Adolfo Suarez Gonzalez, the politician who led Spain through the difficult transition period from a dictatorship to a democracy, resigned Jan. 29 as prime minister and head of the ruling Democratic Center Union Party (UCD). Mr. Suarez's decision took politicians outside his own party completely by surprise. Shortly before the announcement, he had called a Cabinet meeting and had handed in his resignation to King Juan Carlos.
Correspondent Jane Monahan writes that the decision takes place against a background of economic and political crisis -- the UCD is in the throes of its worst internal disputes since it was founded in June 1977, on the eve of the country's first democratic elections in years.
The disputes have been simmering for many months, ever since the UCD took humiliating defeats in regional pools early last year in southern Andalusia and in the Basque country and Catalonia in the north. It was only in recent weeks, however, as the party began to prepare for its second national congress, that a clear split emerged.