Since 1978 Spain has been a democracy whose highest representation is the Spanish Crown. The nation's three powers, the executive, legislative and judicial, are based on key institutions with very specific functions.
The Spanish Constitution is the fundamental standard of the political organisation of the Spanish nation. Passed by the Spaniards in a referendum on 6 December 1978, it came into effect on 29 December of the same year. Spain is constituted as a democracy, in which the supreme values of its legal system are the concepts of freedom, justice, equality and political pluralism. The Constitution is the result of consensus between all the political forces who created it. The Carta Magna incorporates a series of basic rights and public freedoms belonging to all its citizens, the safeguarding and protection of which are effectively guaranteed by the ordinary courts, or by appeal to the Constitutional Court. The Spanish political system thereby ceased to be sustained on the exceptional powers attributed theretofore to Francisco Franco, and became a parliamentary monarchy in which sovereignty resides in the people. The Spanish Crown is the maximum institution, held by the King, who is at the same time Head of State. The King arbitrates and moderates the regular functioning of the institutions, assumes the highest representation of the Spanish state in international relations, and exercises the functions attributed to him by the Constitution and the Law. The Constitution establishes the principle of the separation of the powers of the state into three branches: legislative, executive and judicial. The legislative power is in the hands of the parliament, which also exercises control over the actions of the government (executive power) and approves the national budget. It consists of two chambers: the parliament and the senate. The head of the government is proposed by the King and elected after the renewal of parliament. The Constitutional Court is responsible for safeguarding the constitutionality of the laws and for resolving any conflicts arising between the Autonomous Regions and the state. The 1978 Constitution marked the break with a centralised model of territorial organisation, and in only 20 years this has led to an ongoing and significant transfer of powers from the central government to the Autonomous Regions, making Spain one of the most decentralised countries in Europe. This new configuration of the state has meant that Spaniards have had to find their own unique formula for safeguarding our national unity, creating a channel to enable all aspects of our political, social and cultural diversity that enriches our history to develop side by side in harmony. The territory is divided into provinces, and into other larger units –the Autonomous Regions–, each with a series of areas of competence which vary from one region to another. There are currently 17 Autonomous Regions: Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile and León, Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre, Basque Country, La Rioja and Valencia. There are also two cities –Ceuta and Melilla– with the Statute of Autonomy. The fundamental elements in the organisation of the Autonomous Regions are the parliament and the regional government. In addition to the state and the regional governments, the third public administration with autonomy for managing its own interests as established in the Constitution is the local government. There are currently in Spain 50 provinces and 8,116 municipal districts. The Spanish Constitution establishes that the political parties are the expression of political pluralism, combine to shape and manifest the will of the people, and are the fundamental instrument for political participation. The main political parties currently existing in Spain are the Partido Popular (People’s Party), Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), Izquierda Unida (United Left) and several nationalist parties which have a major influence in everyday political life, such as the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (Basque Nationalist Party), ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), Convergència i Unió (Catalan Convergence and Union) and the Bloque Nacionalista Galego (Galician Nationalist Block). The Spanish Constitution also recognises and guarantees the right to the freedom of trade unions and freedom to affiliate to a trade union, the right to collective bargaining between representatives of the workers and employers, and the right of workers to strike in defence of their interests in the trade union organisation. In Spain the main trade union organisations are the Unión General de Trabajadores (General Union of Workers), the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Committees) and la Unión Sindical Obrera (Workers’ Trade Union).
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