Transition in Spain

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In Spain, Transición is the transition from Franquism to a parliamentary monarchy of the western model. It is usually understood to mean the time between Francisco Franco's death in November 1975 and the political turning point of 1982, when the socialist party PSOE, which was banned during the dictatorship, came into power as the new election winner. The failed coup attempt on February 23, 1981 and King Juan Carlos I's televised address for the democratic process on February 24, 1981 put an end to the Franquists' hopes of remaining in political and effective power.


Francisco Franco, 1969

In mid-October 1975 Franco, who had been showing increasingly clear signs of senility , fell ill with the flu and shortly afterwards suffered three heart attacks. For weeks the dictator lay in agony ; the electroencephalogram had long since stopped showing any brain activity.  Franco's death was not announced until November 20, 1975 (known as " 20-N " in Spain ) - the 39th anniversary of the death of José Antonio Primo de Rivera . In his will he admonished the Spaniards that the enemies of Spain and Christian civilization would not rest and that they, the Spaniards, should rally around the future king of Spain and preserve the unity of Spain.

Aftermath of Franquism

Francoism did not end with Franco's death. The relevant positions of the Francoist state, the National Council, the Royal Council and the Cortes, were occupied by its supporters. The leeway of King Juan Carlos I , who was enthroned in the same year 1975 and delivered a courageous speech from the throne, in which he stated that “a free and modern society requires everyone to participate in the decision-making centers, the media, the different ones, was correspondingly small Levels of education and control of national prosperity ”. He saw himself, as he went on, as "King of all Spaniards, guardian of the constitution and fighter for justice".


Transitioning Spain was not an easy task for Juan Carlos. Initially, Prime Minister Carlos Arias Navarro - who expressly stated that he wanted to continue Franquism - and his government remained in office (Arias had been in office since the turn of the year 1973/74). Juan Carlos saw himself between hammer and anvil, as it were: the left and the center, which urged him to a radical break with the old regime, and Guardia Civil , Military and Movimiento Nacional , which let the king know only small reforms, but by no means one wanting to contribute to the complete restructuring of the state.

In the face of mass demonstrations and bloody clashes that culminated in the Vitoria massacre , Arias finally submitted his resignation at the king's insistence. The new Prime Minister was Adolfo Suárez , General Secretary of the Movimiento Nacional. It is true that he was a man of the old regime, and the reform forces were initially very disappointed. But it was precisely in this capacity, as a man who was trusted by the pillars of the system, that Suárez was able to take the decisive step. He described his program as follows: “The Crown has expressed its wish to transform Spain into a modern democracy. It is my firm resolve to serve. "

In 1976 the formation of parties was legalized again in the course of a reform of the criminal law. At the center of the reform initiated by Suárez, however, was a new constitution that transformed the Cortes, which had previously been a state parliament, into a general, free, equal and secretly elected bicameral parliament. Juan Carlos' part in these reforms consisted not least in the fact that he stood behind his prime minister, threw his own reputation on the scales for him and promoted the re-establishment of the Spanish state with the old pillars of the system. In 1978 the Spanish population adopted the constitution with an 88% majority , which made Spain a parliamentary monarchy. Among other things, the right to vote for women , which could not be exercised during the Franco regime, was renewed. Adolfo Suárez became the first prime minister of democratic Spain.

Last rise of the dictatorship

On February 23, 1981, members of the army mourning the Franco dictatorship attempted a military coup under General Milans del Bosch and the paramilitary police force Guardia Civil under Colonel Antonio Tejero . Tejero stormed parliament, where Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo was about to be elected head of government. Members of Parliament were held hostage. With the determined appearance of the king as commander in chief of the army, who clearly spoke out in favor of democracy in a televised address broadcast nationwide and pulled the military on his side, the coup was thwarted that night. This date is referred to by the Spaniards as the " 23-F ".

The most important successor organization to the historical Falange, the “Fuerza Nueva” (later “Frente Nacional”) headed by Blas Piñar has not played a role since the 1980s, not least because the Partido Popular successfully covered the spectrum on the right of the PSOE and the successor organizations “with identified with the inept and hated Franco regime. [...] Even those who supported Franco's regime had to admit that a political, social and economic revolution had taken place in Spain over the past few decades and that the Franco regime could not be resurrected. "

coping with the past

In particular, the Spanish Civil War and the political cleansing of the post-war years were hardly discussed in the Spanish public until the 1990s; Increased interest has been evident since around the turn of the millennium . The film Land and Freedom in the 1990s provided a broad-based impetus to come to terms with the civil war of 1936 . The mass graves ( fosas comunes ) from the time during and after the civil war have been opened since around the turn of the millennium . It was controversial that in numerous places the Falangist arrow bundle and on street signs the name of the dictator can be seen. In the course of the next few years all streets were renamed and statues were removed from the public space. In the first half of 2005, at the instigation of the PSOE government, two remaining Franco statues were removed from Madrid and Guadalajara, which were accompanied by protests by conservative opponents and incidents. Another political point of contention is the question of how to deal with the corpse of Franco and the Falange leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera , as well as the funeral monument Valle de los Caídos in the Sierra de Guadamara near Madrid, where both are buried. In 2007, the Ley de Memoria Histórica banned political events at this location, which until then had always taken place on the death anniversary of Franco and Primo de Rivera ( 20-N ). On August 24, 2018, the government of the Social Democratic Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez decided to reburial Franco's body. His descendants announced legal action to prevent the reburial. These remained unsuccessful, the reburial took place on October 24, 2019 at the El Pardo-Mingorrubio cemetery in a suburb of Madrid.

See also


  • Walther L. Bernecker : Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy. Interpretations, revisions, coming to terms with the past , VfZ 52 (2004) (PDF; 6.3 MB), pp. 693–710.
  • Julia Macher: repression for the sake of reconciliation? The historical-political examination of the civil war and Franco dictatorship in the first years of the peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy in Spain (1975–1978) , Bonn / Bad Godesberg 2002, ISBN 3-89892-138-7 . (History Discussion Group, 48)
  • Javier Tusell : Transición a la Democracia (España 1975–1982) , ISBN 978-84-670-2558-3 (Spanish)

Web links

Commons : Transition in Spain  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Rill, Geschichte 2/2001, p. 38.
  2. On the thirtieth recurrence of this date in 2005 see Walter Haubrich, Als Spanien standstand , in: Die Zeit , No. 47, November 17, 2005.
  3. ^ Franco's testament in Wikisource (span.).
  4. a b c Karin Schneider-Ferber, in: Geschichte 2/2001, p. 40 f.
  5. ^ Jad Adams: Women and the Vote. A world history. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2014, ISBN 978-0-19-870684-7 , page 441
  6. Laqueur: Fascism Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow , p. 177
    f.Pulsómetro: 30 Aniversario Muerte De Franco. In: Cadena SER . November 17, 2005, archived from the original on September 27, 2007 ; Retrieved December 4, 2018 (Spanish, survey on the image of the Franco dictatorship in Spain 30 years after Franco's death).
  7. On the subject of the Spanish coming to terms with the past during and after the Transición Julia Machter: Repression for the sake of reconciliation? Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (PDF; 504 kB) as well as a Deutschlandradio interview with Walther L. Bernecker and a world interview with Paul Preston, see also here .
  8. A summary of the film can be found here .
  9. Ute Müller: Franco is still dividing Spain. In: Die Welt , November 19, 2005.
  10. On the events in Madrid in 2005.
  11. Press article on Franco's reburial, in:, from October 21, 2019 [1]