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Spain marks 30 years of post-Franco constitution

MADRID – Spain’s King Juan Carlos presided Saturday over ceremonies marking the 30th anniversary of the country’s return to democracy after 40 years of General Franco’s dictatorship.

"A great constitution for a great nation has lasted three decades," he said in an address to parliament attended by senior members of the royal family, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and opposition figures.

He said the constitution had ushered in "the longest and most intense period of modernisation, progress, stability and peaceful coexistence in democracy and freedom" in the nation’s history.

The constitution was approved by 87 percent of the electorate in a referendum held on 6 December 1978 – three years after the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco who had ruled Spain since toppling the previous republican government in the 1936-9 civil war.

It called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy with a democratically-elected government.

According to a poll of 2,484 people published Thursday by the Centre for Sociological Research, over half of all Spaniards – 52.7 percent – believe the constitution should now be reformed.

In his previous term, Zapatero’s socialist government had considered amendments to the constitution covering such aspects as the powers granted Spain’s autonomous regions and the succession to the throne.

But in agreement with the opposition, it decided to postpone the changes due to a lack of consensus in parliament. Zapatero reiterated Saturday that reforming the constitution was not a government priority.

"A reform requires a climate of agreement and if this climate of agreement does not exist, we are not going to introduce any sort of initiative. It is not a priority," he told reporters.

A reception after the ceremony was cancelled due to the fatal shooting Wednesday of a Basque industrialist, Ignacio Uria, in an attack blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA.

In his address in parliament, the king said that while Spain had made great advances thanks to the constitution, it was still threatened by "the barbary of terrorism," interpreted as a reference to ETA, which has killed over 820 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland.

[AFP / Expatica]