Prime Minister of Spain

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President of the Government of Spain
Presidente del Gobierno de España
Spanish Presidential Flag.svg
Flag of Government Officials
Presidente Mariano Rajoy Brey 2012 - La Moncloa.JPG
Mariano Rajoy

since 21 December 2011
Style Excelentísimo Señor
Member of Cabinet
European Council
Residence Palacio de la Moncloa
Seat Madrid, Spain
Nominator The Monarch
Countersigned by the President of the Congress of Deputies
Appointer The Monarch
Following a vote of confidence by a majority of the Congress of Deputies and with the countersignature of the President of the Congress of Deputies
Term length No fixed term
General elections to the Congress of Deputies are held every four years at most. The President of the Government is by convention the leader of the victorious party. No term limits are imposed on the office.
Constituting instrument Constitution of 1978
Formation 1978
First holder Adolfo Suárez
Deputy Vice President of the Government
Escudo de España (colores THV).svg
This article is part of a series on the
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The President of the Government of Spain,[1] (Spanish: Presidente del Gobierno),[2] known incorrectly by some English-speaking nations as Prime Minister is the head of Government of Spain. The current office is established under the Constitution of 1978.

The King of Spain nominates a candidate for the presidency who stands before the Congress of Deputies for a vote of confidence in a process known as a parliamentarian investiture, effectively an indirect election of the head of government by the elected Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the national parliament, the Cortes Generales.

Mariano Rajoy Brey of the People's Party has been the prime minister since he was sworn in on December 21, 2011, after winning the 2011 general election.

Official title[edit]

The Spanish head of government is known, in Spanish, as the Presidente del Gobierno. Literally translated, the title is "President of the Government"[3][4] but nevertheless the office-holder is commonly referred to in English as the "prime minister", the usual term for the head of government in a parliamentary system. However the Spanish for "prime minister" is primer ministro and it is used for other nations' parliamentary heads of government; thus, for example, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the Primer Ministro del Reino Unido, not the Presidente del Gobierno del Reino Unido.

In Spain the head of the government is often called simply Presidente, meaning "President". This sometimes causes confusion since it is the usual term for the head of state in a republic; former governor of Florida Jeb Bush once mistakenly referred to incumbent José María Aznar as the "President of the Republic of Spain".[5] The custom to name the head of government as "President" dates back to the reign of Isabella II of Spain, when the official title was Presidente del Consejo de Ministros ("President of the Council of Ministers"). Before 1833 the figure was known as Secretario de Estado ("Secretary of State"), a denomination used today for junior ministers.

Royal nomination and congressional confirmation[edit]

Once a general election has been announced by the king, political parties nominate their candidates to stand for the presidency of the government. An outgoing president who is not running in that election remains in office as a caretaker until their successor is sworn in, such as José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero; this differs from other parliamentary governments whose prime ministers always lead their parties during the election campaign.

Following the general election of the Cortes Generales (Cortes), and other circumstances provided for in the constitution, the king meets with and interviews the political party leaders represented in the Congress of Deputies, and then consults with the Speaker of the Congress of Deputies (officially, Presidente de Congreso de los Diputados de España, who, in this instance, represents the whole of the Cortes Generales and was himself elected from within the Congress to be the Speaker) before nominating his candidate for the presidency, according to Section 99 of Title IV.[6] Often minor parties form part of a larger major party, and through that membership it can be said that the king fulfills his constitutional mandate of consulting with party representatives with Congressional representation.

Title IV Government and Administration Section 99(1) & (2)

  • (1) After each renewal of the Congress and the other cases provided for under the Constitution, the King shall, after consultation with the representatives appointed by the political groups with parliamentary representation, and through the Speaker of the Congress, nominate for the Presidency of the Government.
  • (2) The candidate nominated in accordance with the provisions of the foregoing subsection shall submit to the Congress the political program of the Government he or she intends to form and shall seek the confidence of the House.[6]

Constitutionally, the monarch may nominate anyone he sees fit as his prerogative. However, it remains pragmatic for monarch to nominate a candidate who is most likely to enjoy the confidence of the Congress of Deputies and form a government, usually the political leader whose party commands the most seats in the Congress.[6] For the Crown to nominate the political leader whose party controls the Congress can be seen as a royal endorsement of the democratic process— a fundamental concept enshrined in the 1978 Constitution.

