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The General Election on 15 June 1977 supposed the definitive end of the Franco dictatorship, and answered the urges for democracy in Spanish society.

The Law of Political Reform was republished in December 1976 which dismantled the dictatorial system and encouraged a return to the ballot boxes, approved in the new Constitution two years later. The first free elections since February 1936 at the dying ends of the second Spanish republic.


Juan Carlos I and Franco – archive photo

Something more than 80 candidates came forward to stand, although only twelve obtained representation in Congress. With the mythical slogan ‘Freedom without anger’ the UCD of Suárez gained 165 seats, ahead of PSOE and Felipe González who obtained 118 seats, above the PCE communist party with 20, four more than the Popular Alliance from Manuel Fraga. Below but also gaining parliamentary representation – Democratic Pact for Cataluña with 11, PNV Basque Nationalist party with 8.

Historical names for the future, Alfonso Guerra, Miguel Herrero de Miñón, Miquel Roca or Jordi Pujol.
These politicians were joined by new cultural leaders: Dolores Ibárruri ‘La Pasionaria’ or poet Rafael Alberti, who made the transition possible because ‘there was a lot of common sense’ signalled Ramón Tamames, one of the leaders of the PCE who obtained a seat in Congress on the orders of Santiago Carrillo.

‘We were not professional politicians; we were eager with a democratic vocation. To enter politics we used our own money, nothing like what we see today. We came with a sense of generosity and to fight for liberty in agreement’, noted Juan Barranco who obtained the seat for Madrid in the first election.

The death of Franco allowed the lights of democracy to shine. But calling an election after such a long time required mutual understanding between the fledgling political groups, and hence the dramatic step was made.

Alfonso Suárez (1932-2014)

Suárez held several government posts during the late Francoist regime. He became the Minister Secretary General of the National Movement (Movimiento Nacional), a body that served as the sole political party in Spain for 38 years, a period that extended beyond the death of Franco in November 1975. At a rally just a month before Franco’s death, Suárez was queried by the ageing Caudillo on the political future of Spain and told him frankly that the Movement would not likely long survive Franco and that democratization was inevitable. Suárez was appointed as the 138th Prime Minister of Spain by King Juan Carlos on 3 July 1976, a move opposed by leftists and some centrists given his Franco history. As a nationalist, he was chosen by the monarch to lead the country towards a democratic, parliamentary monarchy without annoying the powerful conservative factions (especially the military) in the nation.

Juan Carlos 1 (1938 -)

Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias, born 5 January 1938) reigned as King of Spain from 1975 until his abdication in 2014.

Juan Carlos is the grandson of Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain prior to the monarchy’s abolition in 1931 and the subsequent declaration of the Second Spanish Republic. Juan Carlos was born in Rome, Italy, during his family’s exile. Following his victory in the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Generalísimo Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, took over the government of Spain and in 1947, Spain’s status as a monarchy was affirmed and a law was passed allowing Franco to choose his successor. Juan Carlos’s father, Don Juan, was the fourth child of Alfonso, who had renounced his claims to the throne in January 1941. Don Juan was seen by Franco to be too liberal and in 1969, was bypassed in favour of Juan Carlos as Franco’s successor and next head of state.

Juan Carlos spent his early years in Italy and came to Spain in 1947 to continue his studies. After completing his secondary education in 1955, he began his military training and entered the General Military Academy at Zaragoza. Later, he attended the Naval Military School, the General Academy of the Air, and finished his tertiary education at the University of Madrid. In 1962, Juan Carlos married Princess Sophia of Greece in Athens, daughter of King Paul. The couple had two daughters and a son together: Elena, Cristina, and Felipe. Due to Franco’s declining health, Juan Carlos first began periodically acting as Spain’s head of state in the summer of 1974. Franco died in November the following year and Juan Carlos became king on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco’s death, the first reigning monarch since 1931; although his exiled father did not formally renounce his claims to the throne in favour of his son until 1977.

Expected to continue Franco’s legacy, Juan Carlos, however, soon after his accession introduced reforms to dismantle the Franco regime and begin the Spanish transition to democracy. This led to the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 in a referendum, which re-established a constitutional monarchy. In 1981, Juan Carlos played a major role in preventing a coup that attempted to revert Spain to Franco government in the King’s name.

Santiago Carrillo

Santiago José Carrillo Solares (18 January 1915 – 18 September 2012) was a Spanish politician who served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) from 1960 to 1982. He later came to embrace Eurocommunism and democratic socialism.

Torcuato Álvarez Miranda (1915-1980)

Don Torcuato Fernández Miranda y Hevia, 1st Duke of Fernandez-Miranda, Grandee of Spain, KOGF (10 November 1915 – 19 June 1980) was a Spanish lawyer and politician who played important roles in both the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and in the Spanish transition to democracy.

Manuel Fraga

Manuel Fraga Iribarne – 23 November 1922 – 15 January 2012) was a Spanish professor and politician who was the founder of the People’s Party. Fraga was the Minister of Information and Tourism between 1962 and 1969, the Spanish Ambassador to the United Kingdom between 1973 and 1975, Minister of the Interior in 1975, Deputy Prime Minister between 1975 and 1976, President of the People’s Alliance/People’s Party between 1979 and 1990 and President of the Xunta of Galicia between 1990 and 2005. He has also been both a Deputy in the Congress and a Senator.

