Prime Minister of Spain: Wikis


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President of the Government of Spain
Presidente del Gobierno de España
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

since 17 April 2004
Style Presidente
Residence Palacio de la Moncloa
Appointer Juan Carlos I of Spain
as sovereign
Term length General elections to the Cortes are held every four years at most. The President is by convention the leader of the victorious party. No term limits are imposed on the office.
Inaugural holder Francisco de Paula Martinez de la Rosa
Formation 1820

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The President of the Government of Spain (Spanish: Presidente del Gobierno de España), usually known in English as the Prime Minister of Spain,[1] is the Spanish head of government. The King of Spain nominates a candidate for the presidency who stands before the Congress of Deputies for a Vote of Confidence, effectively an indirect election of the head of government by the elected Congressional delegates.

Once confirmed by the Congress, the king officially appoints the candidate as President of the Government. By political custom established by Juan Carlos I of Spain 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.

The current office is established under the Constitution of 1978. It is presently occupied by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.[2]


Official title

The Spanish head of government is known, in Spanish, as the Presidente del Gobierno. Literally translated, the title is "President of the Government"[3] or alternatively "Chairman of the Government",[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; thus, for example, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the Primer Ministro del Reino Unido, not the Presidente del Gobierno.

In Spain the head of the government is often called simply Presidente, meaning 'President'. More than once this has caused embarrassing errors among foreign authorities, such as mistaking Spain for a republic. For example Jeb Bush, the Governor of Florida, mistakenly referred to the head of government as the "President of the Spanish Republic" during a visit to Spain in 2003.[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, 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.

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 constulting 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]

Artículo 99.

  • 1. Después de cada renovación del Congreso de los Diputados, y en los demás supuestos constitucionales en que así proceda, el Rey, previa consulta con los representantes designados por los grupos políticos con representación parlamentaria, y a través del Presidente del Congreso, propondrá un candidato a la Presidencia del Gobierno.
  • 2. El candidato propuesto conforme a lo previsto en el apartado anterior expondrá ante el Congreso de los Diputados el programa político del Gobierno que pretenda formar y solicitará la confianza de la Cámara.[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. This scenario is unlikely as political activity in Spain has effectively coalesced into a two-party system between the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and the People's Party, with the two major parties adopting some aspects of the minor party platforms in an effort to attract them into a coalition to edge out their rival party.

The monarch is normally able announce his nominee 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 Parliamentary Investiture (Investidura parlamentaria). During the Parliamentary 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 of Deputies formally requests of the King to appoint 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 before 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 ]

However, if no overall majority was obtained on the first Vote of 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 then 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 president may call for earlier elections, 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

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. 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. However, the Royal Warrant (Title of Concession) 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 retired from active politics: Adolfo Suárez, who was created 1st Duke of Suárez; and Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo who was created 1st Marquess of la Ría de Ribadeo. The king's third president Felipe González declined a title, while José María Aznar's presidency was mired in controversies making a peerage unlikely.[13][14][15][16] All successive politicians remain active within politics. 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 Spanish PMs

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.

Picture Name From Until Political Party Head of State
Adolfo Suárez.jpg Adolfo Suárez González 15 July 1976 29 January 1981 UCD Juan Carlos da Espanha.jpg
King Juan Carlos I
Visita del Calvo-Sotelo 1976.jpg Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo y Bustelo
Acting until 25 February
29 January 1981 2 December 1982
Felipe Gonzalez-Madrid-28 de enero de 2004b.jpg Felipe González Márquez
4 terms: 1982, 1986, 1989 and 1993
2 December 1982 5 May 1996 PSOE
Aznar at the Azores, March 17, 2003.jpg José María Aznar López
2 terms: 1996 and 2000
5 May 1996 17 April 2004 PP
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero - Royal & Zapatero's meeting in Toulouse for the 2007 French presidential election 0205 2007-04-19b.jpg José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
2 terms: 2004 and 2008
17 April 2004 Incumbent
Term expires: 2012


See also


  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. ^ "Back for more: The Socialist Party wins another term". March 10, 2008.
  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. ^ Jeb Bush addresses PM Aznar as "President of the Republic of Spain" - CNN]
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l 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
  13. ^ "No deben tolerarse las recompensas a torturadores (They should not tolerate rewards to torturers)". Amnesty International. 30 January 2001.  
  14. ^ Aznar pagó con dinero público a un "lobby" de Washington para conseguir la medalla del Congreso de EEUU (Cadena SER)
  15. ^ "Aznar: "Muslims should apologize for occupying Spain for 800 years"" (HTML). YouTube. Retrieved 2008-01-03.  
  16. ^ "Aznar se pregunta por qué los musulmanes no se disculpan 'por haber ocupado España ocho siglos'". El Mundo. Retrieved 2008-01-03.  


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