The Spanish State structure Estado de las Autonomías, a federal structure?

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Parliamentary Control

One of the four major parliamentary functions concerns the exertion of control over the government. Governmental accountability to parliament is worked out in section V of the constitution of which especially the articles 109SC through 111SC concern the every day control. These articles not only concern the right of both houses to obtain any necessary information of every government body. This is also applicable to the autonomous communities. Parliament can furthermore demand the presence of government members in the house, with the exception of the P.M. and they have the right of interpellation.

Parliamentary control is further exercised through:

  • measures of political control, such as votes of confidence and censure motions

  • budgetary and fiscal control, like parliamentary scrutiny, approval of annual state budgets and the audit tribunal

  • legislative control, like the approval and rejection of decree laws, and declarations of a state of alarm, exception or siege.

Parliamentary financial control is exercised through the State Audit Tribunal that is responsible for the financial scrutiny of all state and public sector accounts (art136SC). It controls whether the various bodies have legally and efficiently discharged their responsibilities in accordance with the constitution and the law, presenting an annual report to the both houses. The tribunal has the same independent status as the judiciary. Both houses of the Cortes each appoint 6 members of which one is appointed president by the king. According to article 153SC it is also responsible for the economic and budgetary control of the autonomous communities. Some autonomous communities have nevertheless created their own audit tribunals. However, without prejudice to the competence of the State Audit Tribunal and therefore creating a certain overlap of responsibilities. An exception forms the Navarrese community which, for historical reasons, has its own independent system. This is the Camara de computos, which handles the regional accounts without recourse to the State Audit Tribunal.

The executive

Spain and its approximately 42 million inhabitants are in first line ruled by the central government which resides in the capital Madrid. As mentioned previously, the executive is the predominant power in the Spanish state structure. The government consists of the prime minister, the vice-P.M. (if any), the ministers, and possible other members to be appointed by law (art.98.1SC ). According to L.Prakke, the latter this provision aims at making it possible for Parliamentary Under-Secretaries to be considered as members of the government, which they are not, because they are not dismissed when the cabinet goes. Its rule can at best last the four-year term of the Congress. The constitution defines three cases at which a new government is to be formed: after general elections; if the sitting government loses its parliamental confidence; or in the case of the P.M.’s resignation or death (art.101.1SC). The actual formation starts with the kings presentation of a candidate for the prime ministership to parliament for approval. His choice, following consultations with the main political groups in Congress, is presented through the president of Congress. His candidacy has to be approved by absolute majority, which is half plus one of the total amount of deputies. If this majority is not reached, a second balloting must take place within 48 hours in which a simple majority suffices for the candidate’s approval. If again a majority is not reached, the king will appoint a new nominee. If within two months no nominee gains the necessary parliamentary approval, the king dissolves both legislative houses and calls for new elections. Once approved, the P.M. must compose his cabinet for submission to the king.

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