The transition to democracy
In the period preceding Franco’s death, Spain found itself facing the variegated problems posed by the accelerated development of the economy and society, to which the political authority responded by alternating periods of restraint with others of cautious liberalization. The dynamics of power continued for a long time to unfold through small groups: the traditional cadres from Falangism and other pro-regime forces were joined by exponents of the Catholic association Opus Dei, who were largely the architects of economic renewal. On the other hand, the internal opposition became more and more articulated. In large part it was made up of categories and personalities who had previously supported the regime: university students, teachers, clergymen, former ministers, etc. To these were added with greater combativity the workers organized in the Comisiones Obreras, clandestine unions which developed in parallel with the single official union, which managed to impose themselves on employers as an effective counterpart. The conflict expressed itself in repeated student unrest, in massive strikes, in demonstrations of dissent on the part of intellectuals. In addition to this there was a resurgence of revolutionary demands, often connected with separatist claims, pursued by armed minority groups. The repression, in a situation of international isolation, developed at various levels: from capital executions to commuted death sentences, to severe prison sentences against clandestine union leaders. For Spain 2019, please check philosophynearby.com.
In this context, the Franco regime set up a gradual solution to the institutional problem. In 1962 he was assigned for the first time the position of vice president, who would automatically take over the leadership of the country in the event of Franco’s incapacity or death. In 1966 there was the promulgation of an organic law by which the powers of the head of state were separated from those of the president of the government, chosen by the head of state and accountable only to him; in fact, however, the two powers continued to be combined in the person of Franco. In July 1969 the Cortes passed the law that restored the monarchy, designating Juan Carlos of Bourbon prince of Spain and Franco’s successor as head of state.
In 1974, with the appointment of Carlos Arias Navarro, Spain had a civilian at the head of the government for the first time since 1939. In that same year Juan Carlos, due to an infirmity of the now octogenarian Franco, took on the substitute post of head of state for 46 days. In January 1975, the approval of a law according to which all associations that had at least 25,000 members could carry out political activities under the supervision of the Movimiento, the only Francoist party, made it possible to build embryos of political parties. During Franco’s last illness, the designated prince was again interim head of state. He eventually became king soon after the dictator’s death on November 20, 1975.
The first cautious reform intentions resulted in the announcement of the establishment of a bicameral Parliament. Arias Navarro, too compromised with Francoism, was replaced in July 1976 by Adolfo Suárez González, who, despite being the general secretary of the Movimiento, was able to skillfully guide the liquidation of the old regime. Parties were legalized to the exclusion of those on the extreme left or in favor of separatism and political prisoners were gradually released. The establishment of a Congreso of 350 freely elected deputies, and of a Senado composed of 207 elected senators, as well as some others designated by the sovereign, was approved by the Cortes and also by a popular referendum. The democratization process proceeded, not without temporary stagnation.
On June 15, 1977, elections were held by universal suffrage, which saw the success of the UCD (Union de centro democrático) of Prime Minister Suárez and of the PSOE (Partido socialista obrero español). On December 6, 1978 a popular referendum approved the new Constitution with a large majority, even if the abstentions reached a very high level (33% of the electorate), especially in the Basque provinces where only a third of the members declared themselves in favor. The Constitution sanctions the role of parties and trade unions, the regional order and the full separation between State and Church, in a monarchical institutional framework.