By political custom established by Juan Carlos I since the ratification of the 1978 Constitution, the king's nominees have all been from parties who maintain a plurality of seats in the Congress. However, there is no legal requirement for this. It has never happened in the national government, but the largest party could end up not ruling if rival parties gather into a majority, forming a coalition. As political activity in Spain has effectively coalesced into a two-party system between the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and the People's Party, the two major parties usually adopt some aspects of the minor party platforms in an effort to attract them into parliamentary pacts to edge out their rival party in the event that no party is able to command an absolute majority of the Congress by themselves.

The monarch is normally able to announce his nominee on the day following a general election.

The monarch's order nominating a presidential candidate is countersigned by the Speaker of the Congress, who then presents the nominee before the Congress of Deputies in a process known as a Congressional Investiture (Investidura parlamentaria). During the Investiture proceedings the nominee presents his political agenda in an Investiture Speech to be debated and submitted for a Vote of Confidence (Cuestión de confianza) by the Congress, effecting an indirect election of the head of government.[6][7] A simple majority confirms the nominee and his program.[6] At the moment of the vote, the confidence is awarded if the candidate receives a majority of votes in the first poll (currently 176 out of 350 MPs), but if the confidence is not awarded, a second vote is scheduled two days later in which a simple majority of votes cast (i.e., more "yes" than "no" votes) is required.

After the nominee is confirmed, the Speaker of the Congress formally reports to the king of the congressional confirmation. The king then appoints the candidate as the new President of the Government. The king's order of appointment is countersigned by the Speaker. During the inauguration ceremony performed by the king, customarily at the Salón de Audiencias in the Zarzuela Palace, the president elect of the Government takes an oath of office over an open constitution and next to the Holy Bible. The oath as taken by President Zapatero on his first term in office on 17 April 2004 was:[8]

Juro/Prometo, por mi conciencia y honor, cumplir fielmente las obligaciones del cargo de Presidente del Gobierno con lealtad al Rey, guardar y hacer guardar la Constitución como norma fundamental del Estado, así como mantener el secreto de las deliberaciones del Consejo de Ministros.


I swear/promise, under my conscience and honor, to faithfully execute the duties of the office of President of the Government with loyalty to the King, obey and enforce the Constitution as the main law of the State, and preserve in secret the deliberations of the Council of Ministers.

In 2008, from the time the king nominated José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero for a second term as president immediately following the 2008 general election, almost a month passed before Zapatero was able to present his Investiture Speech before the Congress and stand for a Vote of Confidence.[7] If no overall majority was obtained on the first Vote of the Confidence, then the same nominee and program is resubmitted for a second vote within forty-eight hours.[6] Following the second vote, if confidence by the Congress is still unreached, then the monarch again meets with political leaders and the Speaker, and submits a new nominee for a vote of confidence.[6] If, within two months, no candidate has won the confidence of the Congress then the King dissolves the Cortes and calls for a new general election.[6] The King's royal decree is countersigned by the Speaker of the Congress.[6]

Once appointed, the President of the Government forms his government whose ministers are appointed and removed by the King on the president's advice. In the political life of Spain, the king would already be familiar with the various political leaders in a professional capacity, and perhaps less formally in a more social capacity, facilitating their meeting following a general election. Conversely, nominating the party leader whose party maintains a plurality and who are already familiar with their party manifesto facilitates a smoother nomination process. In the event of coalitions, the political leaders would customarily have met beforehand to hammer out a coalition agreement before their meeting with the King.

