Embrea suffered greatly in the Great War, being poised amid the Central Powers, Entente and Common Law powers; while it ended on the winning side, postwar settlement was generally unfavorable and the Kingdom was left with over a million dead soldiers and civilians and near-total economic destruction. The resultant upheaval, and particularly the terms of peace, led to widespread discontent among Embreans and fostered a belief that the liberal, democratic government had "won the war, lost the peace" and thus squandered the sacrifice of the nation.
Out of this unrest arose multiple radical, populist, authoritarian movements, among which was the Movement for the National Directive, headed by war veteran and former school headmaster Antonio Silva Marques. Through a mixture of violence, oratory and political theatre, Silva Marques was able to attract throngs of followers and co-opt or eliminate rival movements; additionally, his intelligentsia background made the MDN amenable to a broad spectrum of right-leaning professionals and intellectuals, in addition to the working class and military base. By 1917 the MDN claimed membership of nearly one hundred thousand, making it one of the largest political organizations in Embrea.
Despite its growth and popularity, the Directivist leadership shunned participation in the electoral politics of the Kingdom, lambasting the royal family as "rootless cosmopolitans" and deeming the entire democratic order as "enforced factionalism." The end result was a series of unstable coalition governments, which increasingly came be seen, along with the system itself, as lacking in legitimacy.
The 1919 Elections
In December 1918 the coalition government of Prime Minister Manuel Lopes Oliviera collapsed after 18 months, triggering fresh elections. By this time, the Directivists had become indisputably the largest political faction in Embrea but retained their abstentionist stance; Silva Marques and other Directivist leaders began intimating that any result of the forthcoming election would be illegitimate in regard of their non-participation, and called upon the people to boycott the polls and reject their outcome.
Amid mounting tensions, elections were rescheduled repeatedly in an attempt to restore order and confidence in government, before finally being set to proceed on March 9th, 1919. The government, acting on a tip from within the Directivist circle, had meanwhile begun plans for the arrest of Silva Marques and other top leadership in advance of the election. On February 26th, a safe house in Aviero was raided at dawn but failed to capture its intended targets. Tipped off to the coming arrest, Silva Marques and the others had left the night before.
Marching to Evora
On March 2nd, Silva Marques made his first public appearance since the botched arrest, at a warehouse in Braga repurposed as a Directivist meeting hall. In a speech to approximately 500 assembled Directivists, subsequently known as the Warehouse Address, Silva Marques reiterated his political thesis, concluding with a call to action: "tomorrow, I begin my march to Evora, confident in the millions that stand behind me. The rest, I leave to God.”
Silva Marques began the march on the night of March 2nd, attracting followers as he traveled, before arriving in Evora in the early morning of March 9th, the date scheduled for the election. Historians debate the claim of one million followers, but most estimate the crowd to be no less than 100,000 in number. The reception in the capital was largely positive, with throngs of onlookers swelling the ranks of the Directivists. At 9 AM Silva Marques addressed a speech from the steps of the General Courts building to the assembled crowd, declaring himself Director-General and calling for the establishment of a state based upon the tenets of Directivism. By 10:30 AM word had reached the commanding officer of the Capital Region military command, who announced shortly thereafter that the military would not oppose the Directivists. At noon the resignations of the entire General Courts were accepted by the Crown, which announced its abdication and renunciation of the throne shortly thereafter and fled to exile in Flamaguay that evening.
Aftermath and Legacy
Silva Marques assumed power on the evening of March 9th, initially on an interim basis; in a radio address, he declared the monarchy abolished and stated his intent to reform the nation along Directivist lines, subject to a referendum on the matter. A separate address, made a few days later, called upon the military and remaining civil authorities to pledge their loyalty to the Directivist movement and not oppose the will of the people. Directivists already in place in the civil and military apparatus were swiftly promoted in place of those seen as beholden to the ancien regime, many of whom were arrested, forcibly disappeared or forced into exile.
On June 17th, the planned referendum was held, posing the question to all men aged 21 and older "do you assent to the assumption of State authority by the Movement for the National Directive, and to the implementation of the National Directive as the guiding force of Embrean society," in effect, seeking to legalize the coup. Officially published tallies recorded 98.73% in favor, and hailed the smooth procession of the referendum process--in actuality, the product of widespread campaigns of coercion by Directivist paramilitaries. Directivism thus became entrenched as the national ideology, beginning the transformation of Embrea into a single-party state.