|President of the Government|
|Presidente del Gobierno|
|Government of Spain|
Office of the Prime Minister
|Style||The Most Excellent|
|Type||Head of government|
|Residence||Palace of Moncloa|
|Nominator||The Congress of Deputies|
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Deputy||Deputy Prime Minister|
|Salary||€90,000 per annum|
The prime minister of Spain, officially president of the Government (Spanish: Presidente del Gobierno), is the head of government of Spain. The prime minister chairs the Council of Ministers and nominates its ministers; in these sense, the prime minister establishes the Government policies and coordinates the actions of the Cabinet members. As chief executive, the prime minister also advices the monarch on the exercise of its royal prerogatives.
Although it is not possible to determine when the position actually originated, the office of prime minister has evolved throughout history to what it is today. It was formally regulated for the first time in 1823, when King Ferdinand VII appointed his Secretary of State (the name that the position received then) as chair of the extant Council of Ministers, and its current regulation was established during the reign of King Juan Carlos I, in the Constitution of 1978. This supreme law precisely describes its constitutional role and powers, the way to access and exit the office, as well as the relations between the prime minister and Parliament.
Upon a vacancy, the monarch nominates a premiership candidate for a vote of confidence by the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the Cortes Generales. The process is a parliamentarian investiture by which the head of government is indirectly elected by the elected Congress of Deputies. In practice, the prime minister is almost always the leader of the largest party in the Congress, although not necessarily. The prime minister's official residence and office is Moncloa Palace in Madrid.
Pedro Sánchez, of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), has been prime minister since 2 June 2018, after a successful motion of no confidence against former prime minister Mariano Rajoy. Since then, Sánchez has chaired three different cabinets, the most —along with Adolfo Suárez— just behind fellow socialist Felipe González, prime minister from 1982 to 1996. King Felipe VI re-appointed Sánchez for the third time on 17 November 2023 after he reached a government agreement with political coalition Sumar and gathered the support of other minor parties. His third government took office on 21 November 2023.
The Spanish head of government has been known, since 1939, as "President of the Government" (Spanish: Presidente del Gobierno), but the term 'president' is far older. Spain was not unique in this regard: it was one of several European parliamentary systems including France, Italy and Ireland that styled the head of government as 'presidents' of the government rather than the Westminster term of 'prime minister' (see President of the Council for the full list of corresponding terms); similarly, the president of the Congress or Senate referred to the parliamentary speakers. This system of multiple distinct offices all labelled 'president' causes confusion among English-speakers: both President George W. Bush and his brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush, referred to José María Aznar as "president" on separate occasions, and Donald Trump referred to Mariano Rajoy both as "President" and "Mr. President" during Rajoy's 2017 White House visit. While this term of address was not incorrect, it could be misleading to English speakers so prime minister is commonly used as a culturally equivalent term to ensure clarity.
The custom to name the head of government as "president" dates back to the reign of Isabella II, specifically to 1834 and the regency of Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies when, styled after the head of government of the French July Monarchy (1830), the official title was the Presidente del Consejo de Ministros ("President of the Council of Ministers"). This remained until 1939, when the Second Spanish Republic ended. Before 1834 the figure was known as Secretario de Estado ("Secretary of State"), a denomination used today for junior ministers.
Since the 15th century, the Spanish monarchs has delegated its executive powers in relevant personalities. Two are the most important: the validos and the secretaries of state. The validos, which existed since early 15th century to the late 17th century were people of the highest confidence of the monarchs and they exercised the Crown's power in the monarch's name. Since the 18th century, the validos disappeared and the secretaries of state were introduced. Both positions were de facto prime ministers (as demonstrated by the fact that since the tenure of the count-duke of Olivares, valido of Felipe IV, the validos were often called by courtiers and authors already in the 17th century as "principal minister or prime minister of Spain") although they can not be completely compared.
On 19 November 1823, after a brief liberal democratic period called the Liberal Triennium between 1820 and 1823, King Ferdinand VII re-established the absolute monarchy and created the Council of Ministers that continues to exist today. This council, when not chaired by the monarch, was chaired by the secretary of state for foreign affairs (Spanish: Secretario de Estado y del Despacho de Estado), who acted as prime minister. This role was ratified by the Royal Statute of 1834, which constitutionalized for the first time the figure of the prime minister under the name of "President of the Council of Ministers", invested with executive powers.
