Thursday, 27 December 2012

On this Day: 27th December 1978 – Spain becomes a democracy after 40 years of dictatorship

The death of Franco elevated Don Juan Carlos de Borbón to the throne. Until Franco’s death, Juan Carlos had remained in the background and seemed to follow the dictator’s plans of appointing him his successor as head of state with the title of King of Spain. Once in power as king, Juan Carlos facilitated the development of the current political system, as his father, Don Juan de Borbón, had advocated since 1946.

The transition was an ambitious plan that counted on ample support both within and outside of Spain. Western governments, headed by the United States, now favored a Spanish constitutional monarchy, as did many Spanish and international liberal capitalists.

Nevertheless, the transition proved challenging, as the spectre of the Civil War (1936–1939) still haunted Spain. Francoists on the far right enjoyed considerable support within the Spanish Army, and people of the left distrusted a king who owed his position to Franco.
The realization of the democratic project required that the leftist opposition restrain its own most radical elements from provocation, and that the army refrain from intervening in the political process on behalf of Francoist elements within the existing government.

Juan Carlos began his reign without leaving the confines of Franco's legal system. As such, he swore fidelity to the Principles of the Movimiento Nacional, the sole legal party of the Franco era; took possession of the crown before the Francoist Cortes Generales; and respected the Ley Orgánica del Estado (Organic Law of the State) for the appointment of his first head of government. Only in his speech before the Cortes did he indicate his support for a transformation of the Spanish political system.

Photo Legacy: Making your memories last forever

Research courtesy of Wikipedia

Images courtesy of The US National Archives under The Commons Agreement on Flickr

Photograph of President William J. Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, 04/29/1993


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