Meisler, Stanley
October 1977
Foreign Affairs;Oct77, Vol. 56 Issue 1, p190
This article examines democratic reform in Spain following the demise of Generalissimo Francisco France and his fascist state. On June 15, 1977, just a year and a half after the death of Franco, Spaniards elected a new, bicameral Cortes with the authority to write a constitution for Spain. It was the first freely contested parliamentary election in Spain since February 15, 1936, and it produced scenes that Franco would have abhorred: communists and socialists out in the streets; politicians exhorting Basques in Euskera, Catalans in Catalan, Galicians in Gallego, all forbidden languages a few years before; and newspapers belittling their government and its leader. Following four decades of repression and fear, more than 18 million Spaniards voted in a peaceful campaign that presented all points of view, no matter bow repulsive to the king, the government or the memory of Franco. The election, however, fulfilled only part of the promise that King Juan Carlos bad made in his speech to the U.S. Congress on June 2, 1976: the monarchy will ensure, under the principles of democracy ... the orderly access to power of distinct political alternatives, in accordance with the freely expressed will of the people. There was little, if any, chance of the king allowing orderly access to power to the Socialist Workers Party or any other leftist party if it bad won. Democracy in Spain was too fragile and unformed for such a step. The system must mature enough to allow orderly access to power to more than just the heirs of Franco--to become, in effect, fully democratic. This kind of change will be difficult and delicate, for there are still powerful forces in Spanish society, most notably the Army, working against the king's promise.


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