Spain: Transition by Transaction

ImagenDTransitonsArticle in Sergio Bitar & Abraham F. Lowenthal (eds.), Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015.

Spain’s democratizing process is a paradigmatic case of a ‘transition through transaction’, characterized by the following features: the (paradoxical) use of the former regime’s institutions and constitutional procedures to initiate the democratization process; negotiations between soft-liners in the outgoing authoritarian regime and representatives of major opposition groups; the inclusion of representatives of all key political forces in the decision-making process; and private face-to-face deliberations at crucial stages involving a relatively small number of participants. Some have argued that relatively low levels of popular mobilization also characterize ‘transitions through transaction’, but the Spanish experience suggests they are compatible with relatively high levels of pressure ‘from below’ if polítical actors are willing and able to modulate this in response to concessions made ‘from above’. Some also claim that ‘transitions through transaction’ can only succeed in the absence of political violence, but Spain experienced 460 deaths from political violence in 1975-80; it was partly the fear that this violence might derail the transition process that encouraged polítical elites to negotiate in the first place.

2024 © Charles Powell