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Thursday, March 27, 2014 (read 504 times)
Adolfo Suarez (1932 - 2014)by Tyson
Adolfo Suárez, Spain’s first post-Franco prime minister, died last Sunday. He will be remembered for his effective leadership during Spain’s critical transition period which saw the country move out of a decades-long dictatorship and into a new era of constitutional democracy.
Despite being the son and grandson of Republicans and playing an instrumental role in dismantling Franco’s regime, Suárez joined the National Movement and went on to spend his early political career working within the structure of the dictatorship. After serving as the movement’s vice secretary general, he became the director of the national broadcasting network and remained in that post from 1965 to 1973. He was the deputy secretary general of the National Movement when Franco died in 1975.
Shortly after Franco’s death, King Juan Carlos appointed Suárez as prime minister. The new and relatively unknown leader with extensive experience in the Nationalist Movement was initially a disappointing pick in the eyes of many Spaniards eager for democracy after nearly 40 years of Franco rule. The king and the former nationalist official made an unlikely duo for championing democracy, however an ambitious Political Reform Law passed under their power would lead to a series of major democratic changes achieved within two and a half years. Francoist parliament was forced to liquidate itself (in a popular referendum held later, 94% of voters later approved of the group’s removal), democratic elections were held (Suárez himself was elected prime minister in 77’), and a constitution was drafted. Political prisoners were freed and political parties were legalized, including the controversial Communist Party. To achieve all this, Suárez overcame great challenges such as the threat of ETA terrorism, possible coup attempts by Franco loyalists, and disagreements on policy from socialists, communists and military officials.
Despite all the impressive achievements in such a short time, by 1979 tensions within his party, the loss of support from colleagues, and a failing economy were growing concerns that finally lead to his resignation in 1981. On announcing that he would be stepping down from his post, he stated that “my leaving is more beneficial for Spain than if I stayed” going on to insist that he did not want the new democracy to become simply a short lived “parenthesis” in the country’s history. One month later a coup attempt by Lieutenant Colonel Tejero in parliament nearly confirmed his fears.
Suarez continued playing a less visible role in politics throughout the 1980’s and retired in 1991.
Suarez will be remembered as one of the main architects of Spain’s transition to democracy. Considering that Spain had remained under a dictatorship from 1939, the efficiency and speed in which the country adopted, in the mid 1970’s, the foundation of a constitutional democracy still in place today is remarkable. His leadership, brilliant communication skills and selfless determination proved instrumental in uniting opposing political parties to bring about changes that reflected the popular consensus of contemporary Spain.
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