Fraga’s career as one of the key political figures in Spain straddles both General Francisco Franco’s dictatorial regime and the subsequent transition to representative democracy. He served as the President of the Xunta of Galicia from 1990 to 2005 and as a Senator until November 2011. Fraga is also one of the Fathers of the Constitution.

Fraga authorized the execution of political prisoners under the Francoist regime. A notable case is the execution of communist leader Julián Grimau, whom he called “that little gentleman” in a press conference when asked about his detention and death sentence. His death sentence caused a large controversy outside of Spain. Grimau was executed by firing squad in 1963. Fraga never publicly apologized or expressed regret for Grimau’s execution.

Between 1962 and 1969 he served as Minister for Information and Tourism, and played a major role in the revitalization of Spanish tourist industry, leading a campaign under the slogan Spain is different!. On 8 March 1966, he attempted to dispel fears of a nuclear accident after the Palomares hydrogen bombs incident by swimming in the contaminated water with the American ambassador, Angier Biddle Duke.

Felipe González (1942 – )

Felipe González Márquez (born 5 March 1942) is a Spanish social-democratic politician. He was the General Secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) from 1974 to 1997. To date, he remains the longest-serving Prime Minister of Spain, after having served four successive mandates from 1982 to 1996. His ascension is generally seen as the last step in the path to Spain’s re-instatement of democracy which commenced with the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. After losing power to Partido Popular’s José María Aznar in 1996, he briefly continued to lead the PSOE but was ousted following a controversy regarding illegal actions his government had taken in the struggle against ETA.
By the time of Franco’s death, González had become the most prominent figure among the left-wing of the democratic opposition to the regime, and played a critical role, along with then serving prime minister Adolfo Suárez, in the Spanish transition to democracy. During the Suárez government, General and vice president Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado asked González not to raise the debate of the Civil War and Franquist repression until the death of those of his generation.

In the first democratic general election after Franco’s death, held in 1977, the PSOE became the second most-voted for party, and this served González to appear as a young, active and promising leader. However, he did not win the 1979 election and had to wait for 1982 and the dissolution of the Union of the Democratic Centre party to come into office.

In the 1982 general election held on 28 October 1982, the PSOE gained 48.3% of the vote and 202 deputies (out of 350). On 2 December González became President of the Government of Spain, with Alfonso Guerra as his deputy. His election was met with tremendous expectation of change amongst Spaniards. Under his government universal and free education provision was extended from age 14 to age 16, university education was reformed and expanded, the social security system was extended and a partial legalisation of abortion became law for the first time, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. González pushed for liberal reforms and a restructuring of the economy.

Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado

Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado (April 30, 1912 – December 15, 1995) was a Spanish Army General, 1st Marquis of Gutierrez Mellado, Honorary Captain General, First Vice-President of the Government for Defence Affairs, 1st Minister of Defence in Spain.[2]

Vicente Enrique y Tarancón

Vicente Enrique y Tarancón (14 May 1907 – 28 November 1994), known in his country as Cardenal Tarancón or Tarancón, was a Spanish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Madrid from 1971 to 1983, and as president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference from 1971 to 1981, during the difficult years of the Spanish transition to democracy. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1969.



Raffaella Carrá

No mobile phones or internet, in Spain mouth to mouth in cafés and when walking were the Facebook and Twitter at the time.
Reading books became popular as many had been previously banned, although the censure was not overturned until April 1977.
Spanish cultural life revolved around museums, film and music festivals with a growth in theatre and a greater international outlook with the return of the exiled; Rafael Alberti or the Picasso work ‘Guernika’

That summer temperatures only reached an average of 22 in August and on the only TVE television station the US production of ‘Roots’ was being shown in Spain when at that time TV advertising was limited to only 30 minutes a day

Wages – average 22,000 pesetas and minimum 13,200
A stick of bread cost 2 pesetas and a TV some 25,000 and a square metre in the center of Madrid was around 28,000 pesetas
Unemployment in June was only 620,800, up 100,000 on 1976
For two and a half million pesetas you could by a flat with two bedrooms and parking and to rent for a month 15,000 pesetas
Cars – in 1977 the average car was a Renault 5 which cost 132,000 pesetas – in Spain then, one car for every six inhabitants
Cash in Circulation was some 878 billion pesetas and now we see more than 60 billion €
A total of 7.3 million children were attending school, half a million were university students and only a third were women.

Western invasion – Bingo, beehives, bell bottom trousers and chequered shirts dominated the streets and in the discos all you ever heard was the Italian singer Raffaella Carrá who became a popular television presenter – a Spanish Cilla Black – who would phone a viewer at random who had sent their phone numbers previously and if the viewer answered the phone with ‘Hola Raffaella!’ they would win a prize.

All films were dubbed as legacy from Franco’s censors which resulted in experts dubbing the latest US giants ‘The Last Tango in Paris’ , ‘Star Wars’ and Saturday Night Fever
The Eurovision Song Contest was popular despite Spain coming last in 1977 and Graffiti came to call

Noted progress is the increased visibility of women – men had to show ‘notoriety’ – pay for a house for his lover – women could only file for divorce when they were accused of adultery.
In 1978 contraception became legal, the right to divorce and equality between children, start of the bases of a new Judicial order