The Spanish State structure Estado de las Autonomías, a federal structure?



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The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister holds a prominent position in the government. Throughout the constitution his position is even referred to as President of the Government. Officially, he is responsible to the electorate through the parliament. At his nomination, he must request the confidence of parliament for the political programme of the government. This confidence concerns him personally(99.2SC).



According to article 98.2SC, the P.M. leads the government’s acting and co-ordinates the official duties of its members. Beside the proposal of the appointment and dismissal of his ministers he may also appoint the civil governor in each province and the government delegates to the Autonomous Communities (art.100SC). Among the competencies attributed to the P.M. throughout the constitution his predominant status is characterised by the fact that his death or resignation causes the fall of the entire government (art.101.1SC). He also has complete freedom of choice in the formation of the government and the number of ministers without portfolio. Furthermore, certain constitutional provisions allow the P.M. to make far reaching decisions. As such, he can make decisions which may deviate from the council of ministers point of view, like his right to ask a vote of confidence from parliament. Despite the president’s prominent position, the government does have a collective responsibility to Congress for its policy (art.108SC). Neither does the predominance of the Prime Minister (P.M.) infringe upon the departmental competency and responsibility of the individual ministers. They personally have to defend their departmental policy in both chambers if requested to do so (art.110&111SC). However, neither Senate nor Congress can directly force an individual minister to resign. Serious parliamentary discord with a ministerial policy must therefor above all be solved by the P.M., who as leader of the government has the exclusive competence to submit one of his colleagues to the king for discharge. Within this context, Congress can seriously put pressure on the P.M., especially since it has the right to introduce a vote of censure which can cause the entire governments discharge. (art.101.1&114.2SC) The position of the P.M. towards Congress however is quite strong, especially since it has been supported by an absolute majority from 1982 till 1993. The P.M. has the right to dissolve Congress, Senate, or both houses and call for new elections (art.115SC). He may however not dissolve them when a vote of censure is being discussed. Neither can he dissolve one or both houses within one year of the previous dissolution. The P.M. also has the right to request a vote of confidence from the Congress, or he may threaten to do so (art.112SC). If a majority of the present deputies is not reached the P.M. and his entire cabinet must resign. It is however easier to obtain the support of Congress by requesting a vote of confidence, than it is for Congress to adopt a motion of no confidence which, instead of a simple majority, requires an absolute majority. Recently however, a growing strain on the P.M. is formed by the increasingly important autonomous communities. The National leaders of certain communities like the Catalan Jordi Pujol, the Basque Jose Antonio Ardanza and the Galician Manuel Fraga now represent large electorates on whose support the socialists government relied after the elections of 1993. The regional parties played a crucial part in the 1996 elections where the Catalan and Basque parties shifted their support to the right wing Partido Popular which is now in power.


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