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List of Constitutions of Spain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Spain has proclaimed a number of Constitutions. The current Magna Carta of 1978 is the culmination of the Spanish transition to democracy.

The idea of a national constitution for Spain arose from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen initiated as a result of the French Revolution

The earliest document recognized as such was La Pepa passed in 1812 as a result of the Peninsular War (1807–1814), which was a military conflict between the First French Empire and the allied powers of the Spanish Empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Kingdom of Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars.

During the Francoist State, there were many attempts to create stable institutions that did not (at least directly) emanate from Fransisco Franco as they did in the post-war period. The Fundamental Laws of the Realm (Spanish: Leyes Fundamentales del Reino) were a constitution in parts enacted through nearly 20 years starting in the 1950s. They established the very institutions that would later, under Juan Carlos I and Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez, commit "constitutional suicide" and pass the Political Reform Act, starting the Spanish transition to democracy. Most of those Laws theoretically provided for a quite free state, but ultimately the power of the Caudillo was supreme.

Finally, the constitution in force is similar to the (unwritten) British democratic monarchy model, but the Catalan self-determination referendum, 2014 has provoked calls for an entirely democratic federal republican model. Below there is a comprehensive table, but this is an overview:

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Spain Is Not A Federation: Autonomous Communities of Spain Explained
  • Brief History of the Spanish Royal Family
  • Co-Principality of Andorra Explained: Why the President of France is a Prince


Spain is a country that functions a lot like Federation, without actually being a federation. When the country is a federation, what that means is that it is a union of partially self-governing states under central government. This sounds like Spain, which along the countrywide government, has many autonomous communities that are self-governing. These include not only the communities in the iberian peninsula but also the insular territories such as one community for the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, and another for the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The cities of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco's side of the straight in north africa have special status as autonomous cities. While gibraltar on Spain side is not a part of Spain and instead and overseas territory of the UK. The autonomous communities were established during Spain's transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco. The framers of the new spanish constitution in 1978 wanted to maintain a unified, indivisible, Spanish state. So they were careful to deliberately not make Spain a federation, but at the same time needed to keep the Galicians, Catalans, and Basques happy, who wanted more autonomy after being suppressed by highly centralized Franco Regime. Those communities can sometimes have powers that you even exceed those of states in Federation's. Some have recognized distinct nationalities, have their own official languages, and some even collect taxes independent of the spanish government. So in practice Spain behaves like a federation, but in theory the Constitution only guaranteed a process through which regions could become self-governing, but did not itself established or list the powers of these entities. Instead the regions would later gain their rights through a statute of autonomy, which is similar to the process of awarding devolved powers in non-federations called unitary states. This is an important distinction because in general the Constitutions of Federations clearly outline the division of powers between the federal government and the members. In unitary states the central government can change the powers of its sub-national divisions, while in Federation the federal government must respect the members rights and often constitutional reforms require consent from the members. But at the same time the members must respect the powers of the federal state and cannot unilaterally secede. This distinguishes Federation's from Confederations which are union of sovereign states which retain the right to secede at any time. For example, Spain is a member of the European Union with is like a confederation, since member states can leave by invoking article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon which established the EU. Spain's complicated internal structure is the result of its history. After the fall of the Roman Empire the local varieties of Latin used by the common people known as vulgar latin slowly diverged into the various Romance languages. For centuries the north of Iberia was split between many Christian kingdoms while the south was under Muslim rule. In each of the Christian kingdoms, vulgar latin diverged into different languages, such as Galician which is related to portuguese, Leonese, Aragonese, and Castilian, which are related to each other, and Catalan which is distantly related to French, but is more closely related to the Occitan language that exists in southern France before being mostly replaced by french. The basque language in the Pyrenees Mountains, is not a Romance language. It's not even in the indo-european language family of most modern European languages, and so it's likely descended from a language that existed in those mountains from before indo-european languages spread into Europe. The castilian language became dominant following its spread during the Reconquista, and became language of a unified Spanish kingdom and is commonly known as Spanish in other languages as well as among some Spanish speakers. However, Galician, Basque and Catalan identities remain strong so they were allowed to quickly established autonomous communities by the method outlined in the Constitution when Spain became a democracy. The rest of Spain gradually created their own autonomous communities and now the cover all of Spain's territory. The autonomous communities are composed of one or more provinces of spain, which are themselves composed of municipalities. This means most of Spain has four levels of government: municipal, provincial, the regional governments of the communities, and the national government. The autonomous cities in North Africa take on the powers of a municipality, province and a community. Some communities are large and cover many provinces, but some like Madrid, established specifically to make administering the capital easier, contain just one. In general all the communities have control over their finances and are in charge of education, health, and social services. But other powers are unequally distributed among the communities. Some communities have their own Civil Code, which means they have their own method of dealing with non-criminal legal decisions, and these communities have co-official languages along with Spanish: Galicia has Galician and basque is a co-official language in the Basque Country along with the Basque speaking areas of neighboring Navarre. Valencia has a variety of catalan called Valencian, and Catalan itself is co-official in the Balearic islands and Catalonia. Additionally Catalonia recognizes occitan as co-official as it is spoken by some in border regions. As well, Aragonese and Asturian are considered protected languages in their namesake regions, and both Asturian and Galician are protected in Castile and Leon. Catalonia, Navarre, and the Basque Country have their own police forces, while Navarre and the Basque Country are communities of chartered regime, which means they collect the taxes within their territory and then send a portion to the national government to cover its responsibilities. All the other communities are part of the common regime where the situation is reversed. Some communities notably catalonia want more powers devolved, and there are some desire in Spain to become fully federalized. But currently Spain is still technically a unitary state. If you enjoyed this video you might like this one about Russia or this one about Spain's tiny neighbor Andorra which speaks Catalan and has two princes: one is a bishop in Catalonia, and the other is the President of France.


