Spain -- Geography --
Official Name: Kingdom of Spain
Capital City: Madrid.
The capital and largest city is Madrid (population, 2003 estimate, 3,092,759), also the capital of Madrid autonomous region; the second largest city, chief port, and commercial center is Barcelona (1,503,884), capital of Barcelona province and Catalonia region.
The Spanish people are essentially a mixture of the indigenous peoples of the Iberian Peninsular with the successive peoples who conquered the peninsular and occupied it for extended periods. These added ethnologic elements include the Romans, a Mediterranean people, and the Suevi, Vandals, and Visigoths, Teutonic peoples. Semitic elements are also present. Several ethnic groups in Spain have kept a separate identity, culturally and linguistically. The population estimated for 2005 is 40,341,462, giving the country an overall density of 81 persons per sq km (209 per sq mi). Spain is increasingly urban, with 77 percent of the population in towns and cities.
Languages: Spainn (official), others
Official Currency: Euro
Spain -- History --
One of the characteristic features of the early history of Spain is the succesive waves of different peoples who spread all over the Peninsula. The first to appear were the Iberians, a Libyan people, who came from the south. Later came the Celts, a typically Aryan people, and from the merging of the two there arose a new race, the Celtiberians, who, divided into several tribes (Cantabrians, Asturians, Lusitanians) gave their name to their respective homelands. The next to arrive, attracted by mining wealth, were the Phoenicians, who founded a number of trading posts along the coast, the most important being that of Cadiz. After this came Greek settlers, who founded several towns, including Rosas, Ampurias and Sagunto. The Phoenicians, in their struggle against the Greeks, called on the Carthaginians, who, under the orders of Hamilcar Barca, took possession of most of Spain. It was at this time that Rome raised a border dispute in defence of the areas of Greek influence, and thus began in the Peninsula the Second Punic War, which decided the fate of the world at that time. After the Roman victory, Publius Cornelius Scipio, Africanus, began the conquest of Spain, which was to be under Roman rule for six centuries.
Once the Peninsula had been completely subdued, it was Romanized to such an extent that it produced writers of the stature of Seneca and Lucan and such eminent emperors as Trajan and Hadrian.
Rome left in Spain four powerful social elements: the Latin language, Roman law, the municipality and the Christian religion.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Suevi, Vandals and Alans entered Spain, but they were defeated by the Visigoths who, by the end of the 6th century, has occupied virtually the whole of the Peninsula.
At the beginning of the 8th century the Arabs entered from the south. They conquered the country swiftly except for a small bulwark in the North which would become the initial springboard for the Reconquest, which was not completed until eight centuries later. The period of Muslim sway is divided into three periods: the Emirate (711 to 756), the Caliphate (756-1031) and the Reinos de Taifas (small independent kingdoms) (1031 to 1492).
In 1469, the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, prepared the way for the union of the two kigdoms and marked the opening of a period of growing success for Spain, since during their reign, Granada, the last stronghold of the Arabs in Spain, was conquered and, at the same time, in the same historic year of 1492, the caravels sent by the Crown of Castile under the command of Christopher Columbus discovered America. The Canary Islands became part of Spanish territory (1495), the hegemony of Spain in the Mediterranean, to the detriment of France, was affirmed with the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, and Navarre was incorporated into the Kingdom.
The next two centuries, the 16th and the 17th, witnessed the construction and apogee of the Spanish Empire as a result of which the country, under the aegis of the Austrias, became the world's foremost power, and European politics hinged upon it.
The War of Succession to the Spanish Crown (1701-1714) marked the end of the dynasty of the Habsburgs and the coming of the Bourbons. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 formalized the British occupation of the Rock of Gibraltar, giving rise to an anachronistic colonial situation which still persists today and constitutes the only dispute between Spain and the United Kingdom.
In 1808 Joseph Bonaparte was installed on the Spanish throne, following the Napoleonic invasion, although the fierce resistance of the Spanish people culminated in the restoration of the Bourbons in the person of Fernando VII.
