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|History of Spain|
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The Spanish transition to democracy (Spanish: Transición española a la democracia, IPA: [tɾansiˈθjon espaˈɲola a la ðemoˈkɾaθja]), known in Spain as the Transition (Spanish: La Transición, IPA: [la tɾansiˈθjon]) or the Spanish transition (Spanish: Transición española, IPA: [tɾansiˈθjon espaˈɲola]), is a period of modern Spanish history that started on 20 November 1975, the date of death of Francisco Franco, who had established a dictatorship after the victory of the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. However, historians disagree on the exact date the transition was completed: some say it ended after the 1977 general election, while others place it later, when the 1978 Constitution was approved. Others suggest it ended with the failure of the 1981 attempted coup d'état. At its latest, the Transition is said to have ended with the first peaceful transfer of executive power, after the victory of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in the 1982 general election.
Francisco Franco came to power in 1939, following the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), and ruled as a dictator until his death in 1975. In 1969, he designated Prince Juan Carlos, grandson of Spain's most recent king, Alfonso XIII, as his official successor. For the next six years, Prince Juan Carlos initially remained in the background during public appearances and seemed ready to follow in Franco's footsteps. Once in power as King of Spain, however, he facilitated the development of a constitutional monarchy 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 favoured a Spanish constitutional monarchy, as did many Spanish and international liberal capitalists. Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez's party, the UCD, received a plurality, but not an absolute majority, in both the June 1977 and March 1979 elections. To exercise power, the UCD had to form parliamentary coalitions with other political parties. The government spent much of its time from 1979 working to hold together the many factions within the party itself, as well as their coalitions. In 1980, the Suárez government had for the most part accomplished its goals of transition to democracy and lacked a further clear agenda. Many UCD members were fairly conservative and did not want further change. For example, a bill to legalize divorce caused much dissension inside the UCD, in spite of being supported by the majority of the populace. The UCD coalition fell apart.
The clashes among the several factions inside the party eroded Suárez's authority and his role as leader. The tension exploded in 1981: Suárez resigned as the head of government, and Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo was appointed, first to lead the new cabinet and later to the presidency of the UCD; social democrats led by Francisco Fernández Ordóñez defected from the coalition, later joining the PSOE, while Christian democrats left to form the People's Democratic Party.
While the democratic normalization had succeeded in convincing ETA (pm), the "political-military" faction of ETA, to abandon arms and enter parliamentary politics, it did not stop the continuation of terrorist attacks by ETA (m) ("ETA Military"; later simply "ETA") or to a lesser extent, GRAPO. Meanwhile, restlessness in various sections of the armed forces created fear of an impending military coup. The attempted coup known as 23-F, in which Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero led an occupation by a group of Guardia Civil of the Congress of Deputies on the afternoon of 23 February 1981 failed, but demonstrated the existence of insurrectionary elements within the army.
Calvo Sotelo dissolved parliament and called for elections in October 1982. In the 1979 election the UCD had achieved a plurality, but in 1982 it suffered a spectacular defeat with only 11 seats in the Parliament. The 1982 elections gave an absolute majority to the PSOE, which had already spent many years preparing its image of an alternative government.
At the 28th Congress of the PSOE (May 1979), secretary-general Felipe González resigned rather than ally with the strong revolutionary elements that seemed to dominate the party. A special congress was called that September, and realigned the party along more moderate lines, renouncing Marxism and allowing González to take charge once more.
Throughout 1982, the PSOE confirmed its moderate orientation and brought in the social democrats who had just broken from the UCD.
Winning an absolute majority in parliament in two consecutive elections (1982 and 1986), and exactly half the seats in 1989, allowed the PSOE to legislate and govern without establishing pacts with the other parliamentary political forces. In this way, the PSOE could make laws to achieve the goals of its political program, "el cambio" ("the change"). At the same time, the PSOE led many local and regional administrations. This comfortable political majority allowed the PSOE to give the country a long period of tranquility and stability, after the intense years of the transition.
Con respecto al final del proceso de la transición española, existen diferencias de opinión entre los especialistas de este periodo.