State Organisation

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Head of the Spanish State

The political form of the Spanish state is parliamentary monarchy. The Monarch is the Head of State and all their acts must be countersigned by the Government, in accordance with the provisions of Title II of the Constitution, which is dedicated to the Crown.

Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón, Juan Carlos I, was proclaimed King on 22 November 1975. Following his abdication on 19 June 2014, his son Felipe VI became the King of Spain. The Queen consort is Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano.

As established in the Constitution, their first-born daughter, Princess of Asturias Leonor de Borbón Ortiz, is the heir to the Crown. Their youngest daughter, Infanta Sofía de Borbón Ortiz, is second in the line of succession.

Functions of the Head of State

The Constitution states that the Monarch is the symbol of the unity and permanence of the State, arbitrates and moderates the functioning of the institutions and assumes the highest representation of the Spanish State in international relations, especially with the nations of its historical community.
The functions expressly attributed to the Monarch by the Constitution are:
  • Enacting and promulgating laws.
  • Convening and dissolving the General Courts and calling elections under the terms of the Constitution.
  • Calling a referendum under the circumstances provided for in the Constitution.
  • Proposing the candidate for President of the Government of Spain and, where appropriate, appointing the President, and terminating their functions under the terms provided for in the Constitution.
  • Appointing and dismissing members of the government, on the proposal of its president
  • Issuing the decrees agreed in the Council of Ministers, conferring civil and military posts and granting honours and distinctions, in accordance with the law.
  • Keeping abreast of information on affairs of State and presiding, for these purposes, over sessions of the Council of Ministers, when they deem it appropriate, at the request of the President of the Government of Spain.
  • Supreme Command of the Armed Forces
  • Exercising the right of pardon in accordance with the law, which may not authorise general pardons.
  • High Patronage of the Royal Academies
  • Accrediting ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives.
  • Expressing the consent of the State to be bound internationally by treaties, in accordance with the Constitution and laws
  • Declaring war and making peace, subject to authorisation by the General Courts.

Powers of the Spanish State

Executive power. The Government

The Government consists of the President, the Vice-Presidents, if any, and the Ministers.

In accordance with the procedure established in the Constitution, after having received the confidence of the Lower House of Parliament, the president is appointed by the Monarch. Ministers shall also be appointed, but on the proposal of the President.

The President directs the action of the Government and coordinates the functions of the rest of its members, without prejudice to the competence and direct responsibility of each of them to manage their ministerial departments.

The collegiate bodies of the Government are the Council of Ministers and the Government Delegate Committees.


The Government directs domestic and foreign policy, civil and military administration and State defence. It also exercises executive and regulatory powers in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

The legislative initiative is carried out through the approval of draft laws in the Council of Ministers. The Government may issue Royal Decree-Laws in cases of extraordinary and urgent necessity, except in matters relating to the basic institutions of the State, to the rights, duties and freedoms of citizens regulated in Title I of the Constitution, to the system of the Autonomous Communities and to general electoral law. These provisional legislative provisions shall be immediately submitted to the Lower House of Parliament for debate and a full vote within thirty days of their enactment.

The General Courts may delegate to the Government the power to issue regulations with the status of law on specific matters, either by means of a basic law for the formation of articulated texts or by means of an ordinary law when it is a matter of consolidating several legal texts into a single one. Government provisions containing delegated legislation are called Legislative Decrees.

Government Control

The government is jointly and severally accountable to the Lower House of Parliament for its political management. The Constitution expressly recognises the right of the Lower House of Parliament to information and establishes different procedures as part of its task of overseeing the Executive.

Termination of the Government

The government ceases to exist following a general election, in cases of loss of parliamentary confidence following a question of confidence or a motion of censure, or the resignation or death of the president. The outgoing government remains in office until the new government takes office.

The President of the Government of Spain, while in office, may not propose to the Monarch the dissolution of any of the legislative chambers or the General Courts or the calling of a referendum, nor may he propose a question of confidence.

The State Council

The State Council is the Government's supreme advisory body and issues opinions on matters submitted to it for consultation by the Government or its members, either on a mandatory or optional basis.

