The Act for the Political Reform (Law 1/1977, of January 4, for the Political Reform) was adopted on December 18, 1976 by the Francoist legislative Cortes with the support of 435 of the 531 prosecutors (81% in favor) that formed this Cortes, and submitted to a referendum with the participation of the 77,8% of the census and with a 94,17% votes in favor. It had the character of Fundamental Law, being the last one of the Fundamental Laws of the Francoist State.
Seven political associations, constituted thanks to the law of Arias Navarro to support in democracy to the so-called sociological Francoism, they founded on October 9, 1976 a new political party, Alianza Popular (AP). Their leaders were Manuel Fraga, Licinio de la Fuente, Federico Silva, Laureano López Rodó, Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora, Enrique Thomas de Carranza and Cruz Martínez Esteruelas. Both Adolfo Suárez and Torcuato Fernández-Miranda were prepared to dissolve the Spanish Cortes in the event of opposition, since his term had been fulfilled.
After the bill was approved by the Council of Ministers, it was submitted to the National Council of the Movement and was approved on October 16 by 80 votes in favor, 13 against and 6 abstentions. This body prolonged its own dissolution:
... The present bill, which pretends and seeks, preferably, that the popular majority is constituted as a decisive instance of the reform, only incardinating in the current political order can find a source and basis for its legitimate propounding...
The Political Reform Act was the legal instrument that allowed the Spanish Transition to be carried out within the dictatorial system established by General Francisco Franco. This law established the parliamentary monarchy of Juan Carlos I was later approved by a referendum leading to the Constitution of 1978.
The act is divided in five primary articles, three transitory articles (which regulate some legal situations in a provisional way) and a final disposition.
The final disposition clarifies that the act will have the level of a fundamental law.
Since the first moment, President Suarez wanted to approve the act legally. His party defended the approval of the act in the Spanish legislature. The debate about the act started on November 16 and ended on November 18.
The first prosecutor to defend the act was Miguel Primo de Rivera and Urquijo along with Fernando Suárez González, the first representative of the lecture. The next day, November 17, was the turn of the prosecutors, who gave arguments in favour and against. The last day, November 18, was the responses of the impellers.
One of the most difficult moments was the intervention of Blas Piñar López against the act:
"The Reform project is in conflict with the political philosophy of the State (...), this Reformation, as the Government wants it, and as the paper defends it, is a rupture, although the rupture is wanted to do with out violence and with legality."
The act was voted at 09:35 PM of November 18, 1976. It had 425 votes in favour, 59 against, and 13 abstentions. This voting and the consequent approval is known as the «harakiri of the Francoist Cortes»
The final words of the official approval of the Act were:
«The President of the Congress: Mr. Secretary is going to read the results of the voting.
The Secretary of the Congress: Total number of prosecutors that forms the Chámber: 531.
Numbers of prosecutors that constitute the absolute majority: 267.
Total number of present prosecutors: 497.
Quorum of the two thirds of the presents: 330. Affirmative votes: 425.
Negative votes: 59. Abstentions: 13.
The President of the Congress: The bill has been approved. The sitting is closed.»
The approval of this law is seen as the political transformation of the country, turning Spain into a democracy, with a parliamentary monarchy and with the rule of law as one of the fundamental principles of the State.
This law also gives the sovereignty to the people and a lot of rights, which would later be developed by the Constitution of 1978. Other principle that this law establish is the separation of powers, previously all concentrated on the dictator and now divided between the government (executive power), the courts (judicial power) and the parliament or Cortes Generales (legislative power).