In 1873, the brief reign of Amadeo of Savoy ended with his abdication, and the First Republic was proclaimed. However, a military pronunciamiento in 1875, restored the monarchy and Alfonso XII was proclaimed King of Spain. He was succeeded in 1886 by his son Alfonso XIII, although his mother Queen Maria Cristina of Habsburg acted as regent until 1902, when he was crowned king.
Prior to this, a brief war with the United States resulted in the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, in 1898, thus completing the dissolution of the Spanish overseas empire.
In the municipal elections of April 12th, 1931, it became clear that in all the large towns of Spain the candidates who supported the Monarchy had been heavily defeated. The size of the Republican's vote in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona was enormous. In the country districts the Monarchy gained enough seats to secure for them a majority in the nation as a whole. But it was well known that in the country the 'caciques' were still powerful enough to prevent a fair vote. By the evening of the day following the elections, great crowds were gathering in the streets of Madrid. The king's most trusted friends advised him to leave the capital without delay, to prevent bloodshed. As a result, Alfonso XIII left Spain and the Second Republic was established in April 14th. During its five-year lifetime, it was ridden with all kind of political, economic and social conflicts, which inexorably split opinions into two irreconcilable sides. The climate of growing violence culminated on July 18th 1936 in a military rising which turned into a tragic civil war which did not end until three years later.
On October 1st, 1936, General Franco took over as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Spanish State embarked on a period of forty years' dictatorship, during which the political life of the country was characterized by the illegality of all the political parties with the exception of the National Movement. Franco died in 1975, bringing to an end a period of Spanish history and opening the way to the restoration of the monarchy with the rise to the Throne of the present King of Spain, Juan Carlos I de Borbon y Borbon.
The young monarch soon established himself as a resolute motor for change to a western-style democracy by means of a cautious process of political reform which took as its starting point the Francoist legal structure. Adolfo Suarez, the prime minister of the second Monarchy Government (july 1976) carried out with determination and skill -though helped, certainly, by a broad social consensus- the so-called transition to democracy which, after going through several stages (recognition of basic liberties, political parties, including the communist party, the trade unions, an amnesty for political offences, etc.), culminated in the first democratic parliamentary elections in 41 years, on June 15th, 1977. The Cortes formed as a result decided to start a constituent process which concluded with the adoption of a new Constitution, ratified by universal suffrage, on December 6th, 1978.
Between 1980 and 1982, the regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia approved statutes for their own self-government and elected their respective parliaments. In January 1981, the prime minister, Adolfo Suarez, resigned and was succeeded by Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo.
On August 27th, 1982, Calvo-Sotelo presented to the King a decree for the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a general election to be held on October 28th. Victory of the polls went to the Spanish Socialist Worker Party (PSOE) and its secretary general, Felipe Gonzalez. The socialists obtained 202 seats out of the 350 of which the Lower House consists and approximately 48% of the popular vote. Felipe Gonzalez was elected prime minister (December 2nd) after the parliamentary vote of investiture. The major losers were the Union of the Democratic Centre -which has split up following the defection of a number of its members- and the Spanish Communist Party (PCE). The Popular Alliance, whose chairman was Manuel Fraga Iribarne, made considerable gains (106 seats and approximately 26% of the vote).
The subsequent general elections of 1986, 1989 and 1993 were also won by the Spanish Socialist Party and consolidated the the position of the Popular Party, led by Jose Maria Aznar, as the second largest political force in the country.
Spain -- Economy --
Spain has been transformed in the last three decades from a rural, backward, agricultural country into a nation with a diversified economy with strong manufacturing and service sectors. However Spain's bureaucracy remains firmly rooted in the 1950's.
Between 1961 and 1973, the so called years of development the Spanish economy grew at 7% a year and in 1963 the per capita income of the Spanish economy reached $500 a year. This elevated Spain from the ranks of the developing nations (as defined by the UN). After joining the EU in 1986, Spain once again had one of the world's fastest growing economies with its annual growth averaging 4.1% in the period between 1986 and 1991, compared with the EU average of 3%. Likewise, foreign trade grew from $23.8 in 1975 to $52.5 billion in 1980 and to $143 billion in 1990.
