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Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon, Franco's personally designated heir, assumed the titles of king and chief of state. Dissatisfied with the slow pace of post-Franco liberalisation, in July 1976, the King replaced Franco's last prime minister with Adolfo Suarez. Suarez entered office promising that elections would be held within one year, and his government moved to enact a series of laws to liberalise the new regime.

Spain's first elections to the Cortes (parliament) since 1936 were held on June 15, 1977. Prime Minister Suarez's Union of the Democratic Center (UCD), a moderate center-right coalition, won 34% of the vote and the largest block of seats in the Cortes. The left-of-centre Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), led by Felipe González Márquez, came in second.

Under Suarez, the new Cortes set about drafting a democratic constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in a December 1978 national referendum.

In the elections of 1982, the PSOE and their charismatic leader González were voted into power with a sizeable overall majority. González remained prime minister for 14 years.

1993, the economy was in trouble, unemployment had reached 22.5%, and various scandals had rocked the PSOE. They did however hold onto power in the 1993 elections, but without an overall majority and reliant on parliamentary support from the Covergència I Unió (CiU) party.

In the 1996 general election, the centre-right Partido Popular (PP), led by José María Aznar, won. They did however fail to get an overall majority and had to govern through partliamentary alliances.

By 1998, the economy under the PP was doing well, and in 2000 with Spain having the fastest growing economy in the EU, employment down to 15% (although in reality this was lower since many dole claimants worked in the thriving ‘black economy’), the PP swept to an overall majority in the general elections.

In 2003, Aznar sends troops to aid the American-led invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This unpopular decision along with the March 2004 Madrid bombings that claimed 200 lives, were key factors in the unexpected win for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's PSOE party in the 2004 general elections. A large turnout of 77% of the electorate (up 9% on 2000) also suggested a backlash as a result of previous week's bombings. The PP did however hold on to power in the Senate.

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