Spain prepares itself for its new government and new President.

At half past eight this morning, Aznar and Zapatero began a meeting to agree on the final details of the transfer of political power. This meeting is the last one between the two leaders before the new Spanish parliament meets for its first session on Thursday this week.

The Spanish political system differs from others (such as the British), in that the whole process is a bit long and complicated. Outgoing governments are given a month to pack their cases and papers. During this time they still hold power and are called “gobierno en funciones” – acting government. They are not supposed to pass any new laws and any new initiatives are put on hold until the new governing party is in power.

During this month, if the winning party has not achieved an absolute majority, it begins to hold meetings with all the other political parties who have won representation in the new Parliament, to determine whether or not their members intend to vote in favour of its presidential candidate.

The Socialist party held these meetings at the end of last month.

Meanwhile, King Juan Carlos meets with the leaders of all political parties individually and during these meetings they put across their policies and tell him which political leader their party will vote for in the first big vote of the new parliament when members have to choose the new President of Spain. Once the King has spoken with all party leaders, and based on the result of these conversations, he hands over an official proposal to the Leader of Congress, containing the name of the official candidate for the Presidency of Spain. Last Wednesday King Juan Carlos handed this official proposal to Manuel Marin, the new Leader of the Congress. The document proposed Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as the new candidate for president of Spain..

On Thursday of this week Parliament opens again, and the debate preceding the election of the new President begins.

The official candidate, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, will offer a long speech in which he will lay down the policy lines and principles of his new Government. All parties are given the chance to reply to his speech, and he can answer their replies. Then on Friday members of parliament vote.

Three of the minority parties, Izquierda Unida, Esquerra Republicana y Chunta Aragonesista, have already pledged their support for Zapatero which means that even if no other party votes for him, he will still reach 176 votes in favour which gives him the absolute majority. So far only the Popular Party has said its members will vote against Zapatero. The other minority parties (among them the Basque PNV party, and the Catalan CIU party, both of whom have shared power with both PSOE and PP in former governments) have told the King that their vote depends on the contents of Zapatero’s speech.

Depending on what he says, their members will vote in favour or abstain.

If all goes as planned, Jose Luis Zapatero will be sworn in as Spain’s new President on Saturday.