Spain Table of Contents
National Government: Parliamentary monarchy with hereditary constitutional monarch as head of state. Under 1978 Constitution, power centered in bicameral legislature--the Cortes (comprising lower house, Congress of Deputies, and upper house, Senate). Both houses elected by universal suffrage every four years (unless parliament dissolved earlier by head of state), but 350-member Congress of Deputies uses proportional representation system, whereas Senate contains 208 members elected directly as well as 49 regional representatives. Congress of Deputies wields greater legislative power. Leader of dominant political party in Cortes designated prime minister and serves as head of government. Prime minister, deputy prime minister, and cabinet ministers together make up Council of Ministers, highest national executive institution with both policy-making and administrative functions. Constitution also establishes independent judiciary. Judicial system headed by Supreme Court. Also includes territorial courts, regional courts, provincial courts, courts of first instance, and municipal courts. Constitutional Court resolves constitutional questions. Twenty-member General Council of the Judiciary appoints judges and maintains ethical standards within legal profession. Constitution also provides for public prosecutor and public defender to protect both rule of law and rights of citizens. In 1980s legal system plagued by severe shortage of funds, which resulted in persistent delays in bringing cases to trial. Major revision of Penal Code under way in late 1980s. Government staffed by professional civil service, traditionally inefficient and cumbersome. Attempts to reform and to streamline it under way since 1982 but not fully successful.
Regional Government: Traditionally rigidly centralized, unitary state; however, 1978 Constitution recognizes and guarantees right to autonomy of nationalities and regions of which state is composed. In late 1980s, national territory divided among seventeen autonomous communities, each encompassing one or more previously existing provinces. Each autonomous community governed by statute of autonomy providing for unicameral legislative assembly elected by universal suffrage. Assembly members select president from their ranks. Executive and administrative power exercised by Council of Government, headed by president and responsible to assembly. Division of powers between central government and autonomous communities imprecise and ambiguous in late 1980s, but state had ultimate responsibility for financial matters and so could exercise a significant degree of control over autonomous community activities. Another means of control provided by presence in each region of central government delegate appointed by Council of Ministers to monitor regional activities. Provincial government remained centralized in late 1980s. Headed by civil governors appointed by prime minister, usually political appointees. Provincial government administered by provincial council elected from among subordinate municipal council members and headed by president. Special provisions for Basque provinces, singleprovince autonomous communities, and Balearic and Canary Islands, as well as North African enclaves.
National Politics: Following death of Francisco Franco y Bahamonde in November 1975, King Juan Carlos de Borbon engineered transition to democracy that resulted in transformation of dictatorial regime into pluralistic, parliamentary democracy. Prior to advent of participatory democracy, little political involvement by citizens. Under Franco, Spanish society essentially depoliticized. But after forty years without elections, parties revived and proliferated in months following Franco's death. In elections of June 1977, party receiving largest number of votes was Union of the Democratic Center (Union de Centro Democratico--UCD), a centrist coalition led by Adolfo Suarez Gonzalez. Leading opposition party Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol--PSOE) led by Felipe Gonzalez Marquez. Country increasingly disillusioned, however, by UCD government. UCD, essentially a pragmatic electoral coalition, never developed coherent political program. Its brief success due almost entirely to charisma of Suarez. In October 1982 elections, PSOE registered a sweeping victory. Role of opposition party went to conservative Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular--AP). PSOE able to form first majority one-party government since Civil War. Popularity of Socialist government confirmed in May 1983 municipal and regional elections. PSOE adopted generally pragmatic rather than ideological approach to pressing economic problems. Also undertook military and educational reforms, attempted to resolve problem of Basque terrorism, and sought to develop more active international role for Spain. Gonzalez called for early elections in June 1986, and, although losing some seats, PSOE retained control of Cortes. Official opposition embodied in Popular Coalition (Coalicion Popular--CP), which included AP, Popular Democratic Party (Partido Democrata Popular--PDP), and Liberal Party (Partido Liberal--PL). But 1986 elections also saw significant support for Democratic and Social Center (Centro Democratico y Social--CDS) under Suarez. Many observers believed CDS had potential to develop into major opposition party, given disarray at ends of political spectrum and growing move of party politics to center. After 1986 elections, Socialists faced increasing popular discontent, and polls indicated decline in confidence in Gonzalez.
Regional Politics: In addition to major national parties and their regional affiliates, political party system included numerous regional parties that participated in regional elections and, in the case of the larger parties, also in national elections. Most prominent mainstream parties were Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco--PNV) and Convergence and Union (Convergencia i Unio--CiU), a Catalan party. Catalan parties generally pragmatic and moderate, but some Basque parties regarded as extremist and leftist with ties to terrorist organizations.
Foreign Relations: Traditionally isolated from mainstream European affairs. Neutral in both world wars and ostracized during early rule of Franco because of Franco's Fascist ties and dictatorial regime. But because of strategic location at western entrance to Mediterranean, drawn into United States orbit during Cold War. Signed defense agreement with United States in 1953, subsequently renewed at regular intervals. Nevertheless, latent anti-Americanism persisted. Also permitted to join United Nations (UN). Following Franco's death in 1975, main diplomatic goal to establish closer ties with Western Europe and to be recognized as a West European democratic society. Became member of Council of Europe (see Glossary) in 1977, EC in 1986, and Western European Union (WEU) in 1988. Had already joined North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1982, but membership controversial within Spain. Socialists initially opposed membership, but ultimately came to support limited membership, and public referendum in March 1986 confirmed Spain's membership. Other major foreign policy objectives to increase Spanish influence in Latin America, to achieve return of sovereignty over Gibraltar to Spain, and to serve as bridge between Western Europe and Arab world, in which Spain had adopted generally pro-Arab stance. Latter goal complicated somewhat by Spain's involvement with Morocco in dispute over sovereignty of Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
International Agreements and Memberships: Member of UN and its specialized agencies, International Monetary Fund (IMF--see Glossary), World Bank, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD--see Glossary). Within Europe, member of Council of Europe, EC, WEU, and NATO. Also member of InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) and had observer status in Andean Pact and Organization of American States (OAS). Bilateral military agreements with United States begun in 1953 and subsequently renewed.
Data as of December 1988
Spain Table of Contents