Fraga Iribarne, Manuel

Fraga Iribarne, Manuel
b. 1922, Villalba (Lugo)
   Conservative politician Fraga was a dominant figure on the Spanish political scene from the 1960s to the beginning of the 1990s. After a meteoric academic career, Fraga came to prominence as Minister for Information and Tourism (1962–9), with his advocacy of political apertura (opening), particularly through the Press Law of 1966, which he presented as a liberalization of censorship. A prominent opponent of the Opus Dei, he was forced out in 1969, and sent to London as ambassador from 1973 to 1975, where he cultivated his reformist reputation and prepared his return.
   On Franco's death, he was appointed Minister of the Interior in Arias Navarro's last government. His inflexible approach to the question of public order, and the failure of the Arias government to present a coherent programme of reform, severely damaged his reputation and he was excluded from Adolfo Suárez's reformist government. He responded by courting hard-line Francoists and integrating them into a conservative political grouping Popular Alliance (AP) under his leadership, contributing to their acceptance of the new democratic regime. Strongly backed by financial circles, AP seemed to misjudge the reforming mood of the times, and polled a miserable 7 percent of the vote in the 1977 elections. Fraga ditched the reactionary rhetoric of the 1977 campaign to become, as a member of the drafting committee, one of the seven "fathers of the constitution" (see also constitution of 1978), and his support for the text led the more reactionary elements of AP to leave the party. However, his more moderate approach in the 1979 elections failed to improve AP's 1977 performance.
   The decline of Suárez's UCD after 1979 presented Fraga with an opportunity to recover, which he seized eagerly. Latching on to the discontent in conservative circles at the UCD's centrist policies, Fraga launched fierce attacks on Suárez whilst secretly negotiating with the UCD's conservative wing to force Suárez into a centreright coalition, the so-called "natural majority". UCD's electoral collapse in 1982 allowed AP, in coalition with conservative defectors from UCD, to make a quantum leap to 26 percent of the vote, becoming the main opposition to the Socialists. However, his inability to improve on this performance in 1986 led the party's backers in the business world to put pressure on Fraga to make way for a younger leader less tainted by involvement with the Franco regime. He resigned in December 1986, but the disastrous outcome of the battle for the succession led to his taking over again, briefly, from 1988 to 1990. He then made way for José María Aznar, and entered regional politics in his native Galicia, where he became President of the Xunta de Galicia (regional government) from 1990.
   Fraga's main contribution to Spanish political life was to reconcile democratic reform with conservative values, acting as a democratic point of reference for erstwhile Francoists. His genuine commitment to democracy was, however, undermined by his temperamental approach to politics.
   Further reading
   - Dávila, C. and Herrero, L. (1989) De Fraga a Fraga. Crónica secreta de Alianza Popular, Barcelona: Plaza y Janes (journalistic account of Popular Alliance's travails in the 1980s).
   - Preston, P. (1986) The Triumph of Democracy in Spain, London: Methuen (Fraga's political trajectory is thoroughly examined in this account of the transition from dictatorship to democracy).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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