Franco’s Exhumation: Long-buried past or revived ghost?

In 2007, the Spanish parliament approved the “Law of historical memory”, the final goal of which was to mitigate the symbolic presence and memory of the period in which Francisco Franco governed Spain. The proposal was presented by PSOE (Spanish socialist party), at the time when Zapatero was Spain’s Prime Minister. The law had some consequences in the following years, with the most recent one manifesting itself just a few months ago. In light of the law approved in 2007, some measures were applied: in 2008, the last Francisco Franco statue within  Spanish ground was removed from the community of Cantábria; in 2012, the children and grandchildren of people who had to flee from the Spanish dictatorship were conceded the right to claim Spanish citizenship (resulting in 442,000 new Spanish citizens); and, on the 24th of October  2019, the Spanish Dictator’s body was removed from its original gravesite.


In June 2018, after PSOE’s victory in the general elections, the recently elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, promised the Spanish People to accomplish one of the most essential consequences of the Law of Historical Memory: to resurrect Franco’s body from Valle de los Caídos, making it one of the greatest goals of his governance. Francisco Franco’s body has been buried at the Valle de los Caídos memorial ever since his death in November 1975.

What is Valle de los Caídos, after all?


Valle de los Caídos is a monument located near the city of Madrid. It was erected in 1959 at Franco’s demand in order to pay tribute and to bury nationalist fighters that died during the 3 year-long Spanish Civil War.  Nearly 34,000 bodies rest at this site. In 1975, in accordance with his  wishes, Franco’s body was also buried in the same place. Many criticized this deed, since Francisco Franco was not a victim of the Civil War and, therefore, his burial would contradict and distort the monument’s original purpose.

Why did it take so long since the 2007 law approval?

Only in September 2018 was the law of historical memory modified in such a way that made Franco’s body removal from Valle de los Caídos possible. The proposal, presented by Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE, was approved in the Spanish Parliament with 172 favourable votes and 164 votes against. In June 2019, the Government decided to unfold the parliament’s will, decision which was once again delayed due to a judicial fight that broke out between Francisco Franco’s family and the Spanish Government. In September, the Spanish Supreme Court of Justice decided in favour of the Spanish Government.

Where do other dictators lie?


Many argue that no dictator should be buried in a prestigious place that promotes regime nostalgia. But where are other dictator’s tombs located? In Russia, for instance, Joseph Stalin’s tomb is located in the country’s most famous square, The Red Square, in a cemetery destined to the most influential and recognized Russian personalities. In Cuba, Fidel Castro’s mausoleum contains the dictator’s ashes. The mausoleum is located at Santa Ifigenia cemetery, a resting place for a few notable Cuban personalities. Mao Tse Tung had a building made just to accommodate his embalmed body and it is located precisely at the centre of the Tiananmen Square.

How was Franco’s exhumation perceived in Spain?

Both VOX and PP contested Franco’s exhumation, accusing PSOE of performing political campaign with a highly sensitive subject. Both parties also accused the government of trying to mask the severe problems affecting Spain, such as the separatist movements striking Catalonia. VOX went even further, accusing the government of “digging up hatreds”. The left parties, in contrast, hailed the government’s initiative.

“a very important step to fix a scandal that had been carried for 40 years of Spanish democracy”

— Pablo Iglesias, Podemos’ party leader

The fact is that Francisco Franco was the first dictator in world history to see a change to their burial place. While some support this for the sake of democracy and to respect the memory of those who were killed and oppressed during Spain’s dictatorship, many others also argue that no government has the power to decide upon one man’s body, independently of the circumstances and, especially, when it goes against the deceased’s family’s will. Critics also pose the following question: doesn’t this resemble an attempt to erase an indisputably important period of Spain’s History?


  • Público

  • El País

  • Expresso

The November 2019 Spanish Elections: What to Expect

In December 2015, the conservative Popular Party’s government of Mariano Rajoy, while it won the general election, lost its absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies and had the party’s worst result since 1989. From that year onwards, no party has been able to form a long-lasting government. This political instability has led Spain to hold its fourth general election in four years tomorrow. Will this election finally relieve Spain from the ongoing period of political crisis?

