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The Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular--AP) was a conservative right-wing party founded in 1976 by former Franco ministers under the leadership of Fraga, who had helped to prepare the way for reform during the Franco era and who had expected to play a key role in post-Franco governments. He underestimated the popular desire for change and distaste for Francoism, and he advocated an extremely gradual transition to democracy. Although Fraga had originally intended to convey a reformist image, his party was perceived by the electorate as both reactionary and authoritarian. Fraga's own outbursts of temper and the close ties of many of the AP candidates to the previous regime contributed to this perception. When elections were held in June 1977, the AP garnered only 8.3 percent of the vote.
In the months following the 1977 elections, dissension erupted within the AP over constitutional issues that arose as the draft document was being formulated. The more reactionary members voted against the draft constitution, and they advocated a shift to the right. Fraga, however, wanted to move the AP toward the political center in order to form a larger centerright party. Most of the disenchanted reactionaries left the AP, and Fraga and the remaining AP members joined other more moderately conservative party leaders to form the Democratic Coalition (Coalicion Democratica--CD). It was hoped that this new coalition would capture the support of those who had voted for the UCD in 1977, but who had become disenchanted with the Suarez government. When elections were held in March 1979, however, the CD received only 6.1 percent of the vote. Deeply disappointed, Fraga resigned as head of his party.
By the time of the AP's Third Party Congress in December 1979, party leaders were reassessing their involvement in the CD. Many felt that the creation of the coalition had merely confused the voters, and they sought to emphasize the AP's independent identity. Fraga resumed control of the party, and the political resolutions adopted by the party congress reaffirmed the conservative orientation of the AP.
In the early 1980s, Fraga succeeded in rallying the various components of the right around his leadership. He was aided in his efforts to revive the AP by the increasing disintegration of the UCD. In the general elections held in October 1982, the AP gained votes both from previous UCD supporters and from the far right, and it became the major opposition party, securing 25.4 percent of the popular vote. Whereas the AP's parliamentary representation had dropped to 9 seats in 1979, the party allied itself with the small right-wing PDP and won 106 seats in 1982. The increased strength of the AP was further evidenced in the municipal and regional elections held in May 1983, when the party drew 26 percent of the vote. A significant portion of the electorate appeared to support the AP's emphasis on law and order as well as its probusiness policies.
Subsequent political developments belied the party's aspirations to continue increasing its base of support. Prior to the June 1986 elections, the AP once again joined forces with the PDP, and along with the PL, formed the CP, in another attempt to expand its constituency to include the center of the political spectrum. The coalition called for stronger measures against terrorism, for more privatization, and for a reduction in spending and in taxes. The CP failed to increase its share of the vote in the 1986 elections, however, and it soon began to disintegrate.
When regional elections in late 1986 resulted in further losses for the coalition, Fraga resigned as AP president, although he retained his parliamentary seat. At the party congress in February 1987, Hernandez was chosen to head the AP, declaring that under his leadership the AP would become a "modern right-wing European party." But Hernandez lacked political experience at the national level, and the party continued to decline. When support for the AP plummeted in the municipal and regional elections held in June 1987, there was increased likelihood that it would be overtaken as major opposition party by Suarez's CDS.
Data as of December 1988
Spain Table of Contents