Reshaping the Republic

The CEDA received the most votes in the 1933 elections, winning 115 seats in the new Cortes. The radicals won 104 seats, but after two years in opposition, the party had won only ten seats more than in the elections for the Constituent Cortes. Acción Republicana, Manuel Azaña's party, lost 23 of the 28 seats it had obtained in 1931, and the socialists went down from 115 to 58 seats. In all, the non-republican right went from 40 seats in 1931 to 200 in 1933, and the left from 250 to around a hundred. It was a highly fragmented parliament, with twenty-one groups represented and a good many new deputies: over 60 per cent of the radicals were in this category and only ten CEDA deputies had had previous parliamentary experience. With these results, it was going to be hard to establish a stable coalition.

Alcalá Zamora asked Lerroux to form a 'purely republican' government of the centre, which would not include leftist republicans, with whom Lerroux had broken back in December 1931, or the CEDA, which had failed to declare publicly its adherence to the Republic. The veteran leader of the Partido Radical thought that a parliamentary alliance with the CEDA would ensure a majority, and therefore gov-ernability, and would enable this 'accidentalist' right to be incorporated into the Republic, isolating the monarchist extreme right. The CEDA strategy, as Gil Robles explained on various occasions, consisted of first collaborating with the radicals in parliament, then entering the government, and finally heading it. They would then revise the Constitution and if that tactic failed, according to Gil Robles in an interview in Renovación, the mouthpiece of the radicals, 'we shall have to look for other solutions', outside the democratic context.1

1 Renovación, 2 January 1934, quoted in Nigel Townson, La República que no pudo ser. La política de centro en España (1931-1936), Taurus, Madrid, 2002, p. 240. (Original English edition: The Crisis of Democracy in Spain: Centrist Politics under the Second Republic (1931-1936), Sussex Academic Press, 2001.)

The CEDA threatened violence unless they were allowed to govern, and the socialists proclaimed their intention of unleashing a revolution if the CEDA entered the government. As far as the leftist republicans were concerned, this government of radicals backed by the Catholic right was a betrayal of the Republic, and if Martínez Barrio, who was acting Prime Minister at the time of the elections, is to be believed, Azaña, Casares Quiroga and Marcelino Domingo put pressure on him to call new elections before the recently elected Cortes was convened. However, the Cortes held its opening session on 8 December, and on 19 December, Lerroux presented his government, made up of seven radicals, two independent republicans, one liberal democrat and the landowner and monarchist, José María Cid. Thus began what Lerroux called 'a Republic for all Spaniards'.

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