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Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Spain

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 10 July 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Spain, 10 July 2008, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Period of democratic transition: 1975–78
Pro-democracy civic movement: not present

General Francisco Franco took power in Spain after his right-wing Nationalist forces defeated the left-leaning republican government in the country's 1936–39 civil war. He subsequently restored the monarchy, exercising authoritarian rule as regent until his death in November 1975. Opposition parties were banned under his regime, and the governing National Movement was the only legal political grouping.

Franco's handpicked successor as head of state, Prince Juan Carlos, was proclaimed king in 1975 and expressed his desire for democracy and reform. He and Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez, Franco's successor as head of the National Movement, used the existing political structure to bring down the old regime and erect a democratic system. A Law for Political Reform was passed by the parliament in 1976, leftist opposition parties were legalized, and the first free elections in decades were held in 1977. Suarez's newly created Union of the Democratic Center party won a parliamentary majority, and he was elected prime minister. A new constitution was approved by referendum the following year. Although the new charter completed Spain's major democratic reforms, the country continued to face terrorism by the Basque separatist group ETA and pressure for greater autonomy in other regions. In 1981, Juan Carlos was able to thwart a coup attempt by right-wing officers opposed to the decentralization process. The Spanish Socialist Workers Party took power in elections the following year, confirming Spain's transformation into a multiparty democracy.

Successive left-leaning and conservative governments have since coped with Basque terrorism and other internal problems without deviating from the democratic order established in 1978.

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