Spain - Political and electoral system

Political and administrative structure

Spain is a unitary state with a parliamentary monarchy government. Territorially, it is organized through three levels of power that are organized by the principle of jurisdiction, there being no hierarchical order between them: State, Autonomous Communities and Local Entities. All these entities enjoy managerial autonomy of their respective interests. ( Title VIII, Chap. 1, Art. 137, Spanish Constitution)

Municipal government

The Constitution guarantees the autonomy of the municipalities. These enjoy full legal power. Its government and administration correspond to their respective governments, comprised by Mayors and Councillors. The councillors are elected by the local population through universal, fair, free, direct and secret suffrage, as established by law. The Mayors are elected by the Councillors or the local population. Law regulates the conditions under which the open council regime operates. (Title VII, Chap. 1, Art. 140, Spanish Constitution). The organization of the municipal system is heterogeneous, the particularities of the governments are fundamentally based on the size of the population. Broadly speaking, it its possible to distinguish the different municipal systems: Common Regime Large Population Municipal Organization, directed to those with more than 75,000 inhabitants or the present special economic, social, historical or cultural circumstances. Madrid and Barcelona, the most populated cities in the nation, enjoy a particular regime. Open Council regime , in which small municipalities and the territorial entities inferior to he municipality that do not achieve a significant number of inhabited is governed by an assembly system: The neighbourhood assembly, which serves as the full council. According to current law (Law 7/1985), the system is reserved for those municipalities with less than one hundred inhabitants and those that have traditionally functioned in such a manner. This regime is also applied to those municipalities whose specific location, municipal management or other circumstances make it advisable; in these case, it requires a request by the majority of the population, a favourable decision by 2/3 of the member of the government and approval by the Autonomous Community. Source: "El Régimen Local en España". Dirección general de Cooperación Local, Secretaría de Estado de Cooperación Territorial, Ministerio de Administraciones Públicas, Gobierno de España.

Duration of terms

4 years.

Representation system

The local electoral system is proportional. Spanish and resident European Union citizens can participate in municipal elections as well as those countries that recognize such rights under treaty law. The election for Mayor is indirect, except in the open Council in which all inhabitants directly elect the Mayor. This system is only applied in small municipalities. "El Régimen Local en España". Dirección general de Cooperación Local, Secretaría de Estado de Cooperación Territorial, Ministerio de Administraciones Públicas, Gobierno de España.

Type of list

In Municipalities with less than 250 inhabitants, the lists are open. In Municipalities with more than 250 inhabitants, the lists are closed and blocked.

Electoral constituency

Single candidate for mayors, multiple candidates for councilors. Each municipality constitutes a districted in which the number of councillors are elected that result in the application of the following scale (Art. 179, Ley 5/1985):

  • Councillors Up to 100 residents, 3
  • From 101 to 250 residents, 5
  • From 251 to 1,000, 7
  • From 1,001 to 2,000, 9
  • From 2,001 to 5,000, 11
  • From 5,001 to 10,000, 13
  • From 10,001 to 20,000, 17
  • From 20,001 to 50,000, 21
  • From 50,001 to 100,000 25

From 100,001 upwards, a councillor for more than 100,000 residents or fraction, adding one more when the result is an even number. The scale shown in the previous paragraph does not apply to municipalities that, according to legislation governing the local regime, function according to an open council. In these municipalities, the electorate directly choose the Mayor through a majority system.

Quota and parity laws

The Equality Law, modifies the Organic Law of 5/1985, of the General Electoral Regime. It adds article 44 bis that states that "Candidatures that are presented for Lower house Congressional elections, municipal elections, and elections of members for insular councils and those of the Canary Islands under the terms of this Law, representatives to the European Parliament and members of Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Communities must have a balanced composition of women and men, so that in the total list of candidates there is at least 40% representation of each sex. When the number of posts to cover a less than five, the proportion of women and men will be the closest possible to numerical equilibrium" (art. 44 bis, Organic Law of 5/1985). It also indicated that "stipulated in article 44 bis of this law is not applicable to candidatures that are presented in municipalities with less than or equal to 3,000 inhabitants" and "is not applicable to candidatures that are presented in islands with less than or equal to 5,000 inhabitants" (Pto. 2 and 3, art. 44 bis, Organic Law of 5/1985). Finally, it states that "in the announcement of municipal elections that were held before 2011, that which is stated in article 44 bis will only apply in those municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants, applying beginning 1 of January of that year the number of inhabitants stated in the second paragraph of article 187 of the current Law"(Pto. 5, art. 44 bis, Equality Law). In Spain, at both the national as well as autonomous level, the nullification of candidatures is possible if they do not fulfil the legal requirements of the distribution of candidates by sex (art. 44 bis, Equality Law).

Legal instruments applicable to municipalities

Spanish Constitution of 1978 Law 7/1985, 2 April, which regulates the norms for local government Royal Legislative Decree 781/1986, 18 April, that approved the revised text of current legal provisions regarding local government Royal Legislative Decree 2/2004, 5 March, that approves the revised text of the Regulatory Law of Local Housing Law 1/2006, 13 March, that regulates the special regime of the Municipality of Barcelona Law 22/2006, 4 July, on the Capital and Special Regime of Madrid Organic Law 3/2007, 22 March. Equality Law, for the effective equality between men and women Source: "El Régimen Local en España". Dirección general de Cooperación Local, Secretaría de Estado de Cooperación Territorial, Ministerio de Administraciones Públicas, Gobierno de España.

Electoral Justice

Central Election Board Organic Law 5/1985, 19 June, of the General Election Regime