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Niceto Alcalá-Zamora (politician)

Niceto Alcalá-Zamora (politician)Niceto Alcala-Zamora was born in Priego de Cordoba on 6th July 1877 and died on 18th February 1949 in Buenos Aires. The only education he received was in his village school and at home, but he was still able to finish his degree in law at the University of Granada aged just sixteen. At twenty-one, after a doctorate in Madrid (where he was awarded the top prize for scholarship), he was appointed Legal Official of the State Advisory Board, after a public exam in which he got the top marks in his year. In the State Advisory Board he specialised in administrative issues, which he acquired more experience in when four years later he became a lawyer. Just after entering the State Advisory Board, he was appointed assistant teacher in the Madrid Law Faculty by his former teachers, Gumersindo de Azcárate and Rafael de Ureña, who had both been impressed with him as a pupil. Here he taught Administrative Law and Legal Literature. He was a Member of Parliament from 1906 onwards without a break, and preferred to spend his time debating the major laws than in political debates. He was appointed to a number of important positions in the following years: Secretary to the Civil Governor of Madrid, General Director of Local Administration, Undersecretary of the Home Office, Minister of Public Works, President of the Parliamentary Commissions for War and the Navy, Member of the United Nations Disarmament Commission and Minister of War. When the king repealed the Constitution in 1923 and established a dictatorship, Alcalá-Zamora distanced himself from the king, and joined the constitutionalist opposition. He refused to condone the king’s reckless action and became president of the Republican-Socialist coalition opposition – this caused him to be imprisoned and put on trial by the Supreme War and Navy Council, who gave him a conditional sentence in March 1931. His influence on the revolutionary movement was pacific in nature, and after their victory in the municipal elections of 12th April 1931, he was elected Councillor for the Madrid Town Hall. The king fled the country two days later, and Alcalá-Zamora became President of the provisional Republican government; however, that October he resigned in protest at the agreement reached over the political-religious troubles, which he found sectarian and potentially harmful. However, on 10th December 1931, Parliament unanimously elected him President of the Republic. On 7th April 1936, he was removed from office by the left-wing House of Commons, on the charge that his dissolution of the previous right-wing House had not been constitutional, despite the fact that the left-wing parties had continually lobbied him for it and that the measure had been ratified in the elections on 16th February that year. A few months later, Alcalá-Zamora decided to leave the country rather than challenge such an arbitrary decision and risk exposing the country to even greater instability. He went on a trip round the Arctic Ocean and Norway only a few days before Civil War broke out. He lived from then on as an exile from his native land (in France, Senegal, French Morocco, Cuba and Argentina), and came under attack from both of the sides fighting in the Civil War, who between them stripped him of his former wealth. In June 1941, the so-called Tribunal of Political Responsibilities set up by the Franco regime sentenced him to having all his (and his children’s) possessions confiscated, a fine of fifty million pesetas, permanent exclusion from holding public office, banishment and loss of nationality. The sentence was a calculated retrospective personal attack on the man for not joining in the coup d’état and for having loyally observed the Constitution, which he had sworn to protect. After a seemingly endless odyssey (which he recounted in his book “441 days”) he landed in Argentina in January 1942, where he lived for seven years spent in feverish activity writing books and articles as well as holding conferences. He had been a registered Academic in the Academy of Moral Sciences and Politics since 1920 and member of the Academy of the Spanish Language since 1931, as well as President of the Academy of Law and Legislation in 1930 and 1931. He had held, too, the highest national and foreign decorations.

Ayuntamiento de Córdoba