Guide Contemporary Spanish Politics

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This administrative and political territorial division is known as the "State of Autonomies". Though highly decentralized, Spain is not a federation since the nation — as represented in the central institutions of government — retains full sovereignty. The State, that is, the central government, has progressively and asymmetrically devolved or transferred power and competences to the autonomous communities after the constitution of came into effect.

Each autonomous community is governed by a set of institutions established in its own Statute of Autonomy. The Statute of Autonomy is the basic organic institutional law, approved by the legislature of the community itself as well as by the Cortes Generales , the Spanish Parliament. The Statutes of Autonomy establish the name of the community according to its historical identity; the delimitation of its territory; the name, organization and seat of the autonomous institutions of government; and the competences that they assume and the foundations for their devolution or transfer from the central government.

Contemporary Spanish Politics, 2nd Edition

All autonomous communities have a parliamentary form of government, with a clear separation of powers. Their legislatures represent the people of the community, exercising legislative power within the limits set forth in the constitution of Spain and the degree of devolution that the community has attained. Even though the central government has progressively transferred roughly the same amount of competences to all communities, devolution is still asymmetrical. More power was devolved to the so-called "historical nationalities" — the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia.

Other communities chose afterwards to identify themselves as nationalities as well. The Basque Country, Catalonia and Navarre have their own police forces Ertzaintza , Mossos d'Esquadra and the Chartered Police respectively while the National Police Corps operates in the rest of the autonomous communities.

On the other hand, two communities the Basque Country and Navarre are " communities of chartered regime ", that is, they have full fiscal autonomy, whereas the rest are " communities of common regime ", with limited fiscal powers the majority of their taxes are administered centrally and redistributed among them all for fiscal equalization.

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The names of the executive government and the legislature vary between communities. Some institutions are restored historical bodies of government of the previous kingdoms or regional entities within the Spanish crown — like the Generalitat of Catalonia — while others are entirely new creations. In some, both the executive and the legislature, though constituting two separate institutions, are collectively identified with a specific name.

It should be noted, though, that a specific denomination may not refer to the same branch of government in all communities; for example, "Junta" may refer to the executive office in some communities, to the legislature in others, or to the collective name of all branches of government in others. The two autonomous cities have more limited competences. The executive is exercised by a president, which is also the major of the city. In the same way, limited legislative power is vested in a local Assembly in which the deputies are also the city councilors.

The constitution also guarantees certain degree of autonomy to two other "local" entities: the provinces of Spain subdivisions of the autonomous communities and the municipalities subdivisions of the provinces. If the communities are integrated by a single province, then the institutions of government of the community replace those of the province. For the rest of the communities, provincial government is held by Provincial Deputations or Councils.

With the creation of the autonomous communities, deputations have lost much of their power, and have a very limited scope of actions, with the exception of the Basque Country, where provinces are known as "historical territories" and their bodies of government retain more faculties. Except in the Basque Country, members of the Provincial Deputations are indirectly elected by citizens according to the results of the municipals elections and all of their members must be councilors of a town or a city in the province.

In the Basque Country direct elections do take place. Spanish municipal administration is highly homogenous; most of the municipalities have the same faculties, such as managing the municipal police, traffic enforcement, urban planning and development, social services, collecting municipal taxes, and ensuring civil defense. In most municipalities, citizens elect the municipal council, which is responsible for electing the mayor, who then appoints a board of governors or councilors from his party or coalition. The only exceptions are municipalities with under 50 inhabitants, which act as an open council, with a directly elected major and an assembly of neighbors.

Municipal elections are held every four years on the same date for all municipalities in Spain. Councilors are allotted using the D'Hondt method for proportional representation with the exception of municipalities with under inhabitants where block voting is used instead. The number of councilors is determined by the population of the municipality; the smallest municipalities having 5, and the largest — Madrid — having Spain is a multi-party constitutional parliamentary democracy.

According to the constitution, political parties are the expression of political pluralism, contributing to the formation and expression of the will of the people, and are an essential instrument of political participation. The Law of Political Parties of provides them with public funding whose quantity is based on the number of seats held in the Cortes Generales and the number of votes received.

Politics of Spain

It was founded in by Pablo Iglesias , at the beginning as a Marxist party for the workers' class, which later evolved towards social-democracy. It played a key role during the transition and the Constituent Assembly that wrote the Spanish current constitution. The People's Party PP is a conservative centre-right party that took its current name in , replacing the previous People's Alliance , a more conservative party founded in by seven former Franco 's ministers. In its refoundation it incorporated the Liberal Party and the majority of the Christian democrats.

In it integrated the Democratic and Social Center Party. The parties or coalitions represented in the Cortes Generales after the 20 December election are:. In addition, the Aragonese Party , United Extremadura , and the Union of Navarrese People participated in the elections forming regional coalitions with the People's Party. Suffrage is free and secret to all Spanish citizens of age 18 and older to all elections, and to residents who are citizens of all European Union countries only in local municipal elections and elections to the European Parliament.

