Former Spanish leader Adolfo Suarez has died at the age of 81.

The politician passed away on Sunday (23Mar14) in Madrid's Cemtro Clinic hospital after suffering a respiratory infection.

Suarez took office in 1977 in Spain's first democratic election following the death of dictator Francisco Franco two years earlier (75).

He served as prime minister until 1981 and became one of the country's most respected politicians due to his leadership during Spain's transition to democracy.

Spain's monarch King Juan Carlos has paid tribute to Suarez in a televised message, saying, "Suarez was a statesman who put the whole of the Spanish nation ahead of his personal and party interests."

Suarez had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade.