Suárez, Adolfo

Suárez, Adolfo
b. 1932, Cebreros, Avila
   Politician
   Prime Minister from June 1976 to February 1981, Suárez is the man largely credited with the successful transition to democracy after Franco's death.
   Suárez came from relatively humble origins, and his political career began as a clerk in the Civil Governor's office in Avila, working under Fernando Herrero Tejedor, who sponsored Suárez's rise through the ranks of the Franco administration. In 1969 he was appointed Director-General of Spanish Television, where he cultivated his media skills as well as forming a friendship with the future King Juan Carlos I. In 1975 he was appointed Minister for the National Movement in Arias Navarro's government.
   On Arias Navarro's resignation, the King surprised the entire nation by appointing the still little-known Suárez as Prime Minister, to overcome the political impasse left by his predecessor. From a position of considerable weakness he skilfully won support for his government's reform programme by forging contacts with the democratic opposition, whilst reassuring reactionary elements of his intention to remain faithful to the institutional structure of Francoism. His success in persuading the Francoist Cortes to vote itself out of existence, and his deftness in legalizing the communist PCE without provoking military intervention, are universally recognized as having been fundamental to the achievement of democracy in Spain.
   In 1977 Suárez won the first democratic elections with a centre-right coalition, UCD, formed with various small groups from the moderate opposition to Franco. Despite its heterogeneous composition, he was successful in transforming UCD into an effective vehicle for the consolidation of the reform programme. However, after its second election victory in 1979, the UCD began to fall apart under the strain of the compromises inherent in the transition process. A movement of internal opposition linked to powerful business interests forced Suárez's resignation early in 1981. Ceding the Prime Ministership to Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo, Suárez became disenchanted with the party's direction, and left to form the Centro Democrático y Social (Social and Democratic Centre—CDS) in July 1982. In the mid-1980s the CDS threatened to become a pivotal force in the political centre, as Fraga's Popular Alliance failed to improve its standing. In 1986 it won just under 10 percent of the vote, and in 1989 maintained almost the same level of support. However a controversial decision to ally with the centre-right PP in local government, and a sharp electoral decline, led to Suárez's resignation and departure from political life in 1991.
   Suárez's great achievement was to govern Spain during the most delicate phases of the movement towards democracy, and encourage negotiation and understanding between mutually hostile forces. Though he has been criticized for his ideological inconsistency and failures as leader of two political parties, the UCD and the CDS, few would deny his extraordinary contribution to the peaceful democratization of Spain.
   Further reading
   - Huneeus, C. (1985) La Unión de Centro Democrático y la transición a la democracia en España, Madrid: Centre de Investigaciones Sociológicas (the only published monograph on the UCD).
   - Morán, G. (1979) Historia de una ambición, Barcelona: Planeta (a highly critical account of Suárez's political career).
   - Preston, P. (1986) The Triumph of Democracy in Spain, London: Methuen (an account of the transition process which contains a balanced analysis of the Suárez period).
   JONATHAN HOPKIN

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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