Liberal Party (Spain, 1880)
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|Merger of||Constitutional Party,
|Political position||Centre to Centre-left|
The Liberal Party (Spanish: Partido Liberal), originally called Liberal Fusionist Party (Spanish: Partido Liberal-Fusionista, PLF) until 1885, was a Spanish political party created in 1880 by Práxedes Mateo Sagasta. With the Conservative Party of Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, it formed a bipartite system of alternating governments (the turno system) that characterised the Spanish Restoration during the final part of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century.
It combined republicans who did not accept the new law reflected in the Constitution of 1876 as well as monarchists, members of the Constitutional Party of general Francisco Serrano, of the Partido Radical of Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla, the “posibilistas” of Emilio Castelar and other military groupings.
Its political programme included achieving universal male suffrage—achieved in 1890—, liberty of religious association and the separation of powers. Although it could be classified as a dynastic party, it included at the start of the 20th century some politicians who would later be banned from the military as Republicans, such as Niceto Alcalá Zamora.
The system of political alternation characterising the Restoration began when Cánovas ceded power to Sagasta and he formed the first government of 8 February 1881, beginning the first stage of the system that would see three liberal governments (two headed by Sagasta and one by José Posada).
The second stage began when the system was institutionalized and endorsed in 1885 when both parties signed the Pact of El Pardo which established that both parties would alternate in power after the death of Alfonso XII of Spain, which was guaranteed by the caciques networks with which both parties were involved right across Spain. This pact kept out of power radical ideologies like anarchism, socialism and republicanism which could threaten the monarchic regime.
1898 saw the first split in the Liberal Party when Germán Gamazo abandoned the party, leading a breakaway group which ended up merging with the Partido Conservador. After Sagasta's death in 1903 a leadership contest occurred between Eugenio Montero Ríos and Segismundo Moret, which eventually led to José Canalejas leading the party. He tried to reform it and bring it closer to the reality of the country, but his attempts to evolve the party were cut short by his murder in 1912. That murder also reopened a leadership struggle between two new protagonists, the Conde de Romanones and Manuel García Prieto. This led the party into a deep crisis, coinciding with the disintegration of the political system in which it had played a major part. That disintegration ended in 1931 with the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and finally the monarchy of Alfonso XIII of Spain.
- 1876-1902: Práxedes Mateo Sagasta;
- 1902-1905: Eugenio Montero Ríos;
- 1905-1912: José Canalejas Méndez;
- 1912-1913: Segismundo Moret y Prendergast;
- 1913-1918: Conde de Romanones;
- 1918-1923: Manuel García-Prieto and Conde de Romanones;
- 1923-1930: Vacant (dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera);
- 1931: Conde de Romanones.
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