Today the economy of Spain is the fifth largest in Europe, accounting for around 9% of EU output. Per capita income, at 78% of the EU average is among the lowest in the EU, although it is well ahead of Ireland, Portugal and Greece. Spain's main trading partners are France, Germany and Italy for exports and Germany, France and Italy for imports.
The Basque country and Catalonia are the main industrial regions in the economy of Spain and just five of Spain's provinces (Barcelona, Biscay, Madrid, Navarre and Oviedo, all situated in the north and east) produce over half the country's industrial output. Catalonia, where some 85% of companies are located in Barcelona, is Spain's economic powerhouse and one of Europe's most important industrial regions.
In the early nineties, Spain experienced one of the worst recessions in the EU, resulting in falling output, reduced investment, an increasing public deficit, numerous bankruptcies (including the spectacular failures of Torras and Banesto), and rising inflation. In 1993 it was also the end of the seven year EU 'honeymoon' transition period, during which the country's tariffs and quotas on EU imports were phased out, thus exposing the economy to the full force of EU competition. Huge investment was needed for Spain's infrastructure, including roads, railways, airports, water supply and communications and the country received $22.8 billion between 1995 and 1999 from the EU specifically for this purpose.
Spanish industry is firmly rooted in small and medium sized family concerns and has only three companies in Europe's top 100 (Telefonica, Endesa and Repsol) and a further six in the top 300(five banks, plus Berdrola). It's significant that in the economy of Spain there isn’t even one manufacturer among Europe's largest companies and most manufacturers are too small to compete globally. Spain has relied heavily on foreign investment (three-quarters of it in Barcelona and Madrid) for much of its recent growth, although many investors turned their backs on Spain during the recession. Over 30% of Spanish industry is foreign-owned, including some 50% of its food production which is mostly French owned.
The Spanish economy is handicapped by its lack of modern machinery and technology (over 90% of Spanish industrial plant is out of date and needs replacing), particularly computer technology, coupled with poor efficiency and organization. All of the Spain’s largest economic companies are state-owned and loss making, and include the national airline, Iberia, steel foundries, munitions, petrochemicals, mining and chemical companies.
In the early 90?s the government started the long process of privatising state owned companies, commencing with Argentaria (banking), Repsol (petrochemicals) Telefonica (telecommunications) and Endesa (electricity). Spain's dependence on agriculture has diminished in the last few decades, while tourism and other service industries have grown considerably in importance. In 1993 agriculture accounted for just 3.5% of GDP and employed some 10% of the workforce, almost half of the figure for 1985 and down from 27% in 1960 when around 40% of the population worked in agriculture. One third of the workforce is employed in industry, while services account for some 60% of jobs.
The most important industries of Spain include tourism, chemicals and petrochemicals, heavy industry and food and beverages. Spain is also Europe's fourth large manufacturing country after Germany, France and Italy. The principal growth areas include tourism, insurance, property development, electronics and financial services. Tourism is one of Spain's most important industries, especially in Andalucia, earning about 4% of the GDP and employing some 10% of the workforce, both directly and indirectly.
The country is also the world's largest producer of olive oil, fourth largest of dried fruit and the sixth largest of citrus fruits. Spain's vineyards are the largest in the world and some 60% larger than France's, although it's only the fourth highest producer of wine-grapes and ranks third in wine production. Other important crops include barley, wheat, maze, rice, potatoes, sugar-beet, peppers, avocados, tomatoes, tobacco, hops, oil bearing fruits and cork. Spain has over three million hectares of land under irrigation and employs widespread artificial watering which often isn't cost effective. Spanish farmers have been particularly badly hit by falling prices and drought in recent years.
