Prime Minister of Spain
|President of the Government of Spain
Presidente del Gobierno de España
Flag of Government Officials
|Residence||Palacio de la Moncloa|
Countersigned by the President of the Congress of Deputies
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 4 years at most. No term limits are imposed on the office.
|Constituting instrument||Constitution of 1978|
|Formation||1978 (in its current incarnation)|
|First holder||Adolfo Suárez|
|Deputy||Vice President of the Government|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The President of the Government of Spain (Spanish: Presidente del Gobierno), formally known by English-speaking nations and formally translated by the European Commission Directorate-General in English 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 of Spain, the lower house of the Cortes Generales (parliament), 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. In practice, the Prime Minister is almost always the leader of the largest party in the Congress. Since current constitutional practice in Spain calls for the King to act on the advice of his ministers, the Prime Minister is effectively the country's chief executive.
The Spanish head of government is known, in Spanish, as the Presidente del Gobierno. Literally translated, the title is "President of the Government" 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". 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
Once a general election has been announced by the king, political parties nominate their candidates to stand for the presidency of the government-usually the party leader. 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 leaders of the parties 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. 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.
Constitutionally, the Prime Minister and the cabinet are responsible to the monarch, not the Cortes. On paper, the monarch is free to name anyone he sees fit as his prerogative to form a government. In practice, however, due to the need for the Prime Minister to command the confidence of the Congress of Deputies, it is all but impossible for a monarch to appoint a government entirely of his own choosing or keep it in office against the will of the Congress of Deputies. For this reason, the Prime Minister is usually the leader of the largest party in the Congress. 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. In theory, the largest party could end up not ruling if rival parties gather into a majority, forming a coalition—though this has never happened at the national level. 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. A simple majority confirms the nominee and his program. 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:
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. The King's royal decree is countersigned by the Speaker of the Congress.
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. 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. 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.
The president's position is strengthened by constitutional limits on the Congress' right to censure the government. While the Congress can offer a motion of censure at any time, such a motion is of no effect unless a prospective successor is nominated at the same time. When this happens, the person named in the censure motion as the prospective successor is automatically deemed to have the confidence of the Congress, and the monarch is required to appoint him as the new president.
Title IV of the Constitution defines the government and its responsibilities. 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.
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). 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. 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
- The English Style Guide (Fifth edition: 2005 Revised: March 2009) 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).
- 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.
- Official web site of La Moncloa, the Spanish Prime Minister's Office Accessed 2009-03-05
- The Oxford Spanish Dictionary and Grammar, ed. C.Lea et al., 2nd ed.(2001)
- (Spanish) El País 18/02/2003. "Jeb Bush thanks the "President of the Spanish Republic" for his support
- Part IV Government and Administration
- Speech by Zapatero at the session for his investiture as President
- (Spanish) Video: Rodríguez Zapatero is sworn in to his second term (RTVE's Canal 24H, April 12, 2008)
- 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"
- 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
- Título II. De la Corona, Wikisource
- The Royal Household of H.M. The King website