Friday, November 20, 2009

SPANISH HISTORY-The Parliamentary Monarchy

The Spanish Constitution, which was unanimously approved by Parliament and voted by 87.8% of the citizens in a referendum held on 6 December 1978, provides in his article 1 for a Parliamentary Monarchy of the classical liberal European style, with certain peculiarities to take into account the Spanish situation.

Article 1.3 reads: 'The political form of the Spanish State is that of a Parliamentary Monarchy'

The Constitution provides for separation between legislative, executive and judiciary and gives institutional backing to the King as Head of State and supreme head of the Armed Forces.

Sovereign power is held by a two-chamber Parliament, called the Cortes, whose members are elected by all of the citizens who are 18 or over, for a maximun term of four years. The people's representatives are elected by voting from closed lists drawn up by the political parties or election coalitions, the number of deputies and senators elected for each party being in proportion to the number of votes that each list has received. The proportion is weighted in favour of the lists that receive most votes according to the so-called d'Hondt rule which allocates a larger share of the seats in Parliament to the lists that carry more votes in small constituencies. The rule was introduced by consensus among the different political parties to avoid the possibility that a strictly proportional system would result in too many parties being represented in Parliament, thus leading to weak governments.

The concern over the stability of elected governments is also reflected in the procedure for appointing the Government. This is appointed by the President of the Government (Prime Minister), and the ministers answer directly to him. Therefore, it is the candidate to President of the Government who, upon being entrusted with forming a Government by the King, presents his programme to the Cortes and is chosen by majority vote. In order to be chosen, the Prime Minister must receive an absolute majority of the votes in the firt round or a relative majority in a subsequent round. In order to strengthen the stability of the Government thus elected, any motion of no-confidence must include the name of the candidate nominated to replace the President of the Government, and in the event of the motion being approved a new Government will be formed according to this same procedure. The procedure, introduced by the 'Fathers of the Constitution' (Gabriel Cisneros, Manuel Fraga, Miguel Herrero y Rodriguez de Minon, Gregorio Peces-Barba, Jose Perez Llorca, Miguel Roca and Jordi Sole Tura), is an effective protection against instability resulting from sudden changes in governing coalitions. A Government can only fall if a viable majority reaches an agreement on its replacement.

The stability of Spanish democracy has also benefited from an unconditional backing from the Crown. In restoring Monarchy in Spain King Juan Carlos I has shown intelligence and sensivity, to the point of placing the good name of the Monarchy at the highest level in modern Spanish history both among Spanish people and in other countries. The Royal Family's open and straightforward style, their simple way of life, the absence of a Royal Court and the support given by the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince and the two Infantas to various moral and humanitarian causes have succeeded in placing the Crown above political and ideological confrontations within a period of a few years, turning it into the final guarantor of democratic values and institutions.

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