Spain is not a place where you would expect to find much of a conservative movement. The country's president, Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, is a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, which is a party that -- if you are a conservative -- is as bad as it sounds. Under his administration, which began in 2004, he has legalized same-sex marriage, made abortion more accessible, withdrawn Spanish troops from the Iraq war, negotiated with terrorist organizations, and saw the Madrid subway bombed by terrorists.
But even the easy-going and left-leaning Spanish people are beginning to say that "enough is enough." Zapatero has said he will not stand for re-election in 2012. The center-right party, the Popular Party, has gained seats in the national parliament. It current stands at about 155 seats, and needs only 170 for an outright majority. With unemployment in Spain in excess of 20 percent, many observers believe the PP will achieve that majority in 2012.
All of this is encouraging the tiny but growing conservative movement in Spain. I am in Spain this week and next and have had a chance to meet with some of the movement's leaders. One of them is Elio Gallego Garcia, the director of the Instituto de Estudios de la Familia (Institute of Studies of the Family), which is associated with the Universidad San Pablo, one of the few (relatively) conservative colleges in Spain. Garcia tells me that "the people of Spain are more conservative than its leaders." He says part of the reason for this political reality is that the Popular Party has no primary elections, so it is difficult for more conservative candidates and conservative ideas to get a fair hearing in the party. "The PP started out very conservative and has become more and more moderate," he said.
Nonetheless, the PP is beginning to win elections. Not only has it made the gains I mentioned above in the national parliament, it is beginning to win or at least poll strongly in local elections, too. "The economis crisis is motivating many to realize that Zapatero's ideas are flawed," Garcia said.
All of this is motivating Garcia and others in the movement. A pro-life rally in 2009 attracted more than 1-million people to the streets of Madrid. The event was one of the largest such rallies of its kind ever seen in Europe, and it happened because of the cooperation of more than 200 pro-life groups across Europe, spearheaded by unprecedented coordination by Spain's conservative groups.
"That event was important," Garcia said. "It told us that many people still care about these issues. It gave many conservatives hope that change was possible."
For more information about Garcia's group, go to www.uspceu.es/if. In the days ahead, I'll be telling you about my meetings with other conservative and evangelical leaders in Spain.