In the last years Spain has been forced to live within its means and state spending has been slashed to control the soaring budget deficit. Like many European countries, Spain has found that it can no longer afford to pay the high social security benefits that its citizens have become accustomed to in the last few decades and this continues to be one of the most pressing concerns of the current government – together with revamping the antiquated labor laws which stifle small business incentive.
Spain -- Culture --
Education in Spain is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 16. The school system consists of preprimary schools (for children 3 to 5 years old), primary (ages 6 to 11), and secondary (ages 12 to 16, in 2 two-year cycles). Students may then take either a vocational training course for one or two years, or the two-year Bachillerato course in preparation for university entrance. The university system has three cycles. The first, leading to the degree of Diplomatura, lasts for three years. The second cycle lasts for two or three years and leads to the degree of Licenciatura. Students earning the degree of Doctor must complete the two-year third cycle and write a thesis. Spanish institutions of higher education enrolled 1.8 million students in 2001–2002. The major universities of Spain include the University of Madrid, the Polytechnic University of Madrid (1971), the University of Barcelona (1450), the University of Granada (1526), the University of Salamanca, the University of Seville (1502), and the University of Valencia (1510).
Any consideration of Spanish culture must stress the tremendous importance of religion in the history of the country and in the life of the individual. An index of the influence of Roman Catholicism is provided by the fervent mystical element in the art and literature of Spain, the impressive list of its saints, and the large number of religious congregations and orders. The Catholic marriage is the basis of the family, which in turn is the foundation of Spanish society.
The National Library in Madrid, founded in 1712 as the Royal Library, is the largest in Spain; it contains more than 4 million bound volumes. Rare books, maps, prints, and the magnificent Sala de Cervantes, devoted to the writings of the great Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, are among the special collections of the library. The Library of the Royal Palace (1760) in Madrid has many rare editions from the 16th century as well as fine collections of manuscripts, engravings, and music.
One of the greatest art collections in the world is in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The collection is particularly rich in works by El Greco, Velazquez, Spanish painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo, and Goya; by Italian painters Sandro Botticelli and Titian; and by Dutch painter Rembrandt. The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is a museum of contemporary art named for the current queen of Spain. Spanish pottery, brocades, tapestries, and ivory carvings are in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, which houses also the most notable library on archaeology in the country. The National Ethnological Museum in Madrid contains objects from former Spanish possessions, including Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, and Bolivia. Other museums in Madrid include the Natural Science Museum and the National Museum of Reproductions of Works of Art. Situated in Barcelona are the Maritime Museum and the Archaeological Museum, which has a large collection of prehistoric, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Visigothic art.
During the early Middle Ages the writers in Castillian were concerned mainly with love and war, producing epic poems that were common to the European Middle Ages. The most famous of these in Spain is the "Poems de Mio Cid". The "Golden Age", the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, is, as its name suggests, the greatest period in Spanish Literature as well as the other arts. Influenced by the Renaissance and reacting to the Reformation, Spain produced a wealth of prose, poetry and drama. The publication of a collection of works by two poets, Boscan and Garcilaso, stimulated poetry into new forms and new subject matter. Sonnets and other Italian forms were used, the poetry made more use of the Castillian language, and the subjects ranged from love over to patriotism, nature and metaphysical speculation. Religious writers of the Golden Age include San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Gross), Fernando de Herrera (The Divine), and Santa Teresa de Avila, founder of the Carmelite Order. The greatest of Spanish books is "Don Quixote" by Cervantes. Other writers of the Golden Age, Gongora, Quevedo and Gracian, produced some of the most complex writings of Spain. The Spanish Romantics were Angel de Saavedra, Josh de Espronceda and Josh Zorrilla, the most popular of nineteenth century poets.
