The Spanish Constitution in English is included below – in full and available for local download and printing.
First, a brief history and timeline of Spain’s political history. Also an overview of the Spanish legislature and executive and a summary of the current constitution.
Finally details of a quiz to test your knowledge of the Spanish constitution in English with questions taken from the Spanish citizenship test.
Spanish Political Timeline
Notes on form:
- Suffrage is the right to vote.
- Censitary suffrage is where the votes cast by those eligible to vote are not equal, but are weighed differently according to the person’s rank in the census.
- Unicameral is a political structure with a single legislative tier, Bicameral is a system with two tiers, e.g. The House of Commons and the House of Lords.
|Constitution||Date||Government||Notes to Democracy||Reason for Repeal|
|Bayonne Statute (Royal Charter)||1808–1814||Constitutional monarchy||Bicameral parliament with semi-elective lower house.||Peninsular War lost by Joseph I.|
|Constitution of 1812||1812–1814||Constitutional monarchy||Elected parliament.||Ferdinand VII reinstated absolutism in 1814 and again in 1823. Superseded in 1837.|
|Royal Statute of 1834||1834–1836||Constitutional monarchy||Bicameral parliament with elected lower house and appointed Senate.||Regent forced to reinstate the 1812 Constitution after a military pronunciamiento.|
|Royal Charter||1837–1845||Constitutional monarchy||Superseded.|
|Constitution of 1837||1845–1869||Constitutional monarchy||Parliament elected by censitary suffrage.||Isabella II and her Government overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1868.|
|Constitution of 1845||Not enacted||Constitutional monarchy||Parliament elected by censitary suffrage.||Scrapped by the new government.|
|Constitution of 1869||1869–1876||Constitutional monarchy||Parliament elected by universal male suffrage.||Republic declared by the Cortes after the abdication of Amadeo I.|
|Constitution of 1873||Not enacted||Federal republic||Unicameral parliament elected by universal male suffrage.||Arsenio Martínez Campos led a successful pronunciamientorestoring the Bourbon monarchy.|
|Constitution of 1876||1876–1931||Constitutional monarchy||Parliament elected, firstly by censitary, then universal male suffrage from the 1890s.||Republic instated after Alphonse XIII fled Spain.|
|Constitution of 1931||1931–1939||Parliamentary republic||Unicameral parliament, firstly with universal male suffrage, then female suffrage from 1933.||Civil War lost by the Republican side.|
|Fundamental Laws of the Realm||1938–1978||Military dictatorship||Partially elected unicameral parliament with little powers of its own.||Superseded when Parliament adopted the Constitution of 1978.|
|Constitution of 1978||1978–present||Constitutional monarchy||Parliamentary democracy with bicameral, elective parliament.||Currently in force.|
1939 to 1978 Franco Era
Moreover, the government—appointed and dismissed by the head of state alone—was not responsible to the Cortes, which also lacked control of government spending.
In 1969 Franco selected Juan Carlos de Borbón, the grandson of King Alfonso XIII, to succeed him as head of state.
When Franco died in 1975, Juan Carlos came to the throne as King Juan Carlos I. Almost immediately the king initiated a process of transition to democracy that within three years replaced the Francoist system with a democratic constitution.
The product of long and intense negotiations among the leading political groups, the Spanish constitution was approved by huge majority. It was passed with 551 votes for and just 11 against.
In a December referendum, the draft constitution was then approved by nearly 90 percent of voters.
The constitution declares that Spain is a constitutional monarchy and advocates the essential values of freedom, justice, equality, and political pluralism. It also provides for the separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
Although the monarch is the head of state and the country’s highest representative in international affairs, the crown’s role is defined as strictly neutral and apolitical. However, when the new constitution was threatened by a military coup in 1981, King Juan Carlos is considered to have won the day for democracy when he asserted his position on national television in full military uniform.
Spanish Government Structure
Known as the Cortes Generales, the legislature consists of two chambers (cámaras).
The Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) is the lower chamber.It has 350 members, who are elected to four-year terms by universal suffrage.
The Senate (Senado) is the upper chamber. Around one-fifth of the senators are chosen as representatives of the autonomous communities. The rest are elected from the 47 mainland provinces (four senators each), the islands (the three largest having four and the smaller islands one each), and Ceuta and Melilla (two each).
The executive comprises the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, and the members of the cabinet.
The monarch formally appoints the prime minister and the prime minister then selects the cabinet members for the monarch’s ceremonial confirmation.
The executive is responsible to the legislature and must be approved by a majority vote, hence the prime minister will be the leader of the party with the most deputies, or the deputy selected by a coalition of parties who together hold the majority.
The Spanish Constitution 1978
Article 1 of the Constitution defines the Spanish state. Article 1.1 states that “Spain is established as a social and democratic State, subject to the rule of law, which advocates as the highest values of its legal order the following: liberty, justice, equality and political pluralism”. Article 1.2 refers to national sovereignty, which is vested in the Spanish people, “from whom the powers of the State emanate”. Article 1.3 establishes parliamentary monarchy as the “political form of the Spanish state”.
The Constitution is organized in ten parts (Spanish: Títulos) and an additional introduction (Spanish: Título Preliminar), as well as a preamble, several additional and interim provisions and a series of repeals, and it ends with a final provision.
- Part I refers to fundamental rights and duties, which receive special treatment and protection under Spanish law.
- Part II refers to the regulation of the Crown and lays out the King’s role in the Spanish state.
- Part III elaborates on Spain’s legislature, the Cortes Generales.
- Part IV refers to the Government of Spain, the executive power, and the Public Administration, which is managed by the executive.
- Part V refers to the relations between the Government and the Cortes Generales; as a parliamentary monarchy, the Prime Minister (Spanish: Presidente del Gobierno) is invested by the legislature and the Government is responsible before the legislature.
- Part VI refers to the organization of the judicial power, establishing that justice emanates from the people and is administered on behalf of the King by judges and magistrates who are independent, irrevocable, liable and subject to the rule of law only.
- Part VII refers to the principles that shall guide the economy and the finances of the Spanish state, subjecting all the wealth in the country to the general interest and recognizing public initiative in the economy, while also protecting private property in the framework of a market economy. It also establishes the Court of Accounts and the principles that shall guide the approval of the state budget.
- Part VIII refers to the “territorial organization of the State” and establishes a unitary state that is nevertheless heavily decentralized through delegation and transfer of powers. The result is a de facto federal model, with some differences from federal states. This is referred to as an autonomous state (Spanish: Estado Autonómico) or state of the autonomies (Spanish: Estado de las Autonomías).
- Part IX refers to the Constitutional Court, which oversees the constitutionality of all laws and protects the fundamental rights enshrined in Part I. Finally,
- Part X refers to constitutional amendments, of which there have been only two since 1978 (in 1995 and 2011).
Spanish Constitution in English – Full Document
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Test Your Knowledge?
If you like the idea of putting your knowledge of the Spanish constitution to the test, El Pais newspaper have put together an online quiz with questions taken from the Spanish citizenship test.