Cortes Generales

The Cortes Generales is the Parliament in Spain. The constitutional body composed of two chambers: the Congreso de los Deputies (House of Representatives ) and the Senado (Senate ). You will practice the legislative power of the State of, approve the state budget, monitor the activities of the government and carry out all other duties given to them by the Constitution. No one can be a member of both Houses simultaneously. There is no imperative mandate. Eligible to vote and to run for office are all Spanish citizens over 18 years who are in full possession of their political rights. The name of the Cortes Generales is derived from the medieval estates meetings.

House of Representatives

According to Article 68 of the Spanish Constitution, the House of Representatives from 300 to 400 deputies who are elected by universal, free, equal, direct and secret ballot. The Constitution contains the following additional regulations: constituencies ( circunscripciones ) are the 50 provinces and the two enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. In total, there are 52 constituencies (Art. 68.2 ). The selection is made in the individual constituencies by proportional representation (Art. 68.3 ).

Details are regulated by the electoral law (Ley Organica del Régimen Electoral General, LOREG ). ( Ie how are the votes cast translated into seats ) The provisions of the electoral process can be found there, in Title II, Chapter III.

There are 350 deputies elected (Art. 162.1 LOREG ). The distribution to the individual constituencies shall be governed as follows: Ceuta and Melilla each represent a member of parliament, and two seats each province receives in advance (Art. 162.2 LOREG ). This 102 seats so already distributed. The remaining 248 are distributed to the provinces in proportion to the population and indeed after the Hare - Niemeyer method (Art. 162.3 LOREG ).

As the population of the provinces are very different (smallest Soria with 94,000, largest Madrid 6.1 million ), is given by the system of two basic mandates a certain overrepresentation of small provinces, in fact it is a degressive proportionality. So Soria selected in the choice of 9 March 2008, two deputies, Madrid 35 Ie Soria is a deputy per 47,000 inhabitants, in Madrid, is one of about 147,000.

In each constituency, the seats according to the d' Hondt method are distributed to the parties, election proposals that have received less than 3 % of the votes in each constituency, are not taken into account (Article 163 LOREG ).

For electoral system to the German Bundestag is a major difference: In Germany, the national election results in proportion to the votes obtained is distributed to the parties in the first step. This is (apart from the 5% hurdle and overhang mandates from ) a relatively accurate allocation of seats to the parties reached. In the Spanish electoral system, however, the distribution of seats takes place exclusively at the level of the constituencies that are very different in size and in particular there are many small constituencies are ( Election 2008: 2 with a, 1 with two, 8 with three, nine with four, 7 with five, eight with six, four with seven, five eight, one nine, two ten, two to twelve, Valencia with 16, 31 with Barcelona and Madrid with 35 deputies ). The average district magnitude is 6.7 MP.

This has two effects that lead to a deviation from a pure proportional system:

First preference for large parties to small

Second preference to small regional parties total Spanish

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The Senate is the chamber of territorial representation, (not directly elected ) roughly similar to the Bundesrat in Germany, the Federal Council in Austria (not directly elected ) and the Council of States in Switzerland ( directly elected ). The Senate has 259 members currently, 208 of which are the following procedure for elected by universal, free, equal, direct and secret ballot:

  • Each province elects four senators (regardless of population).
  • The large islands of Gran Canaria, Mallorca and Tenerife select three senators.
  • The smaller islands of Ibiza -Formentera, Menorca, Fuerteventura, Gomera, Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma shall choose one senator.
  • The African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla elect two senators each.

In addition, the regional parliaments of Spain's Autonomous Communities shall each appoint a senator and another per million population in the respective community. The number of Senators so appointed shall be adjusted at each election to the population development and is therefore variable. In total, there are currently ( since 2011 ) 58 Senators, who are sent by indirect election to the Senate. The senate is elected for four years.

Position of the chambers in the constitutional system

It is a bicameral system. The Legislative is the real representation of the people, the Senado the " chamber of territorial representation" (Art. 69 of the Constitution ). The latter also explains why in Senado each province is independent of the population of four senators.

In the synopsis there is a strong political predominance of the Congresso compared to the other chamber.

Government formation and responsibility of the government

The election of the Prime Minister sole responsibility of the Congreso (Art. 99 of the Constitution ). The government is only responsible to the Legislative (Article 108) for their policies. About a question of confidence of the Prime Minister or a no-confidence vote also decided solely by the Congreso (Art. 112 and 113).

After a new election of the Legislative of King, after consultation with the parties represented in parliament before a candidate for the office of Prime Minister. Speaks the Congreso the nominees by an absolute majority of the trust, he is elected. If this does not materialize enough in another, 48 hours later held a simple majority vote. If even this is not achieved, further proposals by the same process are treated to a prime minister is elected. Failure to do this within a period of two months (from the vote on the first proposal from expected ) both chambers are dissolved and there will be new elections. (Art. 99)

If the Prime Minister 's confidence a decision of the Congreso. For the pronunciation of confidence by a simple majority (Art. 112 ) is sufficient. If this is not achieved, the Prime Minister must ( and with it the government ) to resign. Then, according to the procedure of Article 99 (see above), a new prime minister elected (Art. 114).

At the request of one-tenth of the deputies of the Legislative Government may withdraw the trust, for which the absolute majority is required (Art. 113). In the application, a candidate must be nominated for the office of Prime Minister ( vote of no confidence ). Five days must elapse between the application and the vote. In the first two days nor more candidates may be nominated. Is the no-confidence vote is successful, the Prime Minister resigns and the candidate is appointed by the king as the new head of government (Art. 114).