Spanish music has a vitality and a rhythm that reflect the many influences on the culture by the Christians and the Moors. The zarzuela, a form of opera, was introduced in the 17th century. A leading composer during the 18th century was Antonio Soler, and, during the 20th century, Joaquin Turina and Manuel de Falla were noted for their advanced styles. Famous Spanish performers of the 20th century include guitarist Andres Segovia and cellist Pablo Casals. Popular Spanish instruments include the guitar, tambourine, castanets, and the gaita, a kind of bagpipe. Spanish dance styles (each with its own music) include the bolero, the flamenco, the jota, and the fandango.
A number of great painters have lived and worked in Spain. Among the most famous are El Greco, noted for his late-16th-century painting View of Toledo (Metropolitan Museum, New York City); Diego Velazquez, known for his depictions of the 17th-century Spanish court; Francisco Goya, whose work in the late 18th and early 19th centuries greatly influenced the development of modern art; Salvador Dali, surrealist painter; and Pablo Picasso, one of the most prolific artists in history and a major figure of 20th-century art.
Widely known for Flamenco music and dance, bullfights, fantastic beaches and lots of sunshine, Spain has to offer much more than that. It is - and has been for thousands of years - one of the cultural centers of Europe. It has beautiful cities and towns, offering really old monuments as well as futuristic architecture. Its various regions are all different one to each other, geographically, climatically and even in personality. It is a fascinating country to know and to know more about it.
First let’s take a view of some of the Spanish traditions and customs. Best known among Spain's folklore traditions are certainly Flamenco and bullfights. Bullfights you will find indeed throughout the country, the most popular event perhaps being the "Running of Bulls" during the Sanfermines in Pamplona. But bullfights are part and parcel of any Fiesta, certainly one of the best known, although at the same time most polemical Spanish popular customs. This Fiesta could not exist without the Toro Bravo, a species of bull of an archaic race that is only conserved in Spain. Formerly this bull's forebears, the primitive urus, were spread out over wide parts of the world. During the middle-ages it was a diversion for the aristocracy to torear on horse's back. That was called suerte de canas. In 18th century this tradition was more or less abandoned and the poorer population invented the bullfight by foot. Francisco Romero was a key-figure in laying the rules for that new sport. For its fans La Corrida is of course rather an art than a sport, not to speak about the challenge of the man fighting against the beast. It is an archaic tradition that has survived in this country, just as the Toro Bravo has done.
Flamenco is a genuine Spanish art, and to be more exact a genuine Southern Spanish art. It exists in three forms: Cante, the song, Baile, the dance, and Guitarra, guitar playing. The first time Flamenco is reported on in literature is in the "Cartas Marruecas" of Cadalso, in 1774. Its cradle most probably was where, between 1765 and 1860, the first Flamenco-schools were created: Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Triana (Seville). Actual Flamenco frequently shows influences of other kinds of music, as Jazz, Salsa, Bossa Nova, etc. Mass medias have brought Flamenco to the world stage, but deeply it has always been and will remain an intimate kind of music. You have not listened authentic Flamenco if not in a juerga(meeting, party) with a small group of friends, at midnight somewhere in the South of Spain, when there is nothing around but the voice, the guitar and the body of a dancer moving in the moonlight.
Very specific and interesting Spanish customs are those in Seville – Semana Santa (the most important), and in Valencia - the Fallas de San Jose, Feria de Julio and some others.
The traditions of Semana Santa go back to 16th century, when the Catholic Church decided to present the Passion of Christ to the population in an easily understandable way: they had made huge wooden figures of Saints by the greatest artists of that time and those figures were carried with the processions. The realism of this representation impressed people deeply indeed, and still today the Sevillanos are cheering the Holy Virgin of their parish church in a way that is often hard to understand for spectators. Ahead of the procession comes a group of so-called Nazarenos, in long gowns with hoods, behind them Penitents, with crosses on their shoulders, then the figures of the Saints carried by Costaleros, each of whom has to carry a weight of up to 100 kg. All those men are members of a Cofradia, a brotherhood dedicating to organize one of those processions. There are 52 Cofradias in Seville.
In Valencia most important are certainly the Fallas de San Jose, a celebration of the beginning of springtime. In the entire town you will see impressive cardboard-constructions which will be burned at the last day of the festival, March, 19th, after a great party in the streets and locals of Valencia. That Fiesta takes four days.
