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12 April 1931: Local elections led to the Second Republic

A queue outside a polling station in Malaga on 12 April 1931.
A queue outside a polling station in Malaga on 12 April 1931. / SUR
  • A landslide victory for republican and left-wing parties resulted in the king leaving the country and the Republic being declared two days later

On 12 April 1931 local elections were held in Spain for the first time in years, and the result - a landslide victory for republicans and left-wing parties - changed the course of history.

The number of seats on each council was determined by the number of inhabitants. Voting was compulsory, but only men were allowed to vote as suffrage for women had not yet been introduced.

The republicans won by a large margin in the regions of Asturias, Aragón and Catalonia, with a majority in most provincial capital cities. In Barcelona they won 75 per cent of the seats.

Out of a total of 80,472 possible seats on local councils, the republicans won 34,368, socialists 4,813, communists 67, and monarchists 19,035, with their best results being in the Balearic Islands and the regions of Andalucía and Extremadura.

Two days later the king, Alfonso XIII, who had come to power in 1902 and had become extremely unpopular, left the country, saying that he no longer had the support of the people. He had been advised that this would avoid violence breaking out.

After travelling to Austria, Switzerland, England and Egypt, he finally settled in Rome, but he only absented himself from Spain: he did not abdicate the throne. On the same day that he went into exile, 14 April, the Second Republic was proclaimed.

The politicians who took over the government of Spain on 14 April 1931 were from several small parties, and the prime minister of the new regime was Niceto Alcalá Zamora. However, he resigned in October after disagreeing with some of the articles in the new Constitution. He was also selected to be the President of the new Republic, a post he retained until the Civil War began in 1936.

Under the new government, many things changed rapidly in Spain.

It introduced new rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of association and votes for women, legalised divorce and removed the special legal status of the nobility and the Church.

However, when civil war broke out in 1936, the history of the country once again took a very different turn and many of those innovations were reversed.