Citizens (Spanish political party)

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PresidentAlbert Rivera
Secretary-GeneralJosé Manuel Villegas
SpokespersonInés Arrimadas
Spokesperson in CongressJuan Carlos Girauta
Founded7 June 2005 (CC)
4 March 2006 (Cs) in Catalonia
HeadquartersGran Via de les Corts Catalanes 751 A, 1º 2ª
08013 Barcelona, Catalonia[citation needed]
Youth wingGroup of Young Citizens – J's
Membership (2016)Decrease 25,364[1]
Postnationalism[not in citation given][8]
Spanish nationalism[9]
Conservative liberalism[10][11]
Political positionCentre-right[12][13][14]
European affiliationAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
European Parliament groupAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours     Orange[15]
Congress of Deputies
32 / 350
6 / 265
European Parliament
2 / 54
Regional Parliaments
117 / 1,248
Local Government
1,527 / 67,611

Citizens (Spanish: Ciudadanos [θjuðaˈðanos] About this soundlisten ; Catalan: Ciutadans [siwtəˈðans]; Basque: Hiritarrak; Galician: Cidadáns; shortened as CsC's until January 2017), officially Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (Ciudadanos–Partido de la Ciudadanía),[16] is a centre-right[9][17][18] political party in Spain.

Originating in Catalonia in 2006, the party received over 25% of votes and 36 deputies in the December 2017 Catalan regional election, making it the largest single party in the Parliament of Catalonia. Nevertheless, it has never taken power so their actual political stance remains a source of controversy between supporters and adversaries beyond their strong opposition to Catalan nationalism,[19][20][21] of which there is no disputation. The party used the phrase "Catalonia is my homeland, Spain is my country and Europe is our future" to outline the party's ideology, which the party self-describes as postnationalist.[22][23] In spite of that, it has deemed by a variety of sources (including a peer-reviewed article[9]) to profess a populist Spanish nationalist ideology.[24][25]

Citizens used to present itself as a centre-left party that offered a mix of social-democratic and liberal-progressive positions on its platform[26] but dropped any mention to social democracy from its principles in February 2017,[27] and by 2018 and 2019 it is reported to have experimented a further swing to the right as it entered competition with PP and later also with Vox to become the leading right-of-centre party in the country.[28][29][30][31]

It has recently been described by media[32][33] and CIS[34] (a Spanish public research institute) as right-oriented. A core topic of its platform is opposition to Catalan nationalism.[35]


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, Francesc de Carreras 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".[36]

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. As PP's Mariano Rajoy refused the mandate to form a government, Cs promised the second-largest party PSOE support in parliament in exchange for a number of political concessions. This pact, however, would have needed the support of Podemos and finally 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.[37] 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.[38]


At first, Citizens branded itself as a centre-left party in its statement of principles (ideario). 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 agreed with the party's ideario by describing Cs as centre-left[39][40][41][42][43][44] and others agree with Albert Rivera's last definition by describing the party as centrist,[45][46][47][48][49][50][51] the vast majority of them have positioned Citizens on the centre-right.[52][53][54][55][56][57][58][59][60][61][62] In a 2014 interview, Congress spokesman Juan Carlos Girauta explicitly stated that he did not perceive any significant differences between Citizens, the centrist Union, Progress and Democracy and the far-right-wing, Spanish nationalist party Vox.[63]

Official stance[edit]

Ideologically, Cs describes itself as a progressive,[64] secular, constitutional, European federalist and postnationalist political party.[23] Ciudadanos rejects the autonomous communities' right to self-determination outside of the Spanish state. As an originally Catalan party it specifically opposes Catalan nationalism, due to viewing it as an outdated, authoritarian and socially divisive ideology which fuels hatred among both Catalans and Spaniards.[19][20][21][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[65][66] and opposes federating the autonomous communities. Even though Citizens is currently a supporter of European federalism,[67] it ran in the 2009 European Parliament election in coalition with the pan-European, Eurosceptic party Libertas.[68] 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".[69][70][71] According to its declared identity signs, Cs advocates four basic lines of action:[citation needed]

  1. Defence of individual rights.
  2. Defence 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]

Main tenets[edit]

Albert Rivera, president of the party

Cs displays a political discourse mainly centered around opposition to Catalan nationalism,[72] 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.[73] Cs criticise any sort of nationalism, "including the Spanish nationalism that Mr. Ynestrillas defends".[74]

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.[75][76] The party challenges this policy and defends equal treatment of the Spanish and Catalan languages.[76] 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.[77]

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".[78] It proposes a review and a recalculation of the Basque and Navarrese Economic Agreements[clarification needed] in order to stop the Basque Country and Navarre being "net beneficiaries".[79]

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.[80] 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.[81][82][83][84][85] Members of Ciudadanos have repeatedly taken part in violent attacks on Catalan targets[86][87][88][89], and far-right and ultranationalist groups are usually present in their demonstrations.[90][91] In one instance, a Telemadrid cameraman was assaulted, allegedly because he was mistaken for a member of Catalan broadcaster TV3. [92][93][94]


Citizens Headquarters in Barcelona, Spain.

