Government - Spanish Constitution

Following the death of General Franco in 1975, which heralded the end of 36 years of dictatorship, Spain has become a parliamentary democracy. A year after Franco's death, political parties were legalised, the Socialists in February 1977 and the Communists in April. The first general elections were held in 1979 and were won by the Unión de Centro Democrátia (UCD) led by Adolfo Suárez, who was largely credited with transforming Spain from a dictatorship into a democracy.

New Constitution

The new Spanish constitution of 6th November, 1978, arguably the most liberal in western Europe, heralded a radical transformation from a dictatorship to a democratic government in Spain. The most important task of the constitution was to devolve power to the regions, which were given their own governments, regional assemblies and supreme legal authorities. The central government of Spain retains exclusive responsibility for foreign affairs, external trade, defence, justice, law (criminal, commercial and labour), merchant shipping and civil aviation. Spain has been a member of the UN since 1955, NATO since 1982 and the EU since 1986, and is also a permanent observer member of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Parliament

The national parliament has two chambers, the lower of which is the Congress of Deputies and the upper the Senate. The Congress consists of 350 members representing Spain's 50 provinces and the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Each province is an electoral constituency with the number of deputies depending on its population. Members of Congress are elected by a system of proportional representation for four years. There are 254 members of the Senate who are elected directly by a first-past-the-post system. Each province provides four members plus additional members in the Balearic and Canary islands, where extra members represent the various islands, making a total of 208 members. The 17 autonomous regions also elect one senator each and an additional member for each one million inhabitants, totalling a further 46 members. The Senate has the power to amend or veto legislation initiated by Congress.

Under the law, the official result of a general election in Spain is made public five days after the vote. This allows sufficient time for recounts and disputed results, if necessary. After the members have been sworn in the king meets with the party leaders and asks one of them - usually the leader of the largest party - to form a government in Spain, which must then be ratified by parliament. The leader of the party of government becomes the president of Spain and has his official residence in the Moncloa Palace in Madrid.

Judiciary

The Constitutional Court is responsible for ensuring that laws passed by parliament comply with the constitution and international agreements to which Spain is party. The Judiciary is independent of the government, with the highest legal body being the 'General Council of Judicial Power' which has 20 independent members and is headed by the president of the Supreme Court.

Present Government

Following a second general election in 1982, the Socialists (PSOE) were swept to power, led by the charismatic President Felipe González, a lawyer and moderate socialist from Seville. In June, 1997, the Partido Popular PP - a right wing Conservative Party led by José Maria Aznar came into power for two terms. José Rodriguez Zapatero (PSOE)  won elections in 2004 and 2008. The 2012 elections were won by Mariano Rajoy of the Partido Popular. The third largest national party is the IU or United Left and there are also important regional parties in Catalonia and the Basque country.

Autonomous Regions

Spain has 17 autonomous regions, of which Andalucia is one, each with its own parliament, president, government, administration and Supreme Court (plus its own flag and capital city). The regions are funded by the central government and the regions of the Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia and Andalucia are responsible for matters such as economic development, education, health, environment, police, public works, tourism, culture, local language and social security. The other regions have less autonomy and fewer responsibilities.

The people of the Basque country, Catalonia and Galicia have also been recognised as separate ethnic groups and have the right to use their own languages in education and administration, as declared in the Statute of Autonomy of 1983 accepted throughout Spain in a referendum. With the increasing influence of the Basque and Catalan regional parties in national politics after the general election, the whole question of regional power and autonomy has taken on a new significance. Catalonia and other regions are demanding freedom to spend a greater share of their taxes, which will mean less money for Spain's poorer regions.

There are elections for the regional parliaments every four years.

Andalucia Region

The second Andalucia Constitution was approved by the Spanish Parliament and became law on the 17th March 2007 and is called "Estatuto de Autonomia de Andalucia".

Andalucia governs itself by the Junta de Andalucia which comprises of three bodies. The Andalucian Parliament, the President of Andalucia, and the Government of Andalucia.

Provinces

Each region is divided into a number of provinces. Andalucia for example has eight provinces (Huelva, Sevilla, Cordoba, Jaen, Cadiz, Malaga, Granada, Almeria). Each province has its own administration which is responsible for a range of services, including, public works, sports facilities and social clubs. There is a civil governor appointed by Madrid. (and a military governor) There is also a provincial government (Diputacion Provincial) lead by the politicians from the party with the most votes from the municipal elections.

Municipalities

Larger towns and village form a municipality which is run by a council consisting of a number of councilors, each of whom is responsible for a different area of local services and headed by the mayor. The council has its offices in the town hall. The official population of a municipality includes everyone who's registered in the list of inhabitants. Entry in the padrón municipal is a prerequisite for entry on the electoral roll and the right to vote in local elections every four years. EU residents in Spain are permitted to vote (and stand for office) in municipal elections.