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Important features of Franco’s period after the transition

Esercizi di Comparative History of political system su Important features of Franco’s period after the transition elaborati dal publisher sulla base di appunti personali e frequenza delle lezioni del professore Orsina. Scarica il file con le esercitazioni in formato PDF!

Esame di Comparative History of political system docente Prof. G. Orsina



Important Features of Franco’s Period Survive the Transition to Democracy in 3

Spain Pag.

“apparently self-contradictory phrase, […] become a reality” (Tusell, Javier. «SPAIN: from

dictatorship to democracy, 1939 to democracy.» Pag: 279), a reality that distinguishes itself for

the mixture of government proposals and the desire to modify the institutional structure. For

all these peculiarities, the Spanish model of transition towards democracy was considered as

the best one and as a pathway to follow during the third wave of democratization.


Franco’s will, Francoist politicians, authoritarian institutions and laws. These are all

elements which survived during the transition. These are all key factors which transformed

their own nature preserving a despotic origin. In this way, some features of the authoritarian

past were dragged in the young democracy which was the result of a top-down process. The

political turmoil that affected Spain in the early 1970s, led to a new debate among the Francoist

sectors. Despite his advanced age and his problematic health conditions, Franco still

represented the glue of the Spanish society and political classes. The Caudillo was aware of his

strong power and his stable legitimacy, in fact he tried to control the succession of the power

after his death. He selected both the institutional structure and the political élites who would

have to govern after his demise. Following this pattern, Franco succeeded to preserve his

influence even if it was physically absent. Imposing his view even after his demise, it can be

surely stated that he died as a dictator.

To some extent, the transition started before 1975 and this is evident in the restoration of

the monarchy. Was Franco himself who wanted to come back to the previous regime but he

did not indicate the legitimate pretender to the throne as his successor. Why? The reason is

simple. The aged dictator wanted to ensure continuation and perpetuation of his values and the

only way to pursue it was through the appointment of a worshipper. The choice came down to

“Juan Carlos who was the grandson of (Hitchcock, William I.

the last king, Alfonso XIII” The

Struggle For Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent 1945 to the Present. Pag:

273). The young Rey was selected for his proximity with the regime, in fact, Juan Carlos grew

up during the Franco’s period and he was inevitable influenced by it. This was a strategic and

with the aim to “reassure the hard-liners in the Franco’s

political choice entourage that he could

place after Franco’s death” (Hitchcock,

be the relied upon to maintain the regime in William I.

The Struggle For Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent 1945 to the Present.

Pag: 273). The officiality emerged in 1969, year in which Juan Carlos was presented in front

Important Features of Franco’s Period Survive the Transition to Democracy in 4

Spain Pag.

of the Cortes promising loyalty to the regime. In the complexity of this scenario, it is evident

“represented what might be called a legitimate democratic option in waiting,

that the Prince

but one that nonetheless still had an overlap with past institutions” (Tusell, Javier. «SPAIN:

from dictatorship to democracy, 1939 to democracy.» Pag: 273).


The Spanish dictator decided not only the return to a monarchic regime but he also

appointed the first Prime Ministers in a both direct and indirect way. Conscious of the

deterioration of his health, “the leader delegated greater responsibilities to his close confidant

and adviser Luis Carrero Blanco” (Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle For Europe: The

Turbulent History of a Divided Continent 1945 to the Present. Pag: 273) who played the role

as chief of the government during 1973 until his assassination planned by the ETA (terrorist

and regional group), occurred in the same year. His short but intense period as a Prime Minister

was undermined by three major challenges. The first one came from the working classes which

tried to intimidate the stability in the Spanish society though different strikes. The source of

the second threat was the nationalism of a violent group which wanted to achieve the

independence of the Basque region using non-democratic measures. The third obstacle was

represented by the staggering of the proximity of the Franco’s regime with one important

institution, the Catholic Church. Due to these challenges, the regime experienced a period of

crisis which culminated with the murder of Carrero Blanco.

In this general turmoil, an hard-line was needed and this necessity was translated in the

appointment of the “Interior Minister Carlos Arias Navarro as the new head of government”

(Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle For Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent

1945 to the Present. Pag: 274). His alleged iron hand would have to be the solution of the

problems that were affecting Spain during the 1970s. Arias Navarro begun the Spanish Prime

Minister when Franco was still alive but the measures adopted by him were not very

‘Francoist’. The Prime Minister in charge from 1973 to 1976 weakened two main pillars of the

authoritarian regime which are the army and the resoluteness of the regime itself, though the

facilitation of the formation of rivalrous entities such as the political and labour unions. The

Navarro’s appointment came from a decision

legitimacy of Arias taken by the Caudillo


Important Features of Franco’s Period Survive the Transition to Democracy in 5

Spain Pag.

