Leader of the Opposition (Spain)
|Leader of the Opposition
Líder de la oposición
Logo of the largest party in opposition
|Residence||No official residence|
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Inaugural holder||Manuel Fraga|
28 December 1982 (formally)|
8 February 1983 (officially)
The Leader of the Opposition (Spanish: Líder de la oposición) is an unofficial, mostly conventional and honorary title frequently (but not exclusively) held by the leader of the largest party in the Congress of Deputies—the lower house of the Spanish parliament, the Cortes Generales—not within the government. He/she is usually the person who is expected to lead that party into the next general election.
From 31 October 2016 to 18 June 2017, the title was disputed between two big left-parties, the PSOE and Podemos. The position has been left vacant after Mariano Rajoy's government was ousted in a motion of no confidence on 2 June 2018, pending the election of a new PP leader.
Not specifically provided legally, the workings of the post are mostly based on custom, protocol and convention. The term of "Leader of the Opposition" is only legally recognized in a Royal Decree passed in 1983 establishing the order of preference of public authorities in general official acts organized by the Crown, Government or the State Administration, acknowledging the figure of Opposition Leader but only to put it in fifteenth place in the list of precedences.
By agreement of the Congress Bureau of 28 December 1982, Manuel Fraga was acknowledged as Leader of the Opposition by the PSOE government of Felipe González—himself having unofficially led opposition from 1977 to 1982. Such an agreement, further expanded on 8 February 1983, established a series of conditions for the role and awarded some prerogatives for the officeholder:
- Determination of the person fulfilling the role of leader of the opposition must meet criteria of effective parliamentary number preeminence.
- There must not be a formal appointment.
- There is no need to raise compatibility issues for the role.
- Must lack a full-blown salary, even if it may have a right to representation expenses, vehicle availability as well as the care provided for bureau members.
The Leader of the Opposition is entitled a special office in the Congress of Deputies if he or she is a member of the chamber. In addition, the officeholder usually receives much more attention from the media in parliamentary sessions and activities, such as in the yearly-held State of the Nation Debate. Established precedent has also led for the Leader of the Opposition usually sitting directly across from the Prime Minister in the Congress seating plan, so long as he or she has a seat in the Congress of Deputies. While it is not required for a Leader of the Opposition to have a seat in Congress, there have been only two occasions where the recognized officeholder did not have such a seat:
- Antonio Hernández Mancha (1987–1989), who had a seat in the Senate.
- Pedro Sánchez (2017–2018), who vacated his Congress seat after resigning as PSOE leader in October 2016 and remained unseated upon re-election.
Even with the absence of a law defining the role of the Opposition Leader, it is customary to conduct update meetings between the Prime Minister and the chairman of the largest party not within the government. However, such meetings are carried out mostly at the Prime Minister's leisure.
Before 1983, the figure served only as an informal reference to the "Leader of the Main Opposition Party", who at the time was Felipe González as leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, the main opposition party in Spain during the country's transition to democracy until 1982. The first recognized Leader of the Opposition was Manuel Fraga, who in February 1983 was granted such a formal status by the Congress of Deputies Bureau, despite the rejection of several parties.
On 1 December 1986, Manuel Fraga resigned as People's Alliance chairman and was replaced in the interim by Miguel Herrero de Miñón. While Herrero de Miñón served as interim AP leader until a party congress was held in February 1987, he was acknowledged as Opposition Leader on his own right. This lasted until he was defeated by Antonio Hernández Mancha in the 1987 AP congress, which prompted his resignation as the party's parliamentary speaker and leader on 8 February 1987. Hernández Mancha became Leader of the Opposition, but was hampered by the fact of him not being a deputy at the time.
In 1998, with the People's Party in government, Josep Borrell beat PSOE Secretary General Joaquín Almunia in a party primary to elect the party's candidate to Prime Minister in the subsequent general election. Almunia maintained his post as party leader whereas Borrell was named the party's spokesperson in Congress and was awarded leadership over the parliamentary party, with the later being officially referred to as the leader of the opposition. However, both Almunia and Borrell kept clashing on leadership issues for months—in a situation referred to as 'bicephaly'—until an agreement between the two parts definitely recognized Borrell the condition of opposition leader in November 1998. He would eventually resign as candidate on May 1999, awarding Almunia the sole and undisputed leadership over the party and opposition.
The office came again under dispute in 2016, days after a caretaker committee under Javier Fernández had taken control over PSOE as a result of a leadership crisis in October. Podemos' Pablo Iglesias subsequently self-proclaimed himself as new opposition leader on the basis of his party's strength in Congress being close to PSOE's—67 seats to 84. During Mariano Rajoy's second investiture debate on 27 October, Spanish media and parliamentarians informally acknowledged Iglesias the role of Opposition Leader by virtue of Rajoy addressing him as his main rival during a heated dialectical exchange, coupled with PSOE's perceived inability to exercise as opposition after choosing to allow Rajoy's election. The chaos ensuing from the vacancy in the PSOE leadership led to other parties not recognizing a formal opposition leader.
Pedro Sánchez nominally re-assumed the title once he was reelected as PSOE leader in June 2017, although he did not have a seat in parliament as a result of him resigning in protest to his party tolerating Rajoy's second government in October 2016.
List of Opposition leaders
|Term of office||Tenure
(Years and days)
|28 December 1982
1 December 1986
|3 years, 338 days||People's Alliance||González I||II
|Vacant (1–23 December 1986)|
|Miguel Herrero de Miñón
|23 December 1986
8 February 1987
|47 days||People's Alliance|
|Antonio Hernández Mancha
|8 February 1987
20 January 1989
|1 year, 347 days||People's Alliance|
|Vacant (20 January–21 November 1989)|
|José María Aznar[n 1]
|21 November 1989
4 May 1996
|6 years, 165 days||People's Party||González III||IV|
|4 May 1996
21 June 1997
|1 year, 48 days||Spanish Socialist
|José María Aznar|
|21 June 1997
26 May 1998
|339 days||Spanish Socialist|
|Josep Borrell[n 2]
|26 May 1998
14 May 1999
|353 days||Spanish Socialist|
|14 May 1999
12 March 2000
|303 days||Spanish Socialist|
|Vacant (12 March–22 July 2000)||Aznar II||VII|
|José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
|22 July 2000
17 April 2004
|3 years, 270 days||Spanish Socialist|
|Mariano Rajoy[n 3]
|17 April 2004
21 December 2011
|7 years, 248 days||People's Party||Zapatero I||VIII
|Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba[n 4]
|21 December 2011
26 July 2014
|2 years, 217 days||Spanish Socialist
|26 July 2014
1 October 2016
|2 years, 67 days||Spanish Socialist|
|Vacant (1 October 2016–18 June 2017)||Rajoy II|
|18 June 2017
2 June 2018
|349 days||Spanish Socialist|
|Vacant (2 June–21 July 2018)||Sánchez||Pedro Sánchez|
|21 July 2018
|83 days||People's Party|
- While José María Aznar led the PP parliamentary group in Congress in opposition from 21 November 1989, he did not become PP leader until 1 April 1990.
- Josep Borrell became the PSOE candidate for Prime Minister in a party primary held on 24 April 1998 and was appointed as PSOE's spokesperson in Congress on 26 May, but Joaquín Almunia retained the party's leadership.
- While Mariano Rajoy led the PP parliamentary group in Congress in opposition from 17 April 2004, he did not become PP leader until 2 October 2004.
- While Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba led the PSOE parliamentary group in Congress in opposition from 21 December 2011, he did not become PSOE leader until 4 February 2012.
