Spanish Constitution

Today is a national a holiday throughout Spain in commemoration of 6th December 1978 when the Spanish people voted in a national referendum to approve the draft constitution which had been passed by the interim parliament representatives in October of the same year.

This Spanish constitution provided the way forward for the creation of a democratic system in Spain and while not many Spaniards participate in the constitution day celebrations which tend to be formal, protocolary affairs, the great majority of the (non-facist) over forties remember the 1978 referendum with passion and regard their constitution with pride.

The preamble of the Spanish Constitutions reads as follows:

The Spanish Nation, desiring to establish justice, liberty and security and to promote
the good of its members, in the exercise of its sovereignty, proclaims its will to:

-guarantee democratic co-existence under the Constitution and the law,
consistent with a just social and economic order;

-consolidate a State of Law which assures the rule of law as an expression
of the popular will;

-protect all Spaniards and peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights,
of their cultures and traditions, and of their languages and institutions

-promote the progress of culture and of the economy in order to ensure a
worthy quality of life for all;

-establish a democratic and advanced society, and

-collaborate in the strengthening of peaceful relations and effective
co-operation amongst all the peoples of the World.

Since 1978 the constitution has been reformed just once in order to give citizens of EU member states living in Spain the right to vote and stand as candidates in local elections.

The present socialist government has announced its intention to undertake constitutional reform and proposes the following changes:

  • succession in the monarchy on the basis of age rather than gender
  • transformation of the Senate into a chamber of territorial representation
  • official incorporation of the European Constitution
  • modification of the organization and powers of the autonomous regional governments.

This will not be as simple as it sounds. Some of the reforms proposed by the Socialists affect the so-called “protected” clauses of the Spanish constitution which means that if changed, a whole new constitution will have to be drawn up. Also, in order to change even the “unprotected” clauses, the government needs 60% support of members in the Congress and the Senate which means it would need the support of the Popular Party.

José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has always said that constitutional reform must involve all political parties and can only be passed if some sort of cross-party consensus is achieved. Given current relations between the two main political parties in Spain, and given the scepticism of the PP towards any constitutional reform at all, it is very unlikely that this will happen. Related links:

King Juan Carlos refers to the possibility of constitutional reform in Spain

Zapatero announces constitutional reform in Spain

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