Governments and the Cortes sit for a term no longer than four years when the president tenders his resignation to the king and advises the king to dissolve the Cortes, prompting a general election. It remains within the king's prerogative to dissolve the Cortes if, at the conclusion of the four years, the president has not asked for its dissolution, according to Title II Section 56.[9] The king may call for earlier elections on the advice of the president, known as a snap election, but no sooner than a year after the prior general election.[10] Additionally, if the Government loses the confidence of the Cortes, then it must resign.

In the event that a president dies or becomes incapacitated while in office, then the government as a whole resigns and the process of royal nomination and appointment takes place. The vice president would then take over the day to day operations in the meantime, even while the vice president himself may be nominated by the King and stand for a vote of confidence.

Constitutional authority[edit]

Title IV of the Constitution defines the government and its responsibilities.[6] The government consists of the President of the Government and ministers of state. The government conducts domestic and foreign policy, civil and military administration, and the defense of the nation all in the name of the king on behalf of the people. Additionally, the government exercises executive authority and statutory regulations.[6]

There is no provision in the Spanish Constitution for explicitly granting any emergency powers to the government, which could be understood as exorcizing the ghost of the recent dictatorship in Spain. However, Title II, Sections 56 of the constitution vests the monarch as the "arbitrator and moderator of the institutions" of government, [The King] arbitrates and moderates the regular functioning of the institutions (arbitra y modera el funcionamiento regular de las instituciones).[11][12] This provision could be understood as allowing the king or his government ministers to exercise emergency authority in times of national crisis, such as when the king used his authority to back the government of the day and call for the military to abandon the 23-F coup attempt in 1981.


Peerages in Spain are created by the Grace of the King, according to the Spanish Ministry of Justice, and are the highest marks of distinction that he may bestow in his capacity as the fons honorum in Spain. Conventionally, the Title of Concession creating the dignity must be countersigned by a government minister. When a title is created for a former president, the succeeding president customarily countersigns the royal decree. As a reward for national service, the king awarded peerages to two of his former presidents who have since retired from active politics: Adolfo Suárez was created 1st Duke of Suárez; and Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo was created 1st Marquesado de la Ría de Ribadeo (es). Additional titles of nobility have been created by the king for other government ministers, usually at the advice of the president of the government.

As of 2005, the king has created 40 hereditary titles of nobility.

Recent Presidents of the Government[edit]

This is a list of the people who have held the office of President of the Government of Spain since the Spanish transition to democracy. For the full list since the predecessor office of Secretary of the Universal Bureau was created (1705), see List of Prime Ministers of Spain.

Presidents of the Government under Juan Carlos I (1975 – present)[edit]

Political Party:

             UCD (Centrism)

             PSOE (Social Democracy)

             PP (Conservatism)

