I am eager to discover more with regards to the culture, history, literature & art of both Spain and the Middle East and seeing as the politics of any country can significantly shape said aspects of a nation – often creating stereotypes in the process – I felt it necessary to understand more so the governmental systems of Spain and Middle Eastern countries.
That being said, here is a (hopefully comprehensible) whistle-stop tour of the Spanish government…
A Parliamentary Monarchy
- what it says on the tin: has a parliament and a monarch.
- Established in accordance with Constitution of Spain in 1978.
What existed before the Parliamentary Monarchy?
Before 1978 and the establishment of the parliamentary monarchy, the country was known as the Spanish State (1939–1947) until Franco declared himself the head of the Kingdom of Spain (1947–1975). Franco’s vision was for Spain to become ‘a totalitarian state based on fascism’ – similar to Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. However, after Franco’s death in 1975, the country began its return to democracy.
This is made up of two institutions, ‘Las Cortes Generales’
1. El Congreso de los Diputados (Lower house = traditionally more
- The members of congress propose legislative changes and additions.
- Number of members: 350 – representative of the Province who elected them.
- Length of term: 4 years
2. El Senado (Upper house = traditionally less power)
- The Senate decides on the consequences and suitability of the legislative proposals set forth by El Congreso de los Diputados.
- They have the power to amend or reject said proposals.
- Number of Members: 265
- Length of term: 4 years (unless member is one of the 57 elected by regional government – they may be summoned back whenever)
How many elections are there in Spain, and who do they elect for what?
There are 4 elections:
- Local elections (muncipiality/councils, e.g. Hambleton, Aylesbury Vale)
- Elections for the legislatures of the autonomous communities. (There isn’t really an equivalent in the UK, the closest perhaps is the county system e.g. North Yorkshire, Norfolk)
- General Elections: in which both the members of the Senate and Congress are elected for the national legislature. (Similar to our MP’s according to constituency, e.g.. Thirsk and Malton; Sheffield Hallam)
- MEP elections (The UK also has this).
Who is the Head of the Government?
- Known internationally as the Spanish ‘Prime Minister’.
- Elected by El Congreso de los Diputados.
- The Prime Minister assigns several ministers to key ministries (eg Foreign Secretary), the most important perhaps is the Minister for the Presidency and Vice President.
- The current Prime Minister is Mariano Rajoy; the Minister for Presidency/Vice President is María Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría Antón.
The government is defined by and acts in accordance with the Constitution of Spain, which was approved by the Spanish people in 1978.
Now onto the traditionally more glamorous side of the government…
The monarch inherits their role hereditarily. They are usually the eldest of their siblings, however girls can only inherit if there are no boys.
Ultimately the monarch has no legal power, other than appointing officials such as the Head of Government. However, it can be argued that they are key in maintaining international relationships, often making state visits to other countries such as the United Kingdom or France.
After elections in 1931 which anti-monarchy candidates were victorious, Alfonso XIII went into exile. With Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War, Spain did not have a monarchy as such. In 1947, Franco declared himself Head of state of the Kingdom of Spain.
After Franco’s death in 1975, before which he named Juan Carlos I de Borbón (Alfonso XIII’s grandson) as his successor, the monarchy was reestablished. Despite the custom that royals have little political power, Juan Carlos’s influence was key in suppressing the 1981 military coup. After this he tended to work ‘towards establishing reliable political customs when transitioning one government administration to another, emphasising constitutional law and protocol’, rather than the philanthropic and ceremonies duties carried out stereotypically by other monarchs.
The current monarch of Spain is Felipe VI whilst his heir presumptive is his eldest daughter, Leonor.