Union of the Democratic Centre (Spain)

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Union of the Democratic Centre
Unión de Centro Democrático
PresidentAdolfo Suárez
Founded3 May 1977 (1977-05-03) (alliance)
7 August 1977 (1977-08-07) (party)
Dissolved18 February 1983 (1983-02-18)[1][2]
Succeeded byDemocratic and Social Centre
IdeologyConstitutional monarchism[3]
Christian democracy[4][5]
Liberal conservatism[7][8]
Social democracy[4][5]
Political positionCentre[4] to
European affiliationEuropean Democrat Union (observer)[5]
Colours   Orange, Green

The Union of the Democratic Centre (Spanish: Unión de Centro Democrático, UCD, also translated as "Democratic Centre Union") was an electoral alliance, and later political party, in Spain, existing from 1977 to 1983. It was initially led by Adolfo Suárez.



The coalition, in fact a federation of parties, was formed on 3 May 1977, during the transition to democracy from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, with the involvement of leaders from a variety of newly formed centrist and rightist factions, under the leadership of Suárez, then Prime Minister. The principal components of the UCD defined themselves as Christian democrats, liberals, social democrats, or "independents", the latter frequently comprising conservative elements which had been part of the Franco regime.

The parties that made the UCD coalition were:

Some months later, all these parties were merged and UCD constituted itself as a party on 4 August 1977.

In government[edit]

In the elections of 15 June 1977, the party took 34.4% of the vote and 166 seats of the 350 in the Congress of Deputies. The party governed as a minority and worked with all major parties in the Congress, including the rightist People's Alliance and the parties of the left, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and Communists (PCE). Suárez became the first democratically chosen prime minister of Spain after the Franco period. The UCD played a major role in writing the new constitution, as three of the seven members of the constitutional drafting commission, established after those elections, came from the party.

In 1979, the Socialist Workers' Party moderated its outlook by dropping the references to Marxism from its programme. At the same time, the right-wing People's Alliance increasingly moved to the political centre (and, by undergoing a generational change, could overcome its Francoist image), thus the space for the centrist UCD shrank.[12] Despite this, the UCD was returned for a second term in the 1979 general election, with a slight increase in vote share but could not attain a majority, with 34.8% of the vote and 168 deputies.

Internal divisions and defections[edit]

The demise of the UCD began when an internal conflict emerged between its diverse factions. Many believe that the only factor that had kept the party together was the writing of the constitution. With that work done, the party became increasingly unpopular due to the growth of unemployment, inflation and the general economic crisis affecting the country.

During the course of the 1979–1982 legislature ,the party suffered a number of serious splits and defections. On 7 March 1980, Joaquim Molins resigned from the UCD group and later joined the Catalan Nationalist Convergence and Union. On 25 April 1980, Manuel Clavero resigned from the party in disputes over the statute of autonomy for Andalusia. Two months later, José García Pérez resigned over the same issue; García would join the Andalusian Socialist Party on 1 September 1981.

Meanwhile, Suárez resigned as prime minister in January 1981. He was replaced by Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo for the remainder of the term of the Cortes.

On 10 November 1981, Manuel Díaz-Piniés resigned from the party and 1 February 1982 he, together with three other deputies Miguel Herrero de Miñón, Ricardo de la Cierva and Francisco Soler Valero joined the Popular Alliance (AP). The first of a number of breakaway parties emerged three days later on 4 February 1982 when 10 UCD deputies from the left of the party - Francisco Fernández Ordóñez, Antonio Alfonso Quirós, Luis Berenguer, Carmela García Moreno, Ciriaco Díaz Porras, Luis González Seara, Eduardo Moreno, Javier Moscoso, María Dolores Pelayo and Carmen Solano formed the Democratic Action Party (Partido de Acción Democrática/PAD). This group stood as part of the PSOE list in the 1982 election and merged with the PSOE in January 1983.

In Summer 1982, the party splintered further. Two deputies (Modesto Fraile and Carlos Gila) quit the party, in August, they, along with 11 other UCD deputies (Óscar Alzaga, Mariano Alierta, Joaquín Galant, Julen Guimon, María Josefa Lafuente, José Luis Moreno, Francisco Olivencia, José Manuel Otero, José Pin Arboledas, José Luis Ruiz Navarro and Luis Vega), formed the People's Democratic Party (PDP). This party allied itself with the AP for the 1982 election.

Also in August, 16 deputies, headed by the former leader and Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez formed the Democratic and Social Centre (CDS).[13] Among the founding members were deputies such as Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún, Jaume Barnola, León Buil, Rafael Calvo Ortega, José María Mesa, Josep Pujadas, José Javier Rodríguez Alcaide and Manuel de Sàrraga and Alejandro Rebollo Álvarez-Amandi. The CDS fought the 1982 election in direct competition with the UCD.

