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This Article seeks to understand and evaluate core elements of the past promise and present reality of Spain’s transformation from Francoist dictatorship to modern European democracy. It does this by investigating the role of the 1978 Constitution and the distinctive Spanish Model of relatively peaceful constitutional transformation in facilitating the key legal elements of Spain’s transition to democracy. Following a review of important historical developments related to Spanish constitutionalism in Part I, this Article scrutinizes the process by which Spain transitioned to democracy in the 1970s. Part II focuses particularly on the dominant characteristics of the Spanish Model, which facilitated peaceful democratic transformation. Part III critically evaluates the use of the Spanish Model as a tool to decisively reject the core political elements of the Franco regime—autocratic rule, authoritarian governance, and fascism—and empower rights-based constitutional democracy. Finally, Part IV assesses the significance of the Spanish Model to the 1978 Constitution and the twenty-first century Kingdom of Spain and anticipates the Model’s potential for future global influence.

This Article argues that, despite recent, significant, and evolving challenges, constitutional democracy is strong in Spain and has been significantly aided by its constitutional text and the Spanish Model that inaugurated it. The Article concludes that, four decades later, there is much to study and learn from the way Spain successfully leveraged its constitutional process to overcome its authoritarian past and solidify its place as a stable modern democracy.