Former Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez, who led Spain's first democratic government after the end of the Franco dictatorship, is near death, his son said Friday.

"We are in God's hands. It is imminent," a weeping Adolfo Suarez Illana told a press conference at a Madrid hospital.

The 81-year-old former premier was hospitalized Monday with respiratory problems related to Alzheimer's.

Suarez Illana said he informed King Juan Carlos and current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of his father's condition.

The Alzheimer's disease, which was diagnosed 11 years ago, "has advanced a lot and everything indicates the end is imminent," Suarez Illana said, adding that the family is looking at a "time horizon that does not exceed 48 hours."

Adolfo Suarez's past two days in the hospital "have been happy," according to his son.

Surrounded by his children, grandchildren and siblings, Suarez has smiled more in the last 48 hours than in the previous five years, Suarez Illana said.

The younger man stressed Suarez's key role, in conjunction with King Juan Carlos, in putting Spain on a democratic path.

"Without his help, Spain would never have flown so high or so far," Suarez Illana said of his father.

Adolfo Suarez has already received last rites and "is at peace," his son told reporters.

Becoming prime minister in 1976, the year after Franco's death, Suarez oversaw the dismantling of the dictatorship and organized the country's first democratic elections since the 1930s.

Suarez led the Union of the Democratic Center to victory in the June 1977 poll and again in 1979.

He stepped down in January 1981, a month before Civil Guards and military officers disrupted the swearing-in of his successor, Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, as part of a attempted coup that was ultimately thwarted by King Juan Carlos.

In 2008, the king and Queen Sofia presented Adolfo Suarez with the Order of the Golden Fleece, Spain's highest honor. EFE