Spain is a constitutional monarchy as determined by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The constitution was written three years after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975 by King Juan Carlos I, who oversaw Spain’s transition from a dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy.
The monarchy, which is lead by King Juan Carlos I, is the head of the Spanish state. The King’s role is predominantly ceremonial although he is officially required to select the President of Spain and appoint other Spanish ministers. He is also a key ambassador for Spain, representing the country at important events all over the world.
Spanish Government can be split into three different constitutional bodies that are legally independent from one another. These are referred to as the Cortes Generales, or General Courts. Spanish parliament is bicameral, meaning that it is made up of two houses. The lower house is the Chamber of Deputies. This is the legislative branch of the government, which debates and creates laws that are then sent to the upper house, the Senate. It is the Senate’s job to process the proposals made by the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate has less power than the Chamber of Deputies, however it is able to veto proposals so they are sent back to the lower house to be reconsidered. The final section of Spanish Government is the General Council of the Judiciary. This governs all the courts and judges in Spain and oversees that all aspects of the Spanish constitution are fully adhered to.
Both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have a maximum term length of four years. At each general election the Chamber of Deputies is dissolved so that a new government can be formed with a new president. The voting is done by proportional representation across 50 constituencies that coincide with the provinces of Spain. The vote then determines who takes the 350 seats that make up the Congress of Deputies. Following the election, the King then interviews the presidential candidate of each political party to nominate the President of Spain. Despite that fact it is within the King’s constitutional right to select a presidential candidate without the largest number of votes as President, this has never happened. Ever since the 1978 Constitution, the party that wins the largest number of seats has always gone on to form the government. Having the monarch select the President of Spain is symbolic of the royal endorsement for the democratic process, a key point of the constitution after Franco’s dictatorship.
Prime Minister in Spain
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has been president since the 2004 general election, which he won again in 2008. In English, he is commonly referred to as the Prime Minister of Spain, although his official title is Presidente del Gobierno (President of the Government). Zapatero is leader of the left-leaning Spanish Socialist Workers Party, which is one of the two main parties in Spain alongside the conservative People’s Party.
The cabinet in Spain is made up of the heads of the 17 Spanish ministries and meets every Friday with the Spanish Prime Minister, who chairs the sessions. In 2008, Zapatero made news headlines across the world by selecting 9 female ministers for the 17 positions to create Spain’s first ever cabinet with more females than males. This highlighted Zapatero’s commitment to the feminist agenda but surprised many, including Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who described the Spanish Government as being “a bit too pink”. The most notable changes included the election of Carme Chacón, who became the new Spanish Minister of Defence which until then had been occupied exclusively by males. Another woman, Bibiana Aído Almagro, became the youngest ever cabinet member when she was elected as the new Spanish Minister for Housing.