The Cs outlined some policies for the 2015 general election:

  • Lower corporation tax to 25%[95]
  • Lower and harmonise VAT to a rate between 16% and 19%
  • Cap the top-rate of income tax at 40%
  • Increase research and development 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.[96]
  • Instate an earned income tax credit to fight in-work poverty
  • "Austrian Backpack"[96] transferable unemployment compensation where a worker accumulates funds throughout their 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

Spanish nationalism[edit]

Although the party defines itself as postnationalist, it has been deemed by a variety of sources (including peer-reviewed expert texts)[9] to profess a populist Spanish nationalist ideology.[24][25] In a party conference held on May 20, 2018 to present its platform España Ciudadana, Albert Rivera said in a hall filled with flags of Spain:

I do not see reds and blues, I see Spaniards. I do not see, as they say, urban people and rural people, I see Spaniards. I do not see young or old, I see Spaniards. I do not see workers and entrepreneurs, I see Spaniards. I do not see believers or agnostics, I see Spaniards. [...] So, compatriots, with Citizens, let's go for that Spain, let's feel proud of being Spaniards again.[97][98]


Alternative views and past membership[edit]

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.[99][100] Despite these revelations, Rivera denied having been a full member of PP and implied that he had voted for the PSOE until recently.[101] Past PP membership is common among Cs members. Former PSC activist Juan Carlos Girauta had joined the PP[102] and became a prolific contributor to conservative journalism from his Libertad Digital column,[103] before becoming a Citizens member and candidate in the 2014 European Election.[104] 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)[105] and lent credibility [106][107] to the now discredited book by Victor Farías[108] 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 [109] as a rebuttal to Farías' position. Farías was later sued for this[110] 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.[111] Those same elections carried news of at least five other former card-carrying Falange and/or España 2000 members.[112]

An altercation took place in Canet de Mar on May 21, 2018 between pro-independence local residents, who had planted yellow crosses on the beach to honor imprisoned and fugitive politicians, and anti-independence individuals who decided to remove said crosses. The altercation left at least three people wounded, including an 82-year-old man and a local CUP councilor who explicitly accused Citizens and Falange militants from across the whole region to be among the provocateurs. Citizens Member of Parliament Carlos Carrizosa dismissed the claim that either "councillors or party activists" from the party were involved in the incidents.[113][114][115] Four days later, and despite admonishments and warnings by President of the Parliament Roger Torrent, Carrizosa himself removed a yellow ribbon from the seats reserved for absent Cabinet ministers, forcing the President to suspend the entire session.[116]

Relations with the media[edit]

During the 2006 Catalan election campaign, the party's president Albert Rivera appeared completely naked in a poster in order to attract publicity to the party.[117][118] In the beginning, the party frequently complained about an alleged boycott on the part of Catalan media: in their opinion, the party was given too little airtime to present its views on the Catalan public television.[119]

2009 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.[120][121][122]

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.[123] 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.[124]

2019 European election[edit]

Albert Rivera has chosen his economic head to lead the bet of Citizens in the European elections of 2019. Luis Garicano, responsible for Economy of the party, will be the candidate for the elections to the European Parliament of May 2019. [125]


A credit was requested for party funding in 2015 to Banco Popular Español, up to 2017 an IBEX 35 member.[126][clarification needed]

In 2017 the Court of Audit found irregularities in the accounting books of several political groups, Citizens among them. In respect of Citizens the irregularities included illegal expenses for advertising on local television in 2015.[127][128]

Cs member Jorge Soler appeared in December 2017 on the TV3 debate Preguntes freqüents, during which journalist Beatriz Talegón addressed him about the 2.1 million euros spent by Cs in the 21-D Catalan election campaign—higher than the budget spent by any other party on that election. Talegón inquired about the sources of this funding. Soler replied that this ample budget could be ascribed to the "austerity" of their party. [129]

Electoral performance[edit]

Cortes Generales[edit]

Congress of Deputies
Election Seats Vote % Status Leader
0 / 350
46,313 (#13) 0.18 N/A Albert Rivera
40 / 350
3,514,528 (#4) 13.94 Opposition Albert Rivera
32 / 350
3,141,570 (#4) 13.06 Opposition Albert Rivera
0 / 350
Albert Rivera


Election Seats Leader
0 / 208
Albert Rivera
0 / 208
Albert Rivera
0 / 208
Albert Rivera

European Parliament[edit]

European Parliament
Election Seats Vote %
0 / 54
with Libertas
2 / 54
497,146 (#8) 3.16

Regional parliaments[edit]

Election Seats Vote % Status
Catalonia 2006
3 / 135
89,840 (#6) 3.03 Opposition
3 / 135
106,154 (#6) 3.39 Opposition
9 / 135
275,007 (#6) 7.57 Opposition
25 / 135
736,364 (#2) 17.90 Opposition
36 / 135
1,109,732 (#1) 25.35 Opposition


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External links[edit]

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