In Spain, voters will go to the polls on Thursday (1 March) for the first general election since the country became a fully fledged modern democracy.
In Spain, voters will go to the polls on Thursday (1 March) for the first general election since the country became a fully fledged modern democracy. The latest opinion polls have shown Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez and his centre-right UCD party only slightly ahead of the Socialists.
SYNOPSIS: It is just three and a quarter years since the death of General Franco, ending his almost 40 years of authoritarian rule. For Spain it was the end of an era. At the time, with Prince Juan Carlos the designated successor, the political future seemed uncertain.
Within two years, though, came Spain's first democratic poll. There had been political reform under Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez...who has been in power since July 1976.
Recently he has had to face a number of internal problems...which may affect the election outcome. There have been a series of strikes by unions claiming pay increases. They have come at a time when Spain is in an economic recession. Unemployment stands at about eight per cent.
The most serious problem, though, is the political violence in the Basque region. The guerrilla organisation, ETA, claim 60 dead last year. Recent reinforcements to security forces in the region bring the total number to 12,000. some consider, however, that voter reaction against the violence might act in Mr Suarez's favour.
Campaigning for the election has lasted three weeks. There are some 9,000 candidates contesting 558 parliamentary seats in the Congress and Senate upper house. On the extreme right is the Francoist National Unity party of Mr Blas Pinar. It is among the minor parties.
On the left, the Communist Party is the largest of the minor groups - its leader, 63-year-old Santiago Carrillo. The party was legalised before the 1977 elections and is expected to get around 10 percent of the votes.
Most of the votes will go to the two main parties....Mr Suarez's centre-right UCD and the opposition Socialists, who are led by 36-year-old Mr Felipe Gonzalez. The latest opinion poll, published on Tuesday (27 February) the last day of campaigning, shows the Socialists narrowly behind the UCD. Mr Gonzalez believes that his party will cause an upset. He has earned the nickname "Hurricane Felipe" for his cross-country whirlwind campaigning.
Mr Suarez's ruling party needs 176 seats for an absolute majority. They've ruled up until now with 158, mainly through the co-operation of the Socialists and Communists. Most political observers feel that the election will produce little change in the present party power structure, with Mr Suarez retaining office n a coalition government.