Chapter

A Crisis of Institutionalization: The Collapse of the UCD in Spain

Richard Gunther and Jonathan Hopkin

in Political Parties

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780199246748
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599385 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199246742.003.0008

Series: Comparative Politics

 A Crisis of Institutionalization: The Collapse of the UCD in Spain

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Political parties are such a fundamental part of democratic political life that they take on an appearance of stability and solidity that is rarely questioned—hence, when a political party collapses, political scientists are usually taken by surprise. In this context, the remarkable collapse in 1982 of Spain's governing party, the Union de Centro Democrático (UCD), long regarded as an exception to the rule of party stability, may provide some clues as to the causes of recent cases of party crisis. The catastrophic defeat of the UCD in the 1982 general election was primarily the result of a reaction by the electorate against the highly visible internal struggles and schisms, which beset the party during the preceding two years, and in many respects, represented a ‘punishment vote’ by an electorate that had become fed up with squabbles that had even reached the point (in an attempted military coup in 1981) of threatening the survival of the new democratic regime itself. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the origins of these destructive intra‐party conflicts, for which several different explanations have been set forth by scholars and journalists, and by UCD leaders themselves, the most important being that the UCD was insufficiently ‘institutionalized’. The first part looks at the concept of institutionalization, and further sections look at: the creation of the UCD—factions, incompatibilities, and the transition to democracy; the cost of constitutional consensus; the model of the party—catch‐all, factional or holding‐company; and internal conflict and external opportunities—a discussion of rational exits (defections) from the UCD.

Keywords: catch‐all party; constitutional consensus; defection; factional party; holding‐company party; institutionalization; internal conflict; internal struggle; intra‐party conflict; party collapse; party factions; party incompatibilities; party institutionalization; party models; party stability; political parties; Spain; transition to democracy; Union de Centro Democrático

Chapter.  18549 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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