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Alcala-Zamora was born in Priego de Cordova , Spain. A lawyer by profession, from a very young age he agitated in the Liberal Party. Chosen as a deputy he quickly gained fame for his eloquent interventions in the Congress of Deputies, arriving to be minister of Promotion in 1917 and of War in 1922, comprised part of the governments of concentration presided over by García Prieto. He was also Spain’s representative in the League of Nations.
Disappointed by the acceptance on the part of the King, Alfonso XIII, of the coup d'etat by General Miguel Primo de Rivera on September 13, 1923, he did not collaborate with the new regime. After the departure of the dictator in 1930 he declared himself a republican in a sounded meeting that took place on April 13 in the Apolo theater of Valencia. He was one of the instigators of the Pact of San Sebastián. The failure of the military uprising (Revolt of Jaca) of that same year took him to prison, as member of the revolutionary committee, which he left after the municipal elections of April 12, 1931. In these elections, although they generally defeated the monarchist candidates, the victory of the republicans in the provincial capitals accelerated the breakdown of the monarchists and the abandonment of power on the part of the king. Without waiting for the next general elections, Alcala-Zamora presided over a revolutionary provisional government who occupied the ministries on April 14 and proclaimed the Second Republic.
Confirmed in the presidency after the June elections, he resigned in October 1931, along with Miguel Maura, minister of the Interior, due to the disagreement of both Catholic progressives with the writing of articles 24 and 26 of the new Constitution, which consecrated the separation of Church-State and made possible the dissolution of the religious orders that were considered dangerous for the State. Although they weighed other personal reasons, the adduced ones for both resignations were that these articles injured their religious feelings as well as those of the Catholic electorate who supported them.
Nevertheless, on December 10, 1931 he was elected President of the Second Spanish Republic, by 362 votes out of 410 present deputies (the Chamber was composed of 446 deputies). He stayed this in position until April 7, 1936.
The elections of November 1933 gave the victory to the right, with whom Alcala-Zamora maintained terrible relations, with constant institutional confrontations throughout the biennium. The most voted party was the Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA), but its leader José Maria Gil-Robles yielded power to Alejandro Lerroux. In October 1934 Gil-Robles obtained two ministerial portfolios that he later extended to five in March 1935 without trying to obtain the presidency of the government (Prime Minister). When in the end he decided to try, Alcala-Zamora dissolved the Cortes to avoid it.
In 1936, in a very controversial decision by the Congress, it considered the dissolution of the Cortes carried out on January 7, 1936, was illegal and for that reason was dismissed, although this dissolution was the one that made possible the celebration of elections and the consequent triumph of the Popular Front. Its decision to dissolve Cortes in 1933 had already cost him critical support on the part of the left, but he, on the other hand, refused to put power into the hands of CEDA, since he reasonably distrusted the democratic spirit of the party of Gil-Robles.
The beginning of the Spanish Civil War surprised him on a trip to Scandinavia. He decided not to return to Spain when he found out, according to accounts in his memoirs rewritten during his exile, of which militiamen of the Popular Front government had illegally entered his domicile, stole his belongings and plundered his safe-deposit box in the bank Crédit Lyonnais in Madrid, taking the manuscript of his memoirs. He fixed his residence to France when World War II began.
After multiple hardships, due to the German occupation and the collaborationist attitude of the Vichy government, he left France and after a laborious trip of 441 days by ship he arrived in Argentina on January 1942, where he lived on his books, articles and conferences.
He did not want to return to Spain during the pro-Franco regime although, apparently, some offer was given to him since a son of his was married to a daughter of General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, one of the protagonists of the rising.
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