The right of initiative is in addition to the government two chambers equal to (Art. 87 of the Constitution ). Bills are initially decided by the Congreso and then forwarded to the Senado. This may appeal within two months either by an absolute majority a veto by a simple majority, or make amendments to which the Legislative matter returns. A veto may overrule this with an absolute majority, after the expiration of two months after notice is sufficient for this purpose even a simple majority. Amendments proposed by the Senado can be adopted by a simple majority, or lost. Thus the law is established, a new referral to the Senado does not occur. (Art. 90)

Special rules apply to constitutional amendments (see below) and the organic laws.

Constitutional amendment

The Spanish Constitution distinguishes between a simple constitutional amendment (Article 167 of the Constitution) and the " total revision ", which also includes changes in the basic law or part of the provisions on the crown (Art. 56-65 ) fall (Art. 168).

For the simple constitutional amendment, a majority of 3/5 in both chambers is necessary. Come the chambers do not match, try A Joint Conciliation Committee to work out a compromise, then both chambers will be submitted to the vote. If such a compromise is not or he fails in one of the chambers, a 2/3-majority in the Congreso is sufficient, unless the Senado has agreed to at least an absolute majority.

For the " total revision " a 2/3-majority in both chambers is necessary. If this is the case, both chambers are immediately dissolved and new elections held find it. The Houses elected once again debate the proposal and both must also agree with 2/3-majority. Thus, the " total revision " works, it then is subject to approval in a referendum.

Lately, the abolition of the supremacy of the male offspring was in the public opinion of Spain highly debated before the female in the line of succession, as provided in Article 57 of the Constitution. However, this provision is in the provisions on the crown and a change could take place only after the rigid provisions of Article 168.


A conciliation procedure between the two chambers, Article 74 paragraph 2 of the Constitution except in the case of the constitutional amendment (see above) only for the following areas: the consent of the Cortes Generales to international treaties ( Art. 94), the approval of cooperative arrangements between Autonomous Communities (regions) according to Article 145 and the allocation of funds from the " compensation fund for capital expenditure " to the autonomous communities (Art. 158).

If in such areas of disagreement between the chambers, A Joint Conciliation Committee is concerned with the development of a compromise proposal. Votes this following the conciliation not both chambers, the Congreso decide by absolute majority.

Cortes Generales as a single decision-making body

Basically, the two chambers meet separately and make your own decisions. The Cortes Generales as a single decision-making body (ie, in a joint meeting of all deputies and senators ) is that the constitution under Article 74 only for decisions that they have to adopt in regard to the Crown under Article 56 to 65, such as the provision of an heir apparent in the case of extinction of all entitled to inherit lines ( Art. 57) or the determination of the regency for a minor or incompetent office king, if the constitutionally appointed for this purpose people do not exist (Art. 59). This is not yet occurred.

Next come the Cortes Generales as a whole (but not to take decisions ) for each " grand opening of the legislature " ( solemne session No apertura de la Legislatura ) and for the proclamation and oath of the king and the crown prince ( Art. 61) together.

Control of the executive

Both chambers are respectively the classical means of parliamentary control over the executive to: the right to the presence of members of the Government in the chambers and their committees to demand ( Zitierungsrecht ) the mirror image corresponds to the presence and speeches by government officials in the chambers and committees ( Article 110 ), the right of interpellation (Art. 111) and the possibility of setting up committees of inquiry (Article 76), with the consent of both chambers also a common committee may be set up ( what with the joint investigation committee of the Spanish cooking oil scandal from 1981 until now once happened ).

In addition, Article 109 recognizes two chambers and their committees the right one, " by the government to demand their departments and all other agencies of the State and the Autonomous Communities with the necessary information and assistance ."

Special features in terms of the Autonomous Communities

Article 150 allows for a the state to transfer competences to the Autonomous Communities.

Secondly, the State may establish principles for the harmonization of the normative provisions of the Autonomous Communities ( even in areas that fall within its exclusive competence ) by law, unless the " general interest" so requires. This need must be determined by both Houses by absolute majority.

If an Autonomous Community does not fulfill the assigned to it by the Constitution or other laws or obligations otherwise seriously violates the " general interest of Spain ," the government can stop using " state compulsion" to do so. To this end, the government requires the consent of the Senado by absolute majority. (Art. 155)

It is striking that this is the only constitutional provision that the Senado a stronger position gives as the Congreso, which is here even not involved. This explains the fact that Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution the Article 37 of the Basic Law ( Federal coercion) is modeled and this provides only the consent of the Bundesrat without the participation of the Bundestag.

Legislature / dissolution of the Chambers

Elections take place every four years for both chambers (Art. 68 and 69 of the Constitution ).

Both chambers are resolved by law in the following three cases: after a new election, the election of a Prime Minister does not take place (Article 99), after the trust was revoked on the confidence of the Prime Minister of the government, the election of a new Prime Minister will fail ( type. 114), or upon acceptance of a proposal to " total revision " of the Constitution (Article 168, above).

Following consultations with the Government, the Prime Minister may the king at any time, and without any special requirements must be met, the resolution of one or both chambers suggest (Art. 115 ). The king must comply with the request and the resolution have a discretion is not for him. The resolution under this provision may not be made if a motion of censure is running. Within a year, there can be no further dissolution under Article 115. Theoretically, in this way the resolution of only one of the two chambers, thus falling apart of their legislatures possible, which has not yet occurred.

A self-dissolution of the Chambers law does not exist.

Unlike, say, in the case of the German Bundestag, whose mandate until the meeting of a new Bundestag ends (Art. 39 GG), the mandate of the chambers of the Cortes Generales shall terminate immediately upon the end of its term of four years ( from the date of election ) or with the resolution. In the meantime, until the constitution of the new Houses Diputaciones each formed from the middle of the two chambers act as a permanent " Notparlamente " (Art. 78).