Fernández-Miranda, Torcuato

Fernández-Miranda, Torcuato
b. 1915, Gijón (Asturias); d. 1980,
   London
   University professor and politician
   Fernández-Miranda was a key figure in the democratizing process which followed Franco's death in 1975. He designed the master plan which facilitated the legal transition from dictatorship to democracy. In a very apt metaphor that process of transition has been likened to a dramatic play in which the King was the producer, Suárez the main actor, and Fernández-Miranda the playwright. Fernández-Miranda is often described as an enigmatic figure. There are undoubtedly some very mystifying contradictions in his biography. Before 1975, both his political activity and his writings convey the impression of a complex and reactionary politician, loyal to the dictatorship, and always inclined to oppose any liberalizing attempt during the Franco years. And yet, when the dictator died, Fernández-Miranda was to provide the formula that made democracy possible in Spain. This is the great paradox in his life, a paradox which until now nobody has explained convincingly.
   Until 1969 Fernández-Miranda's presence in Spanish public life was not particularly prominent. He had fought in the Civil War on Franco's side. At the end of the war he completed his law degree, and at the age of 30 he became professor of Politics at Oviedo University, and later, in 1951, rector of the same institution. His political career started at about this time. As university rector he had a seat in parliament, and subsequently occupied several posts in the Ministry of Education and the National Movement. At the beginning of the 1960s he was chosen as one of Prince Juan Carlos" tutors. This appointment was to have a lasting effect on both tutor and pupil.
   Given his relative political obscurity until then, and the fact that he did not have close links with any of the political groups in the Franco system, his appointment as Secretary General of the National Movement in the government reshuffle of October 1969 came as a surprise. However, his position was further strengthened when Carrero Blanco was appointed Prime Minister in the summer of 1973: Fernández-Miranda not only kept his post as head of the National Movement, but became Deputy Prime Minister. During his years in government he was seen as a clear opponent of any proposal which might have pushed Spain towards liberal democracy. Such a political stance was in line with the ideological principles defended in many of his writings: a curious mixture of idiosyncratic Falange ideology and traditional Catholicism.
   Nevertheless, a profound transformation was to follow. After the assassination of Carrero Blanco by the Basque terrorist group ETA, Fernández-Miranda became acting head of government for a few days, but he must have felt profoundly hurt when Franco finally chose Arias Navarro rather than him to replace the assassinated Prime Minister.
   Fernández-Miranda returned to the political arena after Franco's demise. One of the first decisions taken by Juan Carlos after his coronation was to appoint his old tutor as Speaker of Parliament and Chairman of the Council of the Realm, one of the most powerful posts in Franco's political system. From such a position and over a period of less than eighteen months, a completely transformed Fernández-Miranda was to carry out a quiet, efficient, and in some respects Machiavellian operation which would make possible the "miracle" of turning the dictatorship into a democracy without major upheavals. During those eighteen months Fernández-Miranda advised the King in moments of crisis; he contributed to the downfall of Arias Navarro, the inflexible Prime Minister left behind by Franco; together with the King he skilfully manipulated the levers of power to secure the appointment of Adolfo Suárez to replace Arias Navarro; he offered Suárez and his new government the blueprint for the Ley para la Reforma Política (Law of Political Reform), which was the key to constitutional change; and, finally, he succeeded in steering this bill through a Francoist parliament, forcing upon most of its members the acceptance of political suicide. Apart from his influence on the King, which was no doubt considerable but impossible to ascertain in objective terms, Fernández-Miranda's greatest political achievement was the Ley para la Reforma Política, a brief and intentionally ambiguous legal text with enormous constitutional implications. Its final approval in a referendum held on 15 December 1976 made unworkable most of the political institutions left behind by Franco and, formally at least, gave sovereignty back to the Spanish people so as to enable them to build a new democratic system. Fernández-Miranda's plan had to do with means, not ends; it did not predetermine the nature of political reform, it just made it possible. From the beginning of 1977, relations between the Prime Minister and Fernández-Miranda started to deteriorate. Suárez, who until then had relied so heavily on him, realized he no longer needed his political mentor. For his part, Fernán-dez-Miranda did not like some of the changes brought about by Suárez: there was a major disagreement between them over the legalization of the communist PCE in the spring of 1977. Disenchantment led to his resignation as Speaker of Parliament at the end of May, two weeks before the first democratic elections were due to take place. His services were rewarded by the King with a dukedom.
   From that moment on Fernández-Miranda's political career declined rapidly. He was appointed senator by King Juan Carlos and considered becoming a parliamentary candidate for the Popular Alliance.
   Little by little he withdrew from public life and did not make the headlines again until the announcement of his death during a private visit to London.
   Further reading
   - Alcocer, J.L. (1986) Torcuato Fernández-Miranda. Agonía de un estado, Barcelona: Planeta (an analysis of Fernández-Miranda's political career through the eyes of a friend and admirer).
   - Amodia, J. (1992) "Torcuato Fernández-Miranda: El taumaturgo de la transición", ACIS 5, 2: 40–51 (an evaluation of TFM as an academic, a politician and a monarchist).
   - Fernández-Miranda, P. and A. (1995) Lo que el Rey me ha pedido, Barcelona: Plaza & Janés (a fundamental study based on TFM's private papers, though partly marred by the proximity of the authors to their subject).
   - Vilallonga, J.L. de (1993) El Rey. Conversaciones con D. Juan Carlos I de España, Barcelona: Plaza & Janes (the best source to get some insight into the King's views on TFM).
   JOSÉ AMODIA

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