Argentina's main consistently democratic political party was founded in 1892. Radicals consisted of a coalition of groups which had failed to take part in Argentina's agricultural export boom, such as parts of the old nobility. These joined forces with groups which had done well but failed to attain corresponding political power, such as the newly prosperous middle classes and landowners of the upper Littoral. Following the introduction of universal male suffrage in 1912, the leader of the well-organized Radicals, Yrigoyen, was elected President in 1916. They dominated the 1920s politically through control of both Houses of Congress and the presidency (under Yrigoyen and Marcelo T. de Alvear). In 1930, however, Yrigoyen was deposed by a military coup d'état.
Despite a long spell in opposition Radicals continued to form the largest party, but split in 1956 into the Intransigent Radicals strictly opposed to Perón, and the Popular Radicals in favour of dialogue with Peronism. The latter Radicals formed two democratic governments (1958–66), which were fundamentally weakened by disunity and the need for the mutually exclusive support of both Peronists and the military. The central voice of the middle classes, the Radicals formed the opposition to the governments of the military and the Peronists, and did not return to power until 1983 under Alfonsín, who won the elections on a wave of disgust against a discredited military and a popular desire for a stable democracy. Nevertheless, Alfonsín could not prevent Peronism from becoming a popular force again, and in 1989 the Peronists returned to government. Under Ferdinand de la Rúa, the UCR returned to power in 1999. It turned out to be a pyrrhic victory, however, as the new government presided over a period of deep political and economic turbulence. De la Rúa resigned in December 2001, with power ultimately returning to the Peronists. The Radical Party continued as Argentina's major opposition party, but in 2005 it only held 40 seats compared to 141 seats occupied by the governing Peronist Justice Party.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).