Although the UCD had been joined by José María de Areilza and Antoni de Senillosa, who had defected from the AP, the UCD party group had now been reduced to 124 deputies - 52 short of a majority. The PSOE at this point had 118 deputies and could also count on the support of the 10 deputies of the PAD and the 21 members of the Communist Party. In light of this new situation in Parliament, Calvo Sotelo called fresh elections.

1982 election and disbanding[edit]

Following the 1981 coup attempt, the socialists convincingly won the 1982 general election. The UCD, presenting Landelino Lavilla Alsina as its candidate for prime minister, was nearly wiped out, taking only 6.7% of the vote and 11 seats, losing over 100 of their sitting deputies—one of the worst defeats ever suffered by a western European governing party. The CDS also fared poorly, with only two of its sixteen sitting deputies winning seats.

Most of the UCD's electorate became supporters of the AP-PDP alliance, which later became the People's Party, today Spain's principal conservative party. The AP-PDP displaced the UCD as the main alternative to the PSOE.

Many ex-ministers and leaders of the UCD also joined the AP ranks. Subsequently, the UCD was disbanded on 18 February 1983.

Electoral performance[edit]

Cortes Generales[edit]

Cortes Generales
Election Congress Senate Leading candidate Status in legislature
Votes % # Seats +/– Seats +/–
1977 6,310,391 34.44% 1st
165 / 350
106 / 207
Adolfo Suárez Minority
1979 6,268,593 34.84% 1st
168 / 350
118 / 208
12 Adolfo Suárez Minority
1982 1,425,093 6.77% 3rd
12 / 350
4 / 208
114 Landelino Lavilla Opposition

Regional parliaments[edit]

Region Election Votes % # Seats Status in legislature
Andalusia 1982 371,154 13.03% 3rd
15 / 109
Basque Country 1980 78,095 8.49% 5th
6 / 60
Catalonia 1980 Within CC–UCD
18 / 135
Confidence and supply
Galicia 1981 274,191 27.80% 2nd
24 / 71
Confidence and supply
Navarre 1979 68,040 26.69% 1st
20 / 70
Mandatory coalition


  • Hopkin, Jonathan (1999), Party Formation and Democratic Transition in Spain: The Creation and Collapse of the Union of the Democratic Centre, Macmillan Press, ISBN 0312219121

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "La crisis de UCD culmina con la decisión de disolverse como partido político". El País (in Spanish). 19 February 1983. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Exito y fracaso sin precedentes en la historia de las democracias". El País (in Spanish). 19 February 1983. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b Bozóki, András; Lomax, Bill (1996), "The revenge of history: The Portuguese, Spanish and Hungarian transitions — some comparisons", Stabilising Fragile Democracies: Comparing new party systems in Southern and Eastern Europe, Routledge, p. 197
  4. ^ a b c d Story, Jonathan (1995), "Spain's external relations redefined: 1975–1989", Democratic Spain: Reshaping External Relations in a Changing World, Routledge, p. 33
  5. ^ a b c d Steed, Michael; Humphreys, Peter (1988), "Identifying liberal parties", Liberal Parties in Western Europe, Cambridge University Press, pp. 425–426
  6. ^ Matuschek, Peter (2004), "Who Learns from Whom?: The Failure of Spanish Christian Democracy and the Success of the Partido Popular", Christian Democratic Parties in Europe since the End of the Cold War, Leuven University Press, p. 244
  7. ^ Helfert, Rolf (2020), "20. Rückkehr zur Demokratie und die neue Demokratie", Die Geschichte Mallorcas: Ein Blick auf 10 000 bewegte Jahre, Books on Demand, ISBN 9783751934565
  8. ^ Schäfer, Thilo (5 June 2020), "Wie sich Spaniens Regierung an einem Nato-Gipfel abarbeitet", Mallorca Zeitung
  9. ^ Encarnación, Omar G. (2008), Spanish Politics, Polity Press, p. 55
  10. ^ Montero, José Ramón (1999), "Stabilising the Democratic Order: Electoral Behaviour in Spain", Politics and Policy in Democratic Spain, Frank Cass, pp. 62–63
  11. ^ Ministerio del Interior de España. "Partidos políticos que integraron "Unión de Centro Democrático"" (in Spanish). Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  12. ^ Haas, Melanie (2006). "Das Parteiensystem Spaniens". Die Parteiensysteme Westeuropas. VS Verlag: 433.
  13. ^ Haas, Melanie (2006), "Das Parteiensystem Spaniens", Die Parteiensysteme Westeuropas, VS Verlag, p. 436