Unión Centro Democrático, UCD

Adolfo Suárez González


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Spanish politician (Cebreros, Ávila, 1932 - Madrid 2014). He studied law at universities in Salamanca and Madrid. Civil servant at the Secretariat-General of the Movement, he was appointed as Civil Governor of Segovia in 1968, became Director-General of Radio and Television Broadcasting from 1969 to 1973 and then Chairman of the National Tourism Company from 1973 to 1975. Following approval of the Franco Law on Political Associations, he promoted the political association Democratic Union of Spanish People (Spanish acronym: UDPE) of which he became president. Until such time he had not been known for his openness nor did he stand out as such in the initial governmental stage of his career.

In the first government under the monarchy, still presided over by C. Arias Navarro, he was appointed Minister Secretary-General of the Movement and then, following the resignation of C. Arias Navarro, his name was included by T. Fernández Miranda on the short-list of three candidates proposed to King Juan Carlos I for election as head of the new government. He firmly initiated the transformation from the Franco regime to a new parliamentary democracy, despite the resistance from those sectors of the more recalcitrant core of Franco supporters and the initial suspicions from the democratic opposition.

On 4 August 1976, the government of Adolfo Suárez published a decree enacting an amnesty in Spain for political motivated offences that were prosecuted under the previous regime. In September of the same year, Lieutenant General A. Gutiérrez Mellado was appointed Vice-President of the Government, which fostered the neutrality of the armed forces in relation to political reform plans. The vote in favour of the Political Reform Act in the Franco Parliament, which resulted in the self-dissolution of the Movement, was a great success for Adolfo Suárez, as was the essential legalisation of the Communist Party in Spain (April 1977), a decision that stirred up the more conservative sectors of Franco supporters.

He founded the Union of the Democratic Centre (Spanish acronym: UCD), through a coalition of various Christian democrat and social democrat groups, and under this new structure he won the first general election under the new democracy in 1977. He led the transition through a policy of consensus with opposition parties which resulted in the so-called Moncloa Pacts in October 1977. A year later he managed to push a new constitution through parliament converting Spain into a parliamentary monarchy. For several months he displayed an exceptionally liberal profile despite his background, and sought to unite all sectors in the task of building up a democratic regime for the Spanish people.

Following the elections in 1979 and the repeat victory by the UCD, the King appointed him Head of Government once again. However, the intense political attrition of this period, the constant threat of coups by some military leaders and remaining sectors of pro-Franco supporters (resulting in the failed coup d'état on 23 February 2981) and, in particular, the lack of cohesion at the heart of the UCD, all conspired to weaken his position.

In 1980, he had to face a motion of censure presented by the PSOE [Spanish Socialist Workers' Party] and in the same year he narrowly won a vote of confidence submitted to the Lower House of Parliament. Weakened his position and that of his party in Parliament he offered his resignation on 29 January 1981 as Head of Government and as President of the UCD and was replaced in both positions by Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo. In February 1981, the King bestowed upon him the title of Duke of Suárez.

He set up a new political party, the so-called Democratic and Social Centre (Spanish acronym: CDS), and was elected as MP for Madrid in the elections of 1982, 1986 and 1989.

Following a very poor showing in the local and regional elections, he presented his resignation as president of CDS in May 1991, and abandoned active politics to concentrate on his career as a lawyer. In 1996, he was appointed President of the Governing Board of the Spanish Council of Support for Refugees (Spanish acronym: CEAR) and of the Foundation of this organisation. The same year he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Harmony and in 2001 he was appointed as President of the Foundation for Victims of Terrorism.

Adolfo Suárez González died on 23 March 2014, aged 81.

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