10 MAY 1936 Azaña is elected president of the Republic

Azaña (second right) with members of his government.
Azaña (second right) with members of his government. / SUR
  • The socialist and republican reformer was to be the last democratically elected leader before General Francisco Franco's 36-year dictatorship

On 10 May 1936 Manuel Azaña (b. 10 January 1880, Madrid) was elected as president of Spain's Second Republic, amid growing political and social tension in the country, which would eventually lead to Civil War.

Azaña had previously held the role of prime minister from 1931 until 1933, when his party, Acción Republicana, won elections following the resignation of dictator, Miguel Primo de Rivera. By 1930, Primo de Rivera had lost the support of the king (Alfonso XIII) and the armed forces and his dictatorship was failing.

During his first time in office, Azaña brought about great social reform, including giving suffrage to women, introducing work accident insurance and allowing divorce. He defended the notion of "democratic equality of all citizens towards the law". However, he also began to strip the Roman Catholic church of much of its power and received heavy criticism over his agrarian and tax reforms, doing little to help the poor, which is what he had promised.

By 1933 he had alienated the far-left and angered the far-right, particularly over his attitude towards the Church, and his party lost the local elections that year. He was ordered to resign in November 1933 and elections that month were won by the right.

In 1934 Azaña founded the Republican Left party, which was a fusion of his previous Acción Republicana and the Radical Socialist Republican Party. On 10 May 1936 he was elected this time as president of the Second Republic.

By then Civil War seemed inevitable, with increasing political violence and the burning of churches and religious imagery. In July 1936 the fascist Falange party was founded, which supported Franco and later formed part of his party.

Azaña continued as president until 3 March 1939. He fled to France after Catalonia fell to Franco's troops at the beginning of that year. He remained there in exile until his death on 3 November 1940.

France's Vichy regime refused to allow Azaña's coffin to be covered in the Spanish Republican flag and instead the Mexican flag was used as he had previously been granted Mexican citizenship and the position of honorary ambassador to give him diplomatic immunity.

His diaries, Diarios Completos; Monarquía, República, Guerra Civil, were published posthumously in Spanish in 2003.