During the 19th century, the position changed names frequently. After the Glorious Revolution of 1868, it was renamed President of the Provisional Revolutionary Joint and later President of the Provisional Government. In 1869, the office resumed the name of President of the Council of Ministers. Following the abdication of King Amadeus I, during the First Republic (1873–1874) the office was known as the President of the Executive Power and was also head of state. In 1874, the office name reverted to President of the Council of Ministers.
Since its inception, the prime minister has been appointed and dismissed by the will of the monarch. Successive constitutions have confirmed this royal prerogative of the monarch in the Constitution of 1837 (article 47), article 46 of the Constitution of 1845, the Constitution of 1869 (article 68), and the Constitution of 1876 (article 54).
With the fall of the First Republic and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty on King Alfonso XII, the office maintained its original name until the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, when it was renamed to President of the Military Directory. In 1925, the original name was restored again.
The Republican Constitution of 1931 provided for the prime minister and the rest of the government to be appointed and dismissed by the President of the Republic but they were responsible before the Parliament and the Parliament could vote to dismiss the prime minister or a minister even against the will of the president of the republic. In the Civil War, the head of government among the Nationalists was called Chief of the Government of the State and since January 1938 the office acquired the current name, President of the Government, but between that date and 1973 the office was held by Francisco Franco as dictator of Spain.
In 1973, Francisco Franco separated the head of state from the head of government, and that division still exists today, with the prime minister democratically elected by the Parliament which is itself elected by universal suffrage, free and equal. Adolfo Suárez was the first democratically elected prime minister of the post-Franco government. He was originally appointed by King Juan Carlos I on 3 July 1976, and he was confirmed in the office by popular vote after the 1977 Spanish general election.
Once a general election has been called by the monarch, political parties designate their candidates to stand for prime minister—usually the party leader. A prime minister is dismissed from office the day after the election, but remains in office as a caretaker until his/her successor is sworn in.
Following every general election to the Cortes Generales, and other circumstances provided for in the constitution, the sovereign 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, 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 a candidate for the presidency. This process is spelled out in 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 monarchs 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.
Under the Spanish Constitution of 1978, the prime minister and the Council of Ministers are responsible to the Congress of Deputies. Due to the need for the prime minister to command the confidence of the Congress, the monarch must nominate a candidate for the office after consulting the political groups with parliamentary representation. 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 soverign's nominees have usually been from parties who maintain a plurality of seats in the Congress. However, there is no legal requirement for this. The largest party can end up not ruling if rival parties gather into a majority, forming a coalition—as happened in 2018 with the election of PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez. 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 if no party is able to command an absolute majority of the Congress by themselves.
The monarch's order nominating a prime ministerial 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 investiture proceedings, the candidate defends its 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.
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 forty-eight hours later in which a simple majority of votes cast (i.e., more "yes" than "no" votes) is required. Following the second vote, if confidence by the Congress is still not reached, then the monarch again meets with political leaders and the Speaker, and submits a new nominee for a vote of confidence (exceptionally, in 2016 King Felipe VI opted for not nominating more candidates and call for new elections). If, within two months, no candidate has won the confidence of the Congress then the monarch dissolves the Cortes and calls for a new general election. The monarch's royal decree is countersigned by the Speaker of the Congress.
After the nominee is confirmed, the Speaker of the Congress formally reports to the sovereign of the congressional confirmation. The monarch then appoints the candidate as the new prime minister. The monarch's order of appointment is countersigned by the Speaker.
During the swearing-in ceremony presided over by the monarch, customarily at the Audience Hall of the Royal Palace of Zarzuela, the prime minister–designate takes an oath of office over an open Constitution and—at choice since 2014—next to a Bible and a crucifix. The prime minister must take the oath or affirmation placing the right hand on the Constitution. Currently, only one prime minister has refused to take the oath of office next to religious symbols: Pedro Sánchez, along with most of his Cabinet members. His predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, a Catholic, put his right hand on the Constitution and, at the same time, his left hand on the Bible. As per tradition, if the members of the government choose not to take the oath along with any religious symbols, they use the word "prometo" ("I promise"), whereas if the take the oath with the Bible, they use the word "juro" ("I swear"). The oath as taken by Prime Minister 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.
Once appointed, the prime minister forms his government whose ministers are appointed and removed by the monarch on the prime minister's advice. In the political life of Spain, the monarch 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 Sovereign.
