Spanish democracy turns 40

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Spanish democracy turns 40

Spanish democracy turns 40
Spanish democracy turns 40

On 15 June 1977, 40 years ago, Spain held its first democratic election since February 1936. Between these two dates, there had been a civil war and a dictatorship, under the rule of Francisco Franco. The 1977 election made history: the majority of Spanish citizens supported centre-left or centre-right parties, showing that they preferred moderate ideologies.

Our country’s transition to democracy was exemplary, as it was characterised by peace and concord. Many countries around the world followed our example. The Moncloa Pact passed by the Constituent Cortes, showed how a society could reach consent when fighting for democracy and progress.

The election unfolded smoothly, free of incidents, drawing almost 80% voters. It was the first vote for most Spaniards. Victory went to Unión de Centro Democrático (Union of the Democratic Centre, UCD), with 34.61% votes and 165 seats in Congress. The party’s leader, Adolfo Suárez, became President of the Government of Spain.

The opposition party was PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, or Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), led by Felipe González. It was a big surprise to everyone that it got 29% votes and 118 seats in Congress.

The Communist Party of Spain (Partido Comunista de España, PCE), led by Santiago Carrillo and legalised that year, got 9.38% votes and 20 seats, whereas Manuel Fraga’s Alianza Popular (People’s Alliance, AP) got 8.33% and 16 seats.

The Constituent Cortes finished their job on 2 January 1979, having completed the Transition, drafted a constitution and called for a general election. The Spanish Constitution went to be approved in a referendum on 6 December 1978.

In the 40 years since the election of 1977, Spain has made real headway. Our GDP is 16 times larger and our per capita income is 12 times higher. Schooling went from 80% to 100% and social spending rose from 15% to 72%, with major improvements in our pension system. In addition, we become an active, essential player in Europe, after being isolated for so many years.