took place in the Congress Palace of Madrid. In the 2015 Spanish general elections, Cs entered parliament with 13.9 % and 40 seats. Cs promised PSOE support in parliament in exchange for a number of political concessions. This pact, however, did not gain a parliamentarian majority, paving the way for a repeat election in 2016. In this elections Cs lost only 0.8%, but lost 8 seats due to Spain's electoral system. After these elections, Cs could strike a deal with the conservative PP in supporting its government in exchange for a number of political concessions. After a 10-month political deadlock, PP leader Mariano Rajoy was able to become Prime Minister thanks to Cs support and an abstention of PSOE.

In the 2014 European elections the party received 3.16% of the national vote, and elected two MEPs.[89] Both MEPs joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group.

The party was accepted into the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party on 4 June 2016.[90]

Relations with the media[edit]

During the 2006 election campaign, the party's president Albert Rivera appeared completely naked in a poster in order to attract publicity to the party.[91][92]

The party frequently complains about an alleged boycott on the part of Catalan media, especially public television: in their opinion, the party is given too little airtime to present its views on public television.[93] They have also criticised the Catalan press for similar reasons, especially the Spanish-language Catalan newspapers La Vanguardia and El Periódico de Catalunya. On the other hand, its opponents and critics[who?] frequently point out the disproportionately high coverage of Ciutadans by the Spanish national media, especially the Madrid-based Libertad Digital, El Mundo, Telemadrid, and ABC.[citation needed]

European election internal dispute[edit]

In 2009 it was announced that Cs would run for the European Election allied with the Libertas coalition. The party's association with Declan Ganley's Libertas platform raised some concern on account of the coalition formed by the latter with nationalist and ultra-nationalist parties in each of its local European chapters, seemingly at odds with the professed ideology of Cs.[94][95][96]

Several intellectuals that had participated in the formation of Ciutadans later withdrew their support. Albert Boadella, for example, became one of the co-founders of the Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) party led by former Basque Socialist politician Rosa Díez.

According to some members of Cs, the negotiations prior to this electoral pact were led personally and secretly by the party leader, Albert Rivera. This alienated the other two MPs (besides Rivera himself) and a significant part of the party from his leadership.[97] In turn, the official stance of Cs is that the critics are using the dispute as a pretext to canvass support for the ideologically similar UPyD.[98]

Electoral performance[edit]

Cortes Generales[edit]

Congress of Deputies
Date Votes Seats Status Size Notes
#  % ±pp # ±
2008 46,313 0.2% +0.2 Arrow Blue Right 001.svg0 N/A 13th
2015 3,514,528 13.9% +13.9 Green Arrow Up Darker.svg40 Opposition 4th
2016 3,141,570 13.1% −0.8 Red Arrow Down.svg8 Opposition 4th Confidence and supply to the PP minority government
Date Seats Size
# ±
2008 Arrow Blue Right 001.svg0 13th
2015 Arrow Blue Right 001.svg0 4th
2016 Arrow Blue Right 001.svg0 4th

European Parliament[edit]

Date Votes Seats Size
#  % ±pp # ±
2009 22,903 0.1% +0.1 Arrow Blue Right 001.svg0 11th
2014 497,146 3.2% +3.1 Green Arrow Up Darker.svg2 8th


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  95. ^ "Dos de los tres diputados de Ciutadans se unen para destronar a Rivera | Actualidad | EL PAÍS". 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  96. ^ "Miguel Durán, cabeza de lista de la coalición Ciudadanos-Libertas". Libertad Digital. 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  97. ^ "Dos de los tres diputados de Ciutadans se unen para destronar a Rivera | Actualidad | EL PAÍS". 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  98. ^ "Ciutadans acusa a Rosa Díez de azuzar la revuelta contra Rivera | Edición impresa | EL PAÍS". 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 


External links[edit]

Media related to Ciudadanos-Partido de la Ciudadanía at Wikimedia Commons