See also: Prime Minister's Office (Spain)
The Office of the Prime Minister (Spanish: Presidencia del Gobierno, lit. 'Presidency of the Government') is the combination of government departments and services that are at the service of the Prime Minister to fulfill its constitutional duties. It was established around 1834 when officials and budget began to be assigned to the personal Secretariat of the Prime Minister. Today, it acts as a ministerial department, although it is not formally one of them, and approximately 2,000 people work there.
The Prime Minister's Office principal departments are:
The autonomous agency Patrimonio Nacional, which manages Crown properties, depends on this Office through the Ministry of the Presidency.
The Cabinet Office, through the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Government, is responsible for the protocol and security affairs. Within the General Secretariat, there is a Department of Security of the Presidency of the Government (DSPG) that coordinates the efforts of the National Police Corps and the Civil Guard in the protection of the Prime Minister and his family, as well as the infraestructure and personnel of the Moncloa Government Complex.
The vehicles used by the Prime Minister are provided by the State Vehicle Fleet (PME), an autonomous agency of the Ministry of Finance that provides the government with all type of vehicles and well-trained drivers. The air transportation of the Prime Minister and other government officials is mainly provided by the 45th Air Force Group (planes) and the 402nd Air Force Squadron (helicopters).
The Parliament, and thus, the Government, sit for a term no longer than four years. Before that date, the prime minister may offer his resignation to the sovereign. If the premier does it while advising the monarch to dissolve the Cortes, the sovereign will call for a snap election, but no sooner than a year after the prior general election.
If a prime minister resigns without advising the monarch to call for new elections, 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 deputy prime minister, or in the absence of such office, the first minister by precedence, would then take over the day-to-day operations in the meantime as acting-prime minister, even while the deputy prime minister themselves may be nominated by the monarch and stand for a vote of confidence. Also, if at the conclusion of the four years, the prime minister has not asked for its dissolution, according to Title II Section 56, the monarch must dissolve the Parliament and call for a new general election.
Although the prime minister's position is strengthened by constitutional limits on the Congress' right to withdraw confidence from the government, the Cortes Generales has two ways of forcing the prime minister's resignation: passing a motion of no confidence or rejecting a motion of confidence. In the first case, and following the German model, a prime minister can only be removed by a constructive vote of no confidence. While the Congress can censure the government at any time, the censure motion must also include the name of a prospective replacement for the incumbent prime minister. If the censure motion is successful, the replacement candidate is automatically deemed to have the confidence of the Congress, and the monarch is required to appoint him as the new prime minister. As of 2023, only Pedro Sánchez managed to remove a sitting prime minister with a vote of no confidence in 2018, making him prime minister. In the second case, the prime minister, after deliberation by the Council of Ministers, can propose the lower house of the Cortes a vote of confidence regarding the government's policies. If the Congress does not give the premier its confidence, the prime minister muse offer the monarch its resignation, starting the procedure explained in the second paragraph. As of 2023, only prime minister Adolfo Suárez in 1980 and Felipe González in 1990 proposed a vote of confidence, both successful.
The prime minister is the second authority of the Kingdom of Spain, outranking all other State authorities except members of the royal family.
In 2023, the prime minister received a salary of €90,010 and additional €13,422 as member of parliament. With this salary, the prime minister is not the highest paid official of Spain, being surpassed by other State authorities such as the royal family (the King, €269,296; the Queen, €148,105; and the Queen Mother, €121,186), the president of the Congress of Deputies (€230,931), the president of the Constitutional Court (€167,169), the president of the Supreme Court (€151,186) and the president of the Court of Auditors (€130,772), among others.
The prime minister is constitutionally protected against ordinary prosecution. Although the premier does not have legal immunity like the monarch, the prime minister, as well as the members of the Royal Family, the Government, the Congress of Deputies and the Senate, can only be criminally responsible before the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court (Spanish Constitution, Part IV § 102).
Although it is not formally regulated, Spanish custom establishes that the prime minister receives the treatment of The Most Excellent (Spanish: Excelentísimo Señor, f. Excelentísima Señora). This treatment has been customary for the government ministers since, at least, the 18th century, and in the case of the prime minister, this treatment is reinforced as member of the Order of Charles III, whose article 13 states that "the Knights and the Dames of the Collar, as well as the Knights and Dames Grand Cross, will receive the treatment of Most Excellent Lord and Most Excellent Lady".