A lot of specific traditional arts exist in Spain. Some of them are: Santos - depictions of religious figures in the form of bultos (painted and unpainted carvings in the round) or retablos (paintings on wooden panels); Tin- cut, punched, and worked into a variety of utilitarian or decorative objects; Furniture- usually made from pine using mortise and tenon joints; Relief carving- gesso relief retablos and relief carved wood panels similar to ones incorporated into furniture and doors; Straw applique- wheat straw and corn husks cut and applied to painted wood in intricate designs; Weaving- loom weavings, traditionally made from hand-spun, vegetal-dyed yarns; Colcha- unique regional embroideries using the "colcha" stitch; Ironwork- hand-forged into tools, fastenings and a variety of household objects; Pottery- hand-built, unglazed, utilitarian vessels, primarily for food storage and peparation; also decorative items; Ramilletes- paper garlands; Bonework- anillos (rings) and tool handles carved from bones and many others.
Spain has great writers and poets. They represent the great traditions of Spain in literature for centuries. The earliest written literature in Spain was that written in Latin during the Roman and Visigoth periods, represented primarily by the well-known works of Lucan and Seneca of Cordoba and Martial of Aragon. These Spaniards produced their great works during the first and second centuries, called the "Silver Age". During the early Middle Ages the writers in Castillian were concerned mainly with love and war, producing epic poems that were common to the European Middle Ages. The most famous of these in Spain is the "Poems de Mio Cid", about the legendary warrior, El Cid, a mercenary soldier of great valor. One of the major works of the period is the collection of songs, "Cantagas de Santa Maria", which somewhat belies its pious title by being a collection of love lyrics devoted largely to buxom country lasses, rambunctious farmers' daughters and the like. The "Golden Age", the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, is, as its name suggests, the greatest period in Spanish Literature as well as the other arts. Influenced by the Renaissance and reacting to the Reformation, Spain produced a wealth of prose, poetry and drama. From this period are the poets Boscan and Garcilaso, the novelist Mateo Aleman and some others. The nineteenth century ushered in the liberals, many of them returning exiles. This was the Romantic Period in Spain as elsewhere, and the Spanish Romantics were Angel de Saavedra, whose best-known poems are romances on historical themes; Josh de Espronceda, moody, melencholic revolutionary and Josh Zorrilla, the most popular of nineteenth century poets. In the twentieth century, by far the dominant literary and intellectual phenomenon was the much-heralded "Generation of 98", a group of poets, essayists, musicians, artists and others. The greatest of these in the realm of philosophy was without a doubt Miguel de Unamuno. Ortega y Gasset was another of these men, strongly influenced by German Philosophy, especially the thought of Kant.
Other great Spanish poets and writers are Cervantes (representative of the Golden Age), Lope de Vega (a great dramatic writer), Federico Garcia Lorca (a folk-poet), names that are emblematic about the traditional literature of Spain.
Spain has given to the world a lot of great artists as well. During the centuries lived and flourished artists such as Diego Velazguez (1599-1660), representative of the Baroque period, Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), artist in the period of Romanticism, Joan Miro (1893 - 1983) representative of Dada and Surrealism period, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Cubism, Salvador Dali (1904-1989)- Dada and Surrealism, and many others.
The most famous architect of Spain is Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). Gaudi is said to be a great artist and a great technician. Some consider his work is traditional while others believe it is avangardist. Everybody, however, coincides in affirming that his buildings are supprising, different, and therefore, difficult to classify. His work is an example of modernization and renewal of 20th century Spanish architecture.
Finally, about the great culture of Spain tells the fact that about 40 cultural and natural properties in Spain are inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Some of them are the Historic Walled Town of Cuenca, Monastery and Site of the Escurial, Madrid, Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct, Roman Walls of Lugo, Donana National Park. All so beautiful and marvellous places. If they are just a small part of whole Spain, one can imagine all the beauty of this country and its culture. That is why Spain is worth seeing.