“When Franco finally died, on 20 th November 1975, the survival of Francoism looked

increasingly in doubt” (Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle For Europe: The Turbulent History

of a Divided Continent 1945 to the Present. Pag: 274). The passing of Franco was the right

time for the Rey Juan Carlos to emerge. Immediately a question tormented the political élite:

will the successor designed by the Caudillo continue to preserve the authoritarian values of the

regime or will he be the precursor and the promoter of a new era based on the transition to

democracy? History has been made and Spain became a democracy. But what did happen

during the transition? The first political decision that the Rey had to take was to nominate a

new Prime Minister after the resignation of Arias Navarro in 1976. Franco elected the Rey in

1969 and the Rey elected Adolfo Suárez as the new head of the government in 1976. This is a

clear evidence of the permanence of the authoritarian practices because the chief of the

executive was, once again, appointed, rather than elected by the Spanish population. Power

remained concentrated rather than dispersed. People had no choice, they had to wait but, in the

meanwhile, they were looking for this new interesting protagonist of the Spanish transition.

Suárez could be defined as the less Francoist and the last opponent of the regime. The new

Prime Minister was willing and able to drive the country during the process of democratization

with a simple strategy: “making normal in politics what was already considered normal in the

street” (Tusell, Javier. «SPAIN: from dictatorship to democracy, 1939 to democracy.» Pag:

277). Suárez reforms affected different sectors of the political and social scenario. First, he

underlined the necessity of a new electoral law based on the direct election of the parliament.

Second, he promoted the legalization of all the political parties, even the parties that were

previously considered anti-system as the Communist Party (PCE).

Basing on this demanding succession in power, it is evident the political influence of the

authoritarianism of the previous regime and, even more, the permanence of the Francoist rules.

universally known as “Francoism without

Not without reason, this period was Franco. Suárez

was ideally suited for reforming the Franco regime from the inside out”. (Encarnación, Omar

G. «Justice in Time of Transition: Lessons from the Iberian Experience.» Pag: 16). In other

words, the legitimation of the transition to democracy came from both the maintenance of the

Francoist law and the non-dismissal of the Francoist government. These are only the political

elements in which the Francoist heredity is evident.

Important Features of Franco’s Period Survive the Transition to Democracy in 6

Spain Pag.


Beyond the appearances, Spanish transition has also hidden aspects that demonstrate

the conditioning from the past, the continuity with the regime and the inability of the citizens

The so called “proceso

to easily accept a sudden and drastic change in their daily life.


costituyente” in the year after the Franco’s death though the main instrument of direct

democracy, the referendum. But why Spanish citizens were called to give their own opinion

after more than 30 years of impositions from a centralized power? The transition started with

government known as “Ley

moderated reforms promoted by the Suárez para la Reforma

What do these laws prescribe? In spite of their content, what is necessary to underline

Política”. to the population as “Fundamental Laws” which have

is that they were promoted and presented

the legal basis during the Franco’s regime. This referendum was approved by more than


81% of the Spanish voters but this result indicates the desire to go ahead looking back. People

approved these reforms because they belong to the Francoist laws. In other words, the outcome

of this referendum was a society desirous of modernity but still a Francoist society, un-ready

to accept a radical change.

In addition of the political and institutional aspects of the transition, it is important to

strong control of the Franco’s regime did not die

underline that the with him, in fact, several

authoritarian practices remained alive especially during the first period of the transition. Three

fields were affected by the past habits. Firstly, the working class movement suffered from a

roughly reaction under the Arias Navarro’s government. “Navarro expressed his inflexibility

arresting and prosecuting of worker’s leaders under the anti-terrorist (José

decree-law” Maria

Marin Arce. «Key Factors to Understand the Spanish Transition.» Pag: 48). This policy of

repression using the public resources, was not so different from the repression during the

dictatorship with the Brigada Político Social and the Guardia Civil. Secondly, the political

practices used by the appointed government were not always democratic. Even if all the parties

were legalized under the Suárez government, the PCE was politically isolated. This result

underlines a sort of continuity with the previous regime with an important difference: during

the dictatorship, opposition parties were formally excluded, instead Suárez excluded the PCE

using a political strategy. Thirdly, an important role was played by the military power and by

the means of communication which are the main tools used also during the dictatorship. It

could be said that in the transitional period, Spain preserved its character as vigilant, becoming




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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in scienze politiche e delle relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2018-2019

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher zasack06 di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Comparative History of political system e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Guido Carli - Luiss o del prof Orsina Giovanni.

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