Members of the military carry the coffin of former Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez to the Parliament building in Madrid. Photo: Andres Kudacki

Madrid - Spain's King Juan Carlos joined politicians in Parliament on Monday to pay their last respects to Adolfo Suarez, the country's first democratically elected prime minister following decades of right-wing rule under Gen. Francisco Franco.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other political leaders stood outside the parliament building as soldiers brought in Suarez's coffin to a slow and solemn drum beat.

Flags flew at half-staff as Spain held three days of mourning for one of the key architects of Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s.

The king laid a Royal Order of Carlos III gold chain - Spain's highest civilian award - close to the coffin before expressing his condolences to Suarez's family.

People queued up outside Parliament from early morning to pay their respects. The body was to lie in state for 24 hours before a burial Tuesday in Avila, about 100 kilometers northwest of the capital.

Suarez died Sunday in a Madrid hospital at age 81. He had had Alzheimer's disease for a decade.

In 1976, Juan Carlos chose Suarez to guide the country toward a democratic parliamentary monarchy after Franco's death a year earlier.

He was prime minister until 1981 and retired from politics in 1991.