Spain -- Life style --
Fiestas (festivals) are an outstanding feature of Spanish life. They usually begin with a high mass followed by a solemn procession in which venerated images are carried on the shoulders of the participants. Music, dancing, poetry, and singing often enliven these colorful occasions. The fiesta at Valencia, the April fair in Seville, and the San Fermin fiesta at Pamplona are several of the more important ones. In contrast, the feast of Corpus Christi in Toledo and Granada and the Holy Week observances in Valladolid, Zamora, and Cuenca are solemn affairs. The bullfight, so important a part of Spanish tradition, has been called a fiesta brava. It is far more than a mere spectator sport; fans applaud not only the bravery of the toreros but their dexterity and artistry as well.
Spain -- Political system, law and government --
Spain is a constitutional monarchy. Head of State is King Joan Carlos I. The monarch is hereditary, following the rule of Castilian Siete Partidas: the elder son is preferred to the elder daughter. The president of the government (Prime Minister) is proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections. The vice presidents are appointed by the monarch on proposal of the Prime Minister. The cabinet of the government, called Council of Ministers, is designated by the president. There is also a Council of State that is the supreme consultative organ of the government.
The Spanish Parliament is called las Cortes Generales (General Courts or National Assembly) and is a bicameral parliament consisting of the Congress of Deputies (the Lower House) (350 seats, members are elected through proportional representation from multimember constituencies)and the Senate, the Upper House (208 directly elected members and 51 designated by regions).
The Constitution of the country was approved in referendum on 6 December 1978, effective from 29 December 1978. The constitution authorized the creation of regional autonomous governments. By 1985, 17 nationalities and regions covering all of peninsular Spain, the Canaries, and the Balearic Islands had negotiated territorial constitutions with the central government. In 1979, the first autonomous elections were held in the Basque and Catalan nationalities, which have the strongest local traditions by virtue of their history and separate languages. Since then, autonomous governments have been created in the remainder of the 17 nationalities and regions. The central government continues to devolve powers to the regional governments, which will eventually have full responsibility for health care and education, as well as other social programs.
The Legal system is a civil law system, with regional applications; it does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction (International Court of Justice). Judicial branch is the Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo.
Spain has a two-party system, which means that there are two dominant political parties, with extreme difficulty for anybody to achieve electoral success under the banner of any other party. Regional parties can be strong in the autonomous communities like Catalonia and the Basque Country. The main ruling party in the government nowadays is a centre-left socialist party. Main political parties in the country are:
•Popular Party (PP): centre right, in Government from 1996 to 2004.
•Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE): centre left, ruled from 1982 to 1996 and from 2004.
•Catalan Convergence and Union (CiU): coalition of two Catalan nationalist groups, the populist centre-right “convergence” and the Christian Democratic “Union.”
•United Left (IU): coalition of left wing and green parties, dominated by the Spanish Communist Party (PCE).
•Basque Nationalist Party (PNV): moderate democratic nationalists favoring self-determination for the Basque region.
Currently there are a lot of minor parties without representation in the parliament.
Some of the party coalitions in Spain are:
•Europe of the People's (Europa de los Pueblos), coalition at the European elections of ERC, CHA, EA and PSA.
•GalEusCa - Pueblos de Europa, coalition at the European elections.
•Nafarroa Bai, coalition of Eusko Alkartasuna, Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV) and Aralar, only for the constituency of Navarre.
There are several differentiated groups and leaders that render political pressure. These are:
• Business and landowning interests.
• Free labor unions. The most powerful unions are the Workers' Commissions or CC.OO. and the Socialist General Union of Workers or UGT. There are many others, in which workers unionize according to their trade or their ideology.
• Catholic Church and Opus Dei campaign to influence governments' policies.
• Basque Fatherland and Liberty or ETA and the First of October Antifascist Resistance Group or GRAPO use terrorism to oppose the government.