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On This Day – 27 December 1978 – Spain Becomes A Democracy

October 6, 2019


The date, the 27th of December 1978. On this day Spain became a democracy. On February the 16th, 1936, the popular front
left-wing coalition won Spanish elections, beating a bitterly opposed right-wing coalition
by a narrow margin. On the 18th of July prominent army officer
Francisco Franco joined a planned coup in which he was meant to take control of Spain’s
African army. The coup failed in its objective of decisively
removing Spain’s left-wing government, and led to the beginning of the Spanish civil
war. Many of the nationalist side’s leaders were
killed during the war, allowing Franco to fill a leadership void and become, after winning
the civil war in 1939, Spain’s dictator. Franco designated Spain a monarchy in 1947,
but did not appoint a monarch, instead enjoying many privileges of a king without taking such
a title, ruling as king instead of the exiled King Alfonso the 13th who had fled Spain in
1931. Franco’s regime was authoritarian but not
strictly fascist – it was staunchly traditional and conservative, and although shared many
facets of fascistic thought, was not similarly revolutionary. Aware of his advancing years, Franco selected
Juan Carlos, Alfonso the 13th’s grandson, as his heir, growing close to the prince in
the late 60s and 70s. Franco died on the 20th of November 1975,
with Juan Carlos ascending to the throne eight days later. He was expected to continue Franco’s nationalistic,
authoritarian regime, but instead immediately began a process of democratisation, appointing
a prime minister in 1976 who the following year became the first democratically elected
prime minister of Spain in over 40 years. Juan Carlos oversaw the formulation of a constitution
protecting democratic rights and processes which was ratified after a referendum on 6
December 1978 and was signed by Juan Carlos on 27 December 1978, effectively ending the
transition from Franco’s regime to democratically ruled Spain. Juan Carlos continued to rule democratic Spain,
surviving an attempted Francoist coup in 1981, until 2014, when he abdicated in favour of
his son, Felipe the 6th. Everything becomes history. Until next time, goodbye.

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