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Spain - Political Structure


The Kingdom of Spain is a parliamentary monarchy, structured on the 1978 Constitution, which established it as a social and democratic state, subject to the rule of law. It states the King to be the Head of State.


The current monarch is Juan Carlos I (Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón), proclaimed King on 22nd November 1975, following the death of the previous Head of State, Francisco Franco, who designated Don Juan Carlos as his successor in 1969.

His grandfather, Alfonso XIII, was monarch until 1931, when the Second Republic was proclaimed and he relinquished his status as Monarch.

Juan Carlos I oversaw Spain’s transition to democracy following the death of Franco in 1975.

The 1978 Constitution established three powers as the form of government: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary.

The Cortes Generales – the Spanish Parliament – forms the legislative branch: a bicameral parliament with 350 members elected by popular ballot to the lower chamber, the Congress of Deputies, every four years. The number of deputies per constituency depends on the population of each province.

The governing socialist PSOE party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) achieved 164 seats in the last general election in 2004: the opposition right wing party, the Partido Popular, achieved 146 seats.

The upper chamber of the Cortes Generales is the Senate, which currently consists of 259 Senators.

208 were elected in the 2004 general election: 4 are allocated to each Spanish province, 3 to each of the larger islands (Gran Canaria, Mallorca and Tenerife), and one each to the smaller islands (Ibiza-Formentera, Menorca, Fuerteventura, Gomera, Hierro, and Lanzarote). The autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla are each allocated 2 Senators.

The remaining Senators are designated by the Autonomous Communities: one each, plus another for every one million inhabitants.

The Senate lifetime is also 4 years.

The national government is headed by the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), which is, in turn, headed by the President of the Spanish Government, or Prime Minister, who is appointed by the King after investiture vote in Congress following general elections.

The Constitution structures the Spanish State into 17 autonomous communities (Ceuta and Melilla were granted more limited autonomy in the mid-1990s), recognising and guaranteeing the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed.

The premise is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation. Each region’s right to self-autonomy is guaranteed by a Statute of Autonomy.

Each has its own parliament, regional president, government, and supreme court. Legislative powers vary between the communities.

Elections generally take place every four years.

Government in the provinces is led by the provincial government, the Diputación Provincial, with members elected by the members of the city councils. It has no legislative authority.

Local government divides Spain into municipalities – more than 8,000 - where towns and cities are governed and administered by a Town or City Council.

The Council is made up of councillors elected by a popular four-yearly ballot, and is required to meet in full session at least every 3 months.

The Mayor directs municipal administration and is elected from amongst the councillors after local elections, although is generally the candidate who led the majority party’s list in the local poll.