Spain Table of Contents
The Democratic and Social Center (Centro Democratico y Social--CDS) was organized shortly before the October 1982 elections by Suarez, who had been the principal architect of the transition to a democratic system after the death of Franco. After he resigned as both prime minister of Spain and president of the UCD in January 1981, Suarez continued to struggle for control of the party machine. When he failed in his bid to regain party leadership in July 1982, he abandoned the party he had created and formed the CDS. The new centrist party fared poorly in the October general elections, gaining only two parliamentary seats.
By 1986 the party's fortunes had improved dramatically under the leadership of the former prime minister. In the June elections, the CDS more than tripled its share of the vote, which was 9.2 percent in 1986, compared with 2.9 percent in 1982, indicating that many who had previously voted for the UCD had transferred their support to the CDS. In the electoral campaign, Suarez had focused on his own experience as head of the government; he had criticized the PSOE for not fulfilling its 1982 election promises, had advocated a more independent foreign policy, and had called for economic measures that would improve the lot of the poor. This strategy enabled him to draw some votes from those who had become disillusioned with the PSOE.
In the municipal and the regional elections held in June 1987, the largest gains were made by the CDS. A poll taken at the end of 1987 revealed even stronger support for the party, and it gave Suarez a popularity rating equal to that of Gonzalez. Suarez's call for less dependence on the United States appealed to the latent anti-Americanism in the populace, and his advocacy of a greater role for the state in providing social services and in ensuring a more equitable distribution of income struck a responsive chord among the workers, who were growing increasingly impatient with Gonzalez's conservative economic policies. Nevertheless, it remained to be seen how far Suarez's populist rhetoric would take him in his quest to challenge the PSOE.
Data as of December 1988