Legislative power: General Courts

The Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament

The legislative power of the State is exercised by the General Courts, which represent the Spanish people and control the actions of the Government. There are two legislative chambers: The Lower and the Upper Houses of Parliament.

The Lower House of Parliament is composed of 350 deputies elected by universal suffrage every four years. All bills and proposed laws must first be examined by the Lower House of Parliament, with the Upper House of Parliament having the right to veto or amend the text drawn up by the Lower House of Parliament and reserving the final decision after further examination. Likewise, it is the Lower House of Parliament that grants the investiture of the President of the Government of Spain and, therefore, it is this legislative chamber that can provoke their resignation, either through the approval of a motion of censure or through the refusal to grant the confidence requested by the Government.

The Upper House of Parliament is the legislative chamber of territorial representation and is composed of 265 senators. 208 of its members are elected by direct universal suffrage every four years and the other 57 are appointed by the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Communities, which elect one member of parliament each and another for every million inhabitants of their respective territory.

The Ombudsman

The Ombudsman is the high commissioner of the General Courts and guarantees the defence and protection of fundamental rights. The Ombudsman is elected by the General Courts for a five-year term.

Court of Auditors

The Court of Auditors is the supreme body auditing the accounts and taking charge of the economic management of the State and the economic and financial activity of the public sector. It is also responsible for the prosecution of accounting liability incurred by those in charge of handling public funds or effects.

The Judiciary

Citizens and public authorities are subject to the Constitution and the rest of the legal system.

Justice emanates from the people and is administered on behalf of the Monarch by the judges and magistrates of the judiciary, who are independent, irremovable, accountable and subject only to the Constitution and the rule of law.

The government of the Judiciary is the responsibility of the General Council of the Judiciary.

The exercise of jurisdictional power, judging and enforcing what has been judged, corresponds exclusively to the courts and tribunals determined by the law and international treaties.

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial instance of the State, except in matters concerning constitutional guarantees, which is the power of the Constitutional Court.

Territorial Organisation

Autonomous communities and cities

The Spanish State is organised territorially into towns, provinces and autonomous communities, with autonomy to manage their respective interests.

The Constitution recognises the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions that make up Spain and solidarity among them.

Between December 1979 and February 1983, the Statutes of Autonomy were approved, leading to the creation of the current 17 autonomous communities, and in 1995 those of the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

Territorial local bodies: towns, provinces and islands in the Balearic and Canary archipelagos

The basic local bodies are the town, the province and the islands in the Balearic and Canary Islands.

The Town

The government and administration of the town is the responsibility of the Town Council, consisting of the mayor and the councillors. The councillors are elected by universal, equal, free, direct and secret suffrage, and the mayor is elected by them.

The Province

The provinces are groupings of towns established since 1833 and their government and administration are the responsibility of the Provincial Administration. Its basic task is to assist the towns, especially those with less economic and management capacity, to ensure provision of the minimum compulsory services to which they are entitled by law.


In the Canary and Balearic archipelagos, the islands have their own administration in the form of City Halls and Councils, respectively.

Other local bodies

Towns have the right to associate with other towns in associations of towns for the joint execution of works and services within their jurisdiction.

The autonomous communities, in accordance with their respective Statutes of Autonomy and in compliance with the requirements established by law, may create counties or other entities, which group together several towns in their territory. They may also be organised into metropolitan areas in the case of large urban agglomerations between whose population centres there are economic and social links that make joint planning and coordination of certain services and works necessary.

General State Administration

The General State Administration (AGE) is organised through different bodies and institutions:

  • The Central Organisation, which is made up of the Ministries and the common services, which assist the Departments and ensure the efficient use of the material, economic and personal means and resources assigned to them.
  • The Territorial Organisation, which includes the territorial services of the General State Administration in the Autonomous Communities and which are organised into services integrated or not into the Government Delegations. The holders of the Government Delegations are the Government Delegates, who also represent the Government of Spain in each Autonomous Community. They are appointed by Royal Decree of the Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the President of the Government of Spain.

The European Union

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union made up of 27 countries, of which Spain has been a member since 1986.

The Union is founded on the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE). As the TEU states, "the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men".

The EU has seven institutions: