Leader of the Opposition (Spain)

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Leader of the Opposition
Líder de la oposición
Logotipo del PSOE.svg
Logo of the biggest party in opposition
Pedro Sánchez 2015i (cropped).jpg
Pedro Sanchez

since 18 June 2017
Residence No official residence
Appointer None
Term length No fixed term
While leader of the largest political party not in government
Inaugural holder Felipe González
Formation 13 July 1977 (informally)
28 December 1982 (officially)

The Leader of the Opposition (Spanish: Líder de la oposición) is an unofficial, mostly conventional and honorary title traditionally 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 October 31, 2016 to June 18, 2017, the title was disputed between two big left-parties, PSOE and Podemos. The current leader of the Opposition is Pedro Sanchez since June 18, 2017, after being elected Secretary-General of his party (PSOE).


There is some ambiguity on the requirements needed to hold the post due to its workings being based mostly on custom 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.[1]

By agreement of the Congress bureau of 28 December 1982, Manuel Fraga was officially recognized as Leader of the Opposition by the PSOE government of Felipe González—himself having unofficially led opposition from 1977 to 1982.[2] Such an agreement established a series of conditions for the role and awarded some prerogatives for the officeholder:

  1. Determination of the person fulfilling the role of leader of the opposition must meet criteria of effective parliamentary number preeminence
  2. There must not be a formal appointment
  3. There is no need to raise compatibility issues for the role
  4. 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

However, despite the possibility for some privileges in consideration of its position being optionally awarded, the Leader of the Opposition is not entitled to a specific salary aside from the one they may have by reason of holding a public office on their own—such as that of deputy or senator. 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.[3]

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 according to the Prime Minister's decision. Established precedent has also led for the Leader of the Opposition usually sitting directly across from the Prime Minister in the Congress seating plan. It is not required for a Leader of the Opposition to held the post of deputy in Congress—Antonio Hernández Mancha held the office without having a seat in Congress,[4] though he was a senator.


The first recognized Leader of the Opposition was Felipe González, who led the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party from 1974 and 1997, the main opposition party in Spain during the country's transition to democracy until 1982. Before 1983, the role was only an informal title not mentioned in legislation and without any practical consequences.

On 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, the only such case for an interim party leader ever since.[5][6][7]

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.[8] 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.[9][10] However, both Almunia and Borrell kept clashing on leadership issues for months—in a situation referred to as 'bicephaly'[11][12]—until an agreement between the two parts definitely recognized Borrell the condition of opposition leader in November 1998.[13] He would eventually resign as candidate on May 1999, awarding Almunia the sole and undisputed leadership over the party and opposition.[14]

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.[15][16] During Mariano Rajoy's second investiture debate on 27 October, Spanish media and parliamentarians acknowledged Iglesias the role of Opposition Leader by virtue of Rajoy addressing him as his main rival during a heated dialectical exchange,[17][18][19] coupled with PSOE's perceived inability to exercise as opposition after choosing to allow Rajoy's election.[20][21] Nonetheless, the office had remained disputed since Pedro Sánchez's resignation and no official officeholder was recognized, as PSOE had no party leader until the party election of June 2017.[22] The chaos ensuing from the vacancy in the PSOE leadership has led to other opposition parties not recognizing a formal opposition leader,.[23] until Pedro Sánchez was reelected as PSOE leader in June 2017, although he does not have a seat in parliament, as he had resigned from his seat in protest of his party tolerating Rajoy's new government in October 2016.

List of Opposition leaders[edit]

Leaders widely recognized as opposition leaders have their names bolded. Under the "Party Parliamentary Leader" column are only included those that led their parties as opposition leaders while having a seat in the Congress of Deputies.

Colour key
(for political parties)
Date Main Opposition Party Party Leader Party Parliamentary
Congress Group
Prime Minister
13 July 1977 PSOE Felipe González Adolfo Suárez
23 March 1979 Felipe González Alfonso Guerra
20 May 1979 Caretaker commission
led by José Federico de Carvajal
28 September 1979 Felipe González
26 February 1981 Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo
2 December 1982 AP Manuel Fraga Miguel Herrero de Miñón Felipe González
1 December 1986 Vacant Vacant
6 December 1986 Interim leadership
led by Miguel Herrero de Miñón
23 December 1986 Miguel Herrero de Miñón
8 February 1987 Antonio Hernández Mancha Vacant Juan Ramón Calero
20 January 1989 PP Manuel Fraga Vacant Luis Ramallo
21 November 1989 José María Aznar Rodrigo Rato
1 April 1990 José María Aznar
5 May 1996 PSOE Felipe González Joaquín Almunia José María Aznar
21 June 1997 Joaquín Almunia Juan Manuel Eguiagaray
26 May 1998 Joaquín Almunia Josep Borrell
14 May 1999 Joaquín Almunia Luis Martínez Noval
12 March 2000 Vacant Vacant
22 March 2000 Political commission
led by Manuel Chaves
22 July 2000 José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
5 September 2000 Jesús Caldera
17 April 2004 PP José María Aznar Mariano Rajoy Eduardo Zaplana José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
2 October 2004 Mariano Rajoy
1 April 2008 Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría
21 December 2011 PSOE José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba José Antonio Alonso Mariano Rajoy
4 February 2012 Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba
6 February 2012 Soraya Rodríguez
26 July 2014 Pedro Sánchez
9 September 2014 Antonio Hernando
1 October 2016 Caretaker commission
led by Javier Fernández
21 May 2017 José Luis Ábalos
18 June 2017 Pedro Sánchez Margarita Robles
Pedro Sánchez (Spanish politician) Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba Mariano Rajoy José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Josep Borrell Joaquín Almunia Felipe González José María Aznar Antonio Hernández Mancha Miguel Herrero y Rodríguez de Miñón Manuel Fraga Felipe González


  1. ^ General Order of Precedence in the State of 1983, Royal Decree No. 2099 of August 4, 1983 Official State Gazette (in Spanish). Retrieved on 30 April 2017.
  2. ^ Díez, Anabel (5 August 1986). "Las minorías parlamentarias esperan que Fraga pierda el estatuto de jefe de la oposición". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "Qué pasó con... Hernández Mancha, ex presidente de AP". Expansión (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Jáuregui, Fernando (7 December 1986). "La oposición tiene nuevo jefe". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Molist, Merce (14 May 1998). "Balance del debate". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Agencia EFE (21 November 1998). "Cronología de una crisis". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  13. ^ Díez, Anabel (22 November 1998). "Borrell y Almunia ceden para evitar un congreso". El País (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Ríos, Daniel (7 October 2016). "Iglesias se proclama líder de la oposición y defiende un Podemos "militante"". infoLibre (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ "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. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ "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. 
  22. ^ Méndez, Lucía (9 April 2017). "El despacho vacío del líder de la oposición". El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  23. ^ Anasagasti, Iñaki (13 November 2016). "No existe líder de la oposición". Noticias de Gipuzkoa (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 April 2017. 

See also[edit]