- "General Order of Precedence in the State of 1983". Royal Decree No. 2099 of August 4, 1983. Official State Gazette (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- "Protocolo para el "jefe" del PSOE (ex-diputado)". El blog de Carlos Fuente (in Spanish). 15 June 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
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- Calleja, Mariano (9 November 2011). "El PSOE ve «mejorable» el despacho del jefe de la oposición y quiere reformarlo". ABC (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- Méndez, Lucía (9 April 2017). "El despacho vacío del líder de la oposición". El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Cortizo, Gonzalo (21 June 2017). "El Congreso situará a Pedro Sánchez en la tribuna de invitados en la conmemoración de los 40 años de democracia". eldiario.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- Méndez, Lucía (31 May 2018). "Moción de tortura para Rajoy". El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- Cortizo, Gonzalo (4 June 2018). "Mariano Rajoy ordena el traslado de sus papeles al despacho de líder de la oposición en el Congreso". eldiario.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Agencias (22 February 2015). "Rajoy y Sánchez, ante un debate sobre el estado de la nación que será palanca electoral". La Vanguardia (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- "Qué pasó con... Hernández Mancha, ex presidente de AP". Expansión (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Mármol, Iolanda (3 September 2017). "Pedro Sánchez, cara y cruz para el PSOE de un líder sin escaño". El Periódico de Catalunya (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
- "Suárez y Felipe González estudiaron el pacto municipal y el calendario autonómico". El País (in Spanish). 9 November 1979. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- "El Rey recibió en la Zarzuela a Fraga en su calidad de futuro jefe de la oposición". El País (in Spanish). 6 November 1982. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- "La Mesa del Congreso aprobará hoy el estatuto del líder de la oposición". El País (in Spanish). 8 February 1983. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- De la Cuadra, Bonifacio (9 February 1983). "La Mesa del Congreso acuerda que Fraga sea de la oposición con medios materiales y humanos". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Fuente, Carlos (29 January 1983). ""No se puede reconocer a Fraga como jefe de la oposición", declara Santiago Carrillo". El País (in Spanish). Oviedo. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- "Manuel Fraga dimite como presidente de Alianza Popular". El País (in Spanish). 2 December 1986. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Jáuregui, Fernando; Díez, Anabel (6 December 1986). "Herrero de Miñón tendrá "todos los poderes" en Alianza Popular hasta el congreso extraordinario". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Jáuregui, Fernando (7 December 1986). "La oposición tiene nuevo jefe". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Díez, Anabel (24 December 1986). "Miguel Herrero tiene desde ayer las prerrogativas de jefe de la oposición". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- "Hernández Mancha busca un sucesor de Herrero al frente del grupo parlamentario". El País (in Spanish). 8 February 1987. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Jáuregui, Fernando (8 February 1987). "Hernández Mancha venció por holgada mayoría a Herrero en el congreso extraordinario de AP". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Díez, Anabel; Valdecantos, Camilo (24 March 1987). "Hernández Mancha presenta una moción de censura para lograr el 'cuerpo a cuerpo' con Felipe González". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- "Borrell da un vuelco a la escena política con su triunfo claro sobre Almunia". El País (in Spanish). 25 April 1998. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- González Ibáñez, Juan (26 April 1998). "Borrell será el portavoz socialista en el Congreso y hablará en el debate del estado de la nación". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Molist, Merce (14 May 1998). "Balance del debate". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Valdecantos, Camilo (27 May 1998). "Apoyo unánime del PSOE a la nueva dirección del Grupo Parlamentario". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- OTR/Press (17 November 1998). "Almunia deja en manos del Comité Federal el reparto de papeles mientras Borrell reitera que es el líder". El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Agencia EFE (21 November 1998). "Cronología de una crisis". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Díez, Anabel (22 November 1998). "Borrell y Almunia ceden para evitar un congreso". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Díaz, Anabel (15 May 1999). "Borrell renuncia como candidato por el escándalo de sus ex colaboradores". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Ríos, Daniel (7 October 2016). "Iglesias se proclama líder de la oposición y defiende un Podemos "militante"". infoLibre (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Carvajal, Álvaro (7 October 2016). "Pablo Iglesias: "El PSOE ha renunciado y nos ha entregado la oposición al PP"". El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- García, Gustavo (27 October 2016). "Rajoy e Iglesias escenifican sus nuevos papeles como presidente y jefe de la oposición". El Boletín (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- "Diputados afines a Sánchez ven una "humillación" que Iglesias ya lidere la oposición". Europa Press (in Spanish). Madrid. 27 October 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Gil, Iván (27 October 2016). "El debate inviste a Rajoy como presidente y a Iglesias como jefe virtual de la oposición". El Confidencial (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Mármol, Iolanda (27 October 2016). "Iglesias se arroga el liderazgo de la oposición ante un PSOE noqueado". El Periódico de Catalunya (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- "Pablo Casado: "Me preocupa que la antipolítica de Podemos sea ahora el liderazgo de la oposición"". Onda Cero (in Spanish). 28 October 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Anasagasti, Iñaki (13 November 2016). "No existe líder de la oposición". Noticias de Gipuzkoa (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- "Pedro Sánchez ejerce de Jefe de la Oposición en el protocolo". La Razón (in Spanish). 28 June 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2018.