Name In force Form of government Democracy Repealed Observations
Bayonne Statute
Royal Charter
1808–1814 Constitutional monarchy Bicameral parliament with semi-elective lower house. Peninsular War lost by Joseph I. Not recognized by the Spanish patriots during the war. Most of its contents were to be enacted through the 1810s, so it did not actually work.
Constitution of 1812 1812–1814
Constitutional monarchy Elected parliament. Ferdinand VII reinstated absolutism in 1814 and again in 1823. Superseded in 1837. The Crown was granted wide-ranging veto powers, which Ferdinand VII used to prevent the liberal governments from functioning.
Royal Statute of 1834
Royal Charter
1834–1836 Constitutional monarchy Bicameral parliament with elected lower house and appointed Senate. Regent forced to reinstate the 1812 Constitution after a military pronunciamiento. Granted by Maria Christina in order to get support from the liberals in the First Carlist War.
Constitution of 1837 1837–1845 Constitutional monarchy Superseded. Partially suspended by Baldomero Espartero to rule by decree between 1840 and 1843.
Constitution of 1845 1845–1869 Constitutional monarchy Parliament elected by censitary suffrage. Isabella II and her Government overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1868. Doctrinaire attempt to exploit the plots against the young Isabella and the Regency in order to reinforce the monarchy
Constitution of 1856 Not enacted Constitutional monarchy Parliament elected by censitary suffrage. Scrapped by the new government. Passed by the Parliament but not enacted by Isabella II as moderate liberals returned to power.
Constitution of 1869 1869–1876 Constitutional monarchy Parliament elected by universal male suffrage. Republic declared by the Cortes after the abdication of Amadeo I. An interim compromise between royalist conservatives and republican progressives
Constitution of 1873 Not enacted Federal republic Unicameral parliament elected by universal male suffrage. Arsenio Martínez Campos led a successful pronunciamiento restoring the Bourbon monarchy. Republic collapsed before even passing the Constitution, mainly due to wide disagreement over the federalism vs centralism issue.
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. While theoretically democratic, elections were routinely rigged by the governing party, and in practice power was shared by two alternating parties (the turno system). During Primo de Rivera's dictatorship (1923–1930) many of its articles were suspended in a de facto dictatorship.
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. During the Civil War (1936–1939) it was abolished by the Nationalists and widely disregarded in the Republican zone.
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. A set of laws enacted by the caudillo Francisco Franco in order to shape his political regime and adapt it to changes. The individual laws passed under Franco are: Fuero del Trabajo (1938), Ley Constitutiva de las Cortes (1942), Fuero de los Españoles (1945), Ley del Referéndum Nacional (1945), Ley de Sucesión en la Jefatura del Estado (1945), Ley de Principios del Movimiento Nacional (1958), and Ley Orgánica del Estado (1967).

The Law for Political Reform (Ley de Reforma Política) of 1977, last of the Fundamental Laws and passed after Franco's death, started the Spanish transition to democracy.

Constitution of 1978 1978–present Constitutional monarchy Parliamentary democracy with bicameral, elective parliament. Currently in force. First in Spanish constitutional history not to grant any emergency power (i.e. sacking the PM, dissolving the Cortes) to the Head of State.


External links

This page was last edited on 7 June 2018, at 15:56
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