The Spanish Constitution foresee the office of Deputy Prime Minister and also the possibility of having more than one deputy premier. Although the position of deputy prime minister has existed intermittently since 1840, the Constitution endorses what was established in the Organic Act of the State of 1967, which provided for the first time the possibility of appointing more than one deputy and, in 1974, this provision became effective when prime minister Carlos Arias Navarro, appointed three deputies (José García Hernández, Antonio Barrera de Irimo and Licinio de la Fuente). Since then, three more prime ministers (Adolfo Suárez, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Pedro Sánchez) has had more than one deputy. The second government of Pedro Sánchez holds the record of more deputies, with four. This large volume of deputy premierships during the second cabinet of Sánchez was interpreted as a maneuver to reduce the political weight of his second deputy prime minister and leader of the minority party in the government coalition, Pablo Iglesias Turrión.
According to article 101 of the Spanish Constitution, the prime minister and its government only ceases in the cases of resignation, a failed motion of confidence, a motion of no confidence against the prime minister or the death of the prime minister. In the first three options, there is no succession, because the prime minister remains as caretaker prime minister until a new prime minister is elected by the Congress of Deputies.
Only if the Prime Minister dies, the 1997 Government Act does provide for succession: the Prime Minister is succeeded by the Deputy Prime Minister or, if there is more than one, by the Deputy Prime Ministers, depending on their order. If there is no deputy prime minister, the Government Act establishes that the prime minister will be replaced by the ministers, according to the order of precedence of the Departments. This means that the first in the line of succession after the deputy prime ministes would be the Minister of Foreign Affairs, followed by the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Finance. These four ministers are the first and great offices created in 1714 by King Philip V.
Main article: Order of Charles III
The Order of Charles III, officially the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III, was established in 1771 by King Charles III and is today the country's highest civil honor. The current regulation of the order, established in October 2002, states that the prime minister is the Grand Chancellor of the Order (second to the Grand Master, the Monarch).
Upon taking office, the new premier shall be invested with the degree of Knight or Dame Grand Cross of the Order and with this rank he will act as Grand Chancellor of the same. It is responsibility of the Grand Chancellor to submit to the approval of the Council of Ministers Royal Decrees granting the degrees of Collar and Grand Cross, and all titles of the different degrees of the Royal Order must bear his signature and the monarch's.
The last person to join the order was Leonor, Princess of Asturias, in October 2023, when her father granted her with the Collar of the Order. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, grand cross of the Order since 2000, was awarded the Collar on 7 November 2023.
Upon retirement, it is customary for the monarch to grant a prime minister some honour or dignity. The honour bestowed is commonly the Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, the second highest civil honor, while the ministers receive the Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III (the highest civil distinction). This is because the prime minister is, since he is appointed as such by the sovereign, a Knight or Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III, for which he is awarded the next highest distinction.
In addition to these honors, the monarch might offer the former prime minister a peerage, being 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 prime minister, the succeeding prime minister customarily countersigns the royal decree. As a reward for national service, the last awarded peerages (both with grandship) were those of Adolfo Suárez, who was created Duke of Suárez in 1981 and Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, created Marquess of the Ría de Ribadeoin 2002, twenty years after holding the office. The last prime minister to be offered a noble title was Felipe González, who rejected the offer. Since then, neither King Juan Carlos I nor King Felipe VI have offered prime ministers such an honor.
In 1983, the first government of Felipe González established the "Statute of Former Prime Ministers", which granted retired premiers, for four years, the right to have an office composed by two civil servants, a minimum endowment of 2.5 million pesetas each year for office expenses and an official vehicle with driver.
Nine years later, the government updated the Statute, removing the time limit the prime minister would receive privileges, including diplomatic assistance abroad, security, a personal salary for two years after leaving the office and, free pass in public transportation and an undetermined endowment for office expenses.
Since 2004, the retired prime ministers are eligible for a seat in the Council of State for life. As of 2023, only Jose María Aznar (2005–2006) and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2011–2015) used this privilege.
For the fiscal year 2023, each of the living prime ministers receive €74,580 for the sustenance of their respective offices.
See also: List of prime ministers of Spain
Further information: List of prime ministers of Spain § Kingdom of Spain (1975–present)
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