The Kingdom of Spain is a constitutional monarchy with the king as the head of state and the prime minister as the head of government. The prime minister is also known as the president of the Government of Spain. The current office of the prime minister was established by the 1978 Constitution but can be traced back to 823 as chairmanship of the Council of Ministers. There is no specific date indicating when the office of the prime minister first appeared since the position evolved over time through the merger of duties. Therefore, it is not clear who the first prime minister was. However, below are the officeholders of this position since 1975.
Prime Ministers of Spain
Carlos Arias Navaro
Carlos Arias Navaro, born in December 1908, was a vocal and popular politician, especially during the rule of Francisco Franco. Although he was a moderate leader at the beginning of the transition to democracy, Navaro turned into a hard-liner and was involved in the White Terror, signing many death warrants during the dismantling of the Spanish Republic, earning the name “Butcher of Malaga.” Following the assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco, Navara was appointed Prime minister in 1973, a position he retained during the transition to democracy. He resigned from the position on July 1, 1976, in protest of the reforms by King Juan Carlos I, Navaro died in November 1989.
Fernando de Santiago y Díaz
When Carlos Navaro resigned in July 1976, he was temporarily replaced by Fernando de Santiago y Díaz who was the deputy prime minister of Defense. Born in July 1910, Santiago was an active soldier who participated in both the Spanish Civil War and Second Moroccan War. Before becoming Spain’s deputy prime minister and interim prime minister, he was appointed the governor-general of Spanish Sahara where he introduced limited home-rule in the region. Santiago served as the interim Spanish premier from July 1 to July 3, 1976, and was replaced by Adolfo Suarez.
Adolfo Suarez was the first Spanish Prime Minister elected democratically in the Second Spanish Republic. He was one of the key figures in the transition of democracy. He was first appointed the Prime Minister on July 3, 1976, in place of Carlos Navaro who had resigned two days before. He was appointed by King Juan Carlos with the hope that his government would bring about democracy. Although he was not a well-known political figure in Spain and many even doubted his leadership, Suarez oversaw the end of Francoist Cortes and led his party (UDC) to 1977 general election win. He resigned in 1981 and retired from politics in 1991.
The Official Title of the Prime Minister
In Spain, the head of Government has been known as “Presidente del Gobierno” meaning “President of the Government.” However, outside the country, the holder of this position is often referred to as “Prime Minister.” The custom of naming the head of government dates as “President” dates back to the mid-1800s during the reign of Isabella II.