Elections to the Cortes Generales are held every four years or before if the prime minister calls for an early election. Members of the Congress of Deputies are elected through proportional representation with closed party lists where provinces serve as electoral districts; that is, a list of deputies is selected from a province-wide list. Not only provinces with small population are over-represented in Spain's election system, the system also tends to favors major political parties.

In the Senate, each province, with the exception of the islands, select four senators using block voting : voters cast ballots for three candidates, and the four senators with the greatest number of votes are selected. The number of senators selected for the islands varies, depending on their size, from 3 to 1 senators. A similar procedure of block voting is used to select the three senators from the three major islands whereas the senators of the smaller islands or group of islands, are elected by plurality.

In addition, the legislative assembly of each autonomous community designates one senator, and another for each additional one million inhabitants. Electoral participation, which is not compulsory, has traditionally been high, peaking just after democracy was restored in the late s, falling during the s, but trending upwards in the s. The end of the Spanish Civil War put at end to the Second Spanish Republic — , after which a dictatorial regime was established, headed by general Francisco Franco. In he decreed, in one of the eight Fundamental Laws of his regime , the Law of Succession of the Head of State , that Spain was a monarchy with a vacant throne, that Franco was the head of State as general and caudillo of Spain, and that he would propose, when he deemed opportune, his successor, who would bear the title of King or Regent of Spain.


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Even though Juan of Bourbon , the legitimate heir of the monarchy, opposed the law, Franco met him in , when they agreed that his son, Juan Carlos, then 10 years old, would finish his education in Spain — he was then living in Rome — according to the "principles" of the Francoist movement. In , Franco finally designated Juan Carlos as his successor, with the title "Prince of Spain", bypassing his father Juan of Bourbon.

Even though Juan Carlos I had sworn allegiance to " National Movement ", the sole legal party of the regime, he expressed his support for a transformation of the Spanish political system as soon as he took office. Such an endeavor was not meant to be easy or simple, as the opposition to the regime had to ensure that nobody in their ranks would turn into extremism, and the Army had to resist the temptation to intervene to restore the "Movement". He accomplished both tasks, and the first democratically elected Constituent Cortes since the Second Spanish Republic met in In a new democratic constitution was promulgated and approved by referendum.

The constitution declared Spain a constitutional parliamentary monarchy with H. Spain's transformation from an authoritarian regime to a successful modern democracy was a remarkable achievement, even creating a model emulated by other countries undergoing similar transitions.

He resigned on 29 January , but on 23 February , day when the Congress of Deputies was to designate a new prime minister, rebel elements among the Civil Guard seized the Cortes Generales in an a failed coup that ended the day after. The great majority of the military forces remained loyal to the King, who used his personal and constitutional authority as commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armed forces, to diffuse the uprising and save the constitution, by addressing the country on television. The government also created new social laws and large scale infrastructural buildings, expanding the educational system and establishing a welfare state.

While traditionally affiliated with one of Spain's major trade unions, the General Union of Workers UGT , in an effort to improve Spain's competitiveness in preparation for admission to the EC as well as for further economic integration with Europe afterwards, the PSOE distanced itself from trade unions. There was also a significant cultural shift , into a tolerant contemporary open society. Aznar moved to further liberalize the economy, with a program of complete privatization of state-owned enterprises, labor market reform and other policies designed to increase competition in selected markets.

Aznar liberalized the energy sector, national telecommunications and television broadcasting networks. Spanish armed forces and police personnel were included in the international peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Having obtained an absolute majority in the elections, Aznar, headed the prime ministership until Aznar supported transatlantic relations with the United States, and participated on the War on Terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. In , he decided not to run as a candidate for the Popular Party, and proposed Mariano Rajoy , who had been minister under his government, as his successor as leader of the party.

In the aftermath of the terrorist bomb attacks in Madrid , which occurred just three days before the elections, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party won a surprising victory.


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Under a policy of gender equality, his was the first Spanish Government to have the same number of male and female members in the Council of Ministers. During the first four years of his prime ministership the economy continued to expand rapidly, and the government ran budget surpluses.

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His government brought social liberal changes to Spain, promoting women's rights, changing the abortion law, and legalizing same-sex marriage , and tried to make the State more secular. When the international financial crisis hit, the construction industry collapsed, along with property values and several banks and cajas savings banks were in need of rescuing or consolidation.

In applying counter-cyclical policies during the beginning of the crisis, and the ensuing drop in State revenues, the government financing fell into deficit. During an month period from to , the government adopted severe austerity measures, cutting spending and laying off workers. The People's Party, which presented Mariano Rajoy for the third time as candidate, won a decisive victory, [35] obtaining an absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies.

The elections of 20 December were inconclusive, with the People's Party remaining the largest party in Congress, but unable to form a majority government.

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The PSOE remained the second largest party, but the Podemos and Ciudadanos parties also obtained substantial representation; coalition negotiations were prolonged [36] but failed to install a new government. This led to a further general election on 26 June , in which the PP increased its number of seats in parliament, while still falling short of an overall majority. Spanish political developments since the early twentieth century have been marked by the existence of peripheral nationalisms and the debate of whether Spain can be viewed as a plurinational federation.

Spain is a diverse country with different and contrasting polities showing varying economic and social structures, as well as different languages and historical, political and cultural traditions.