Portrait Name
Term of office Political party Legislature
Adolfo Suarez 03 cropped.jpg Adolfo Suárez González
5 July
29 January
Union of the Democratic Centre
Cst. (1977)
I (1979)
First democratic Prime Minister of Spain; Appointed by King Juan Carlos I in 1976; Law for Political Reform; Spanish transition to democracy; 1977 Massacre of Atocha; First free and democratic Spanish elections in 41 years; Spanish Constitution of 1978. 1980s economic crisis. Legalization of divorce. Resigned due to internal crisis, struggle and lack of support within his own party.
Visita del Calvo-Sotelo 1976.jpg Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo y Bustelo
25 February
1 December
Union of the Democratic Centre
I ( ···· )
UCD break up and heavy defeat in the 1982 general elections.
Felipe González par Claude Truong-Ngoc juillet 2013.jpg Felipe González Márquez
(1942– )
1 December
5 May
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party
II (1982)
III (1986)
IV (1989)
V (1993)
Longest-serving Prime Minister of Spain to date; Largest landslide victory in a Spanish election; Legalization of abortion; Increase in personal freedoms; Reorganization of education; Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL); 1985 El Descanso bombing; Spanish NATO membership referendum, 1986; 1987 Hipercor bombing; Spain joins the European Economic Community; Liberalizing of economic policies; 1988 general strike; FILESA case; 1991 Vic bombing; 1992 Seville fair; 1992 Summer Olympics, 1993 economic crisis
Aznar at the Azores, March 17, 2003-2.jpg José María Aznar López
(1953– )
5 May
17 April
People's Party
VI (1996)
VII (2000)
First People's Party PM; Privatization of public enterprises; ETA killing of Miguel Ángel Blanco; Abolition of compulsory military service; Spain joins the European single currency; 2002 general strike; 2002 Perejil Island crisis; Reform of university studies by decree; Application of the National Hydrological Plan; Prestige incident; Commitment of troops to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; Banning of Batasuna; 2004 Madrid train bombings
Portugal Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho with Zapatero (recortada).jpg José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
(1960– )
17 April
21 December
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party
VIII (2004)
IX (2008)
Withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq; Same-sex marriage legislation; ETA's 2006 ceasefire declaration; 2006 Madrid-Barajas Airport bombing; 2008–2011 Spanish financial crisis, the effects of which (a high unemployment rate, large budget deficit) forced Zapatero's government to approve a series of austerity reforms (overhaul of the labour market, raising of the retirement age from 65 to 67) which resulted in the 2011 protests); Early 2010s European sovereign debt crisis; Arab Spring and NATO military intervention in Libya; ETA's announces permanent end of armed activity.
Presidente Mariano Rajoy Brey 2012 - La Moncloa.JPG Mariano Rajoy Brey
(1955– )
21 December
Incumbent People's Party
X (2011)
Second largest landslide victory for a PM candidate in a Spanish election; Austerity measures; Catalan question; Luis Bárcenas scandal


Reformist Suárez
appointed PM by King
Suárez resigns.
Military coup attempt
EU accession
11-M attacks
1st dem. el.
UCD plurality
1st Cortes
UCD plurality
2nd Cortes
PSOE landslide
3rd Cortes
PSOE majority
4th Cortes
PSOE plurality
5th Cortes
PSOE plurality
6th Cortes
PP plurality
7th Cortes
PP majority
8th Cortes
PSOE plurality
9th Cortes
PSOE plurality
10th Cortes
PP majority

Prime Ministers of Spain since the restoration of electoral democracy

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] The English Style Guide (Fifth edition: 2005 Revised: March 2009) published by the European Commission Directorate-General for Translation states the following: 19.29 Spain. Full name: Kingdom of Spain. The 17 political/administrative units into which Spain is divided are called Autonomous Communities in English. Translate Presidente del Gobierno as Prime Minister (of Spain).
  2. ^ Secretary of State for Communications of the Ministry of the Presidency. "President of the Government". Ministry of the Presidency of Spain. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Official web site of La Moncloa, the Spanish Prime Minister's Office Accessed 2009-03-05
  4. ^ The Oxford Spanish Dictionary and Grammar, ed. C.Lea et al., 2nd ed.(2001)
  5. ^ (Spanish) El País 18/02/2003. "Jeb Bush thanks the "President of the Spanish Republic" for his support
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Part IV Government and Administration
  7. ^ a b Speech by Zapatero at the session for his investiture as President
  8. ^ (Spanish) Video: Rodríguez Zapatero is sworn in to his second term (RTVE's Canal 24H, April 12, 2008)
  9. ^ Title II Section 56 the monarch is the "arbitrator and moderator of the regular functioning of the institutions", "arbitra y modera el funcionamiento regular de las instituciones"
  10. ^ Snap elections have been used only threes since the 1978 Constitution was ratified, ex-PM Felipe González invoked his constitutional right to dissolve the Cortes three times in 1989, 1993, and 1996
  11. ^ Título II. De la Corona, Wikisource
  12. ^ The Royal Household of H.M. The King website