Share This Page

Latest Comments

Client Testimonials

"When I bought an apartment in Ronda in 2001 and a house in 2003, Paul was an invaluable help in my dealings with estate agents, lawyers, at the bank and at the notary. It’s too risky to do it all without a competent interpreter. Many do, but I would strongly advise against it."
Dr J Burgess, Warrington, UK, January 2010

The politics of Spain PDF
Friday, 02 September 2011 00:00

Whilst the history of Spain is long and complicated, the political set-up is straightforward. Since 1978, when the new Spanish Constitution was established just three years after the death of Franco and the end of his nearly 40-year dictatorship, the Kingdom of Spain has comprised 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla), each of which enjoys significant devolved powers, probably more than in any other Western European country.

Beyond this arrangement the country is divided into fifty provinces. The provinces were the "building-blocks" from which the autonomous communities were created; consequently no province is divided between two or more of these communities.

Most of the provinces are named after their principal town. Only two capitals of autonomous communities - Mérida in Extremadura and Santiago de Compostela in Galicia - are not also the capitals of provinces. Seven of the autonomous communities comprise no more than one province each: Asturias, Islas Baleares, Cantabria, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, and Navarra.

An autonomous community is the first-level political division of the Kingdom of Spain, established in accordance with the current Spanish Constitution (1978). The second article of the constitution recognizes the rights of "nationalities and regions" to self-government and declares the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation".

Political power in Spain is organised as a central government with devolved power for the 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities. These regional governments are responsible for the administration of schools, universities, health, social services, culture, urban and rural development and, in some cases, policing.

Spain has been described as remarkable for the extent of the powers peacefully devolved over the past 30 years and is an extraordinarily decentralised country, with the central government accounting for just 18% of public spending. The regional governments use up 38%, the local councils 13% and the social security system the rest.

In terms of personnel, by 2010 almost 1,350,000 people or 50.3% of the total civil servants in Spain were employed by the autonomous communities; city councils and provincial diputaciones accounted for 23.6% and those employees working for the central administration (police and military included) represented 22.2% of the total.

For the record, the autonomous communities are as follows:

  • Cataluña, País Vasco (Basque Country) and Galicia are "historical nationalities;
  • Andalucía was not a historical nationality (one that had had a statute of autonomy before the Spanish Civil War). However, Andalucía was able to meet the requirements established by Congress to develop its autonomy;
  • Aragón, Castilla-León, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, and the Comunidad Valenciana were granted autonomy as communities integrated by two or more provinces with common historical characteristics;
  • the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands were granted autonomy as insular territories, with the former composed of two provinces;
  • Cantabria, Asturias, La Rioja, Murcia and Navarra were granted autonomy as single provinces with historical regional identity;
  • the Comunidad de Madrid was constituted for the nation's interest;
  • Ceuta and Melilla, both cities, were granted autonomy - albeit limited - in spite of not being provinces themselves.

© Paul Whitelock


Tags: Spain, autonomous communities, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla, Mérida, Extremadura, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Asturias, Islas Baleares, Cantabria, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarra, Cataluña, País Vasco, Basque Country, Galicia, Andalucía, Aragón, Castilla-León, Castilla-La Mancha, Comunidad Valenciana, Cantabria, Asturias, La Rioja, Murcia, Navarra, Comunidad de Madrid, paul whitelock, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,


Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

read more