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Territory and Power in Constitutional Transitions

AuthorsMoreno, Luis ; Colino, César; Hombrado, Angustias
KeywordsConstitutional transition
Territory and power
Issue DateMar-2019
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationPublished in Anderson, George y Choudhry, Sujit (eds.), Territory, Power and Constitutional Transitions, pp. 237-254. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
AbstractSpain’s peaceful transition to democracy (1975-79) offers an example of how a political agreement could overcome internal confrontations. In contemporary times, Spain experienced a cruel Civil War (1936-39) and a long period of dictatorship under General Franco’s rule (1939-75). At the death of the dictator, the opposition mobilized around left-right cleavages as well as around several territorially-based nationalist movements that had been repressed by Francoism. The moment of constitutional transition, which would last from 1977 to 1979, arose from an alliance between moderate reform factions in the elites of the old dictatorship, supported by the new King, with opposition elites. Together, they agreed to call for elections and establish a full-fledged democratic regime amidst a great economic crisis, intense public mobilization and some instances of political violence. This constitutional moment would culminate in the passing of the 1978 Constitution, although the implementation of new territorial institutions would extend for several more years. But in less than a year and a half, from 1976, the country experienced the self-dissolution of the Francoist Parliament, the legalization of the Communist, and many other, parties; the call for democratic elections; the signing by all political and social forces of pacts to resolve the economic crisis; the restoration of the Generalitat of Catalonia and other pre-autonomy regional regimes and, finally, the approval of a democratic Constitution in December 1978. This constitutional pact ‘refounded’ the Spanish state as a democracy and reinstituted the rule of law. It laid down the preconditions for the creation of a welfare state and the overcoming of the economic crisis. By recognizing nationalities and regions throughout the Spanish territory, it responded to old aspirations of autonomy not just in the territories with nationalist movements but in all regions, which shared the aspiration for economic development and democratization of the state. Thus, based on a wide consensus of both the national parties of the left and right as well as of the regional parties, the 1978 Constitution enabled the creation and institutional accommodation of seventeen regions and nationalities or “autonomous communities” (Comunidades Autónomas, ACs). This was given effect subsequently by the constitutional recognition of regional home-rule and cultural diversity and the extensive decentralization of powers and finance.
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