April’s Elections

Image 1: Pedro SanchezImage 1: Pedro Sanchez

A minority government, Pedro Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist and Worker’s Party (PSOE) took office in June 2018, following a motion of no confidence1 that took down the government of Mariano Rajoy. The ousted prime-minister’s Popular Party (PP) was involved in a corruption scandal involving several of its high-ranking members, leading to a severe drop in its popularity. However, Sanchez called for a new general election in April of this year, after he failed to gather support in the Congress of Deputies to pass his budget for 2019.

In the last elections, the PSOE gathered a substantial 29% of the votes, but although it was the party’s first win since 2008, it was short of a majority to govern2. Vox, a far-right party opposing unrestricted migration and multiculturalism, won 10% of the votes and entered the Chamber of Deputies for the first time. The Popular Party (PP) met a historical defeat (16.7% of the votes).

Since the PSOE failed to win an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies, it needed backing from other parties. Once again, Sanchez’s inability to secure support this time to form a government is what led to the new November 2019 elections. He called for the elections after failed discussions with Unidas Podemos (UP), a coalition of left-wing parties and Sanchez’s most obvious choice, after disagreements over government ministers and the amount of involvement of the UP in the new government.

Polls: analysis of most likely results 

The latest polls by the Office for Social Studies and Public Opinion (GESOP) for the newspaper El Periòdic d’Andorra suggest that we will not see a significantly different political landscape with the November elections, and even report increasing fragmentation, with a smaller win for the PSOE at 26.8%. The PP is expected to see its share of the vote increase to 19.9% after successfully stealing votes from Ciudadanos, a center-right party who surprisingly gathered 16% of the votes in the April elections, and will now see its share more than halved, with the polls predicting a result of 7%. The far-right party VOX is met with a significant increase and should obtain 15.6% of the vote.

Más País, a new far-left splinter party, founded on September 25th, has decided not to run in the constituencies where it could not gather enough support to win seats but could contribute to the loss of seats by other left-wing parties, such as PSOE and UP. Más País is expected to obtain 2.6% of the votes, which has led to the further decrease of the far-left coalition Unidas Podemos to 13% of the vote.

All in all, the PSOE wins without an absolute majority, and probably with fewer seats in the Cortes. The PP will come second, followed by the UP. Ciudadanos will suffer a considerable decrease in votes and seats, as Vox will achieve the opposite. Regarding regionalist and nationalist parties, we do not expect meaningful changes from the previous results.

Graphic 1Graphic 1

What’s next? 

After the elections, we can expect that King Felipe will ask Pedro Sánchez to be the next Prime Minister, and a new round of negotiations among the parties will follow. In order to be PM, Sánchez needs the majority in the Cortes3 to be able to win the investiture vote or at least have most of the opposition MPs abstain during that vote. As for now, it is not expected that those negotiations will produce a different outcome than the ones that followed the elections in April. 

PSOE’s best hope to achieve a majority in parliament is to partner with regionalist parties and the left-wing coalition UP. Even though this might be plausible in mathematical terms, the disagreement points between the PSOE and UP from the last round of negotiations are still valid, making achieving a different outcome unlikely. It does not seem that left-wing parties are ready to make the necessary concessions: the UP wishes to have some ministers of their own, whereas the PSOE wants to form the government alone but backed by parliamentary support. Furthermore, Sánchez recently pointed out that even if an agreement had been reached to form a PSOE-UP government, it would have crumbled during the Catalonian crisis, amid which the UP and its Catalonian coalition Comú Podem have criticized the government’s actions and police intervention. The PSOE is also dependent on the unlikely event that the PP and Ciudadanos do not vote against Sánchez’s investiture. This seems improbable, as the Catalonian crisis accentuated the parties’ differences, and total support from the moderate right-wing opposition to a socialist minority government in the Cortes seems to be an almost unimaginable scenario.  

Without concession, diplomacy and statesmanship, the path to a stable government will be hard to find.

Either a PSOE minority government will be formed, unable to count with a majority and likely to fall at the first difficulty, or Spain will have to face yet another General Election in a few months.  

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1 Vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, managerial, etc.) is no longer deemed fit to hold that position.

2 It won an absolute majority in the senate for the first time since 1989, but to govern, they would need 175 out of 350 seats in the Chamber of Deputies

3 Bicameral legislative chambers of Spain – Congress of Deputies and Senate.


  • El Periòdic

  • Wikipedia

  • BBC News

  • The Guardian

  • Vox 

Article Written By:

Ana Catarina Salgado

Ana Maria Terenas

Christian Weber

João Maria Sande e Castro

Rui Ramalhão