Catalonia voted on
1 October 2017

Political Institutions

A country with ancient institutions

The Generalitat of Catalonia

The Generalitat is the institutional system around which Catalonia’s self-government is politically organized. The powers of the Generalitat stem from the people of Catalonia and are exercised according to the Spanish Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy – the basic institutional law of Catalonia.

The Generalitat is a complex entity made up of the Presidency of the Generalitat, the Government and the other institutions established in the Statute of Autonomy (the Council for Statutory Guarantees, the Ombudsman, the Public Audit Office and the Catalan Broadcasting Authority). Municipal councils, “consells comarcals” (county councils) and other local-government bodies determined by law are also included within the institutional system of the Generalitat. These are the bodies according to which the Catalan government is organized on a local and territorial level, although each body has its own respective autonomy of action.

Catalonia exercises its self-government in those areas specified in the Statute of Autonomy. Legislative power, regulatory power and the executive functions correspond fully to the Generalitat for matters in which the Generalitat’s power is defined as “exclusive”. For other matters, where its power is defined as “shared”, Catalonia legislates within the framework of the basic conditions established by the Spanish State. Finally, there are other issues in which it simply executes the legislation deriving from the central State.

The Parliament of Catalonia

The Parliament is the institution that represents the people of Catalonia. It is at the heart of Catalonia’s institutional self-governing system.

The Parliament represents the people of Catalonia. As a directly and democratically elected body, the Parliament has supreme power and is the Generalitat’s most important institution – all other public institutions stem from it. The Parliament of Catalonia consists of a single chamber or house, and is independent and inviolable.

The Parliament of Catalonia has a single chamber of 135 members. As the institution which represents the people of Catalonia, it is a central part of the “Generalitat” (the Catalan system of government). The parliamentary tradition in Catalonia dates from the Middle Ages. Abolished under the Franco dictatorship for 40 years, the Parliament was eventually restored in 1980. There have been ten regional elections since then.

The configuration of political parties in the Catalan Parliament is very different from that in the Spanish Parliament. There are a larger number of parties with a significant parliamentary representation. In addition to the usual left-right spectrum of opinions, all parties also position themselves on the spectrum of opinions regarding the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.

The electoral trends over the last 35 years are shown in the following chart

There are currently six political groups represented in the Catalan Parliament:

Junts pel Sí (JxS) has 62 MPs (‘diputats’ in Catalan) and currently forms a minority government thanks to a Stability Pact with CUP. JxS is a pro-independence coalition of the two major parties of Catalonia, Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC – liberals) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC – left-wing). They ran together in a pro-independence ticket, along with many well-known independents and support from some former members of UDC, demochristian old partner of CDC, who ran separately as opposing unilateral independence.

Ciutadans – Partido de la Ciudadanía (C’s) has 25 MPs. It first entered Parliament in 2006. It campaigns in favour of Spanish unity, seeking to attract votes from both left and right-wing voters and is against the celebration of a referendum.

The Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) has 16 MPs. It is federated with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). It promotes a constitutional reform to make Spain a federal country.

Catalunya Sí que es Pot (CSQP) has 11 MPs. It is a left-wing, green coalition bringing toghether 4 parties. The major partners are Iniciativa per Catalunya – Verds (ICV) and Podem (Podemos). They are in favour of a referendum on the future status for Catalonia.

The Partit Popular (PP) has 11 MPs. It is a right-wing party in favour of Spanish unity and is also the party currently in Government in Spain. They are against holding a referendum on the future status of Catalonia.

Candidatura d’Unitat Popular – Alternativa d’Esquerres (CUP) has 10 MPs. It first entered Parliament in 2012. It is an alternative left party, and is in favour of independence.

President Carles Puigdemont

The highest representation of the Generalitat is President Carles Puigdemont Casamajó. He is the 130th President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, succeeding Artur Mas. As head of the Government of Catalonia, he leads the executive branch and directs government action.

The executive branch of the Government of Catalonia is composed by thirteen ministers in charge of economy and treasury, presidency, foreign affairs, public administrations, education, health, home affairs, territory and sustainability, culture, justice, labour and social affairs, business and knowledge, and agriculture.

Did you know?

  • Catalonia is territorially divided into 41 counties, called comarques in Catalan, and 947 municipalities.
  • Barcelona is one of the non-State capital cities with most consulates – nearly 100 – together with Hong Kong, New York and Hamburg.
  • EU institutions are represented in Catalonia: both the European Parliament and the European Commission have offices in Barcelona.
  • Catalonia has its own police force, called the Mossos d’Esquadra, and a national public television broadcasting service, whose main channel is TV3.
  • Catalonia’s capital city, Barcelona, hosts the Union for the Mediterranean headquarters – a multilateral partnership between 43 States that aims to increase the potential for regional integration and cohesion among Euro-Mediterranean countries.
  • The refurbished Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site has become a hub of international organisations, including the Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility of the United Nations University (UNU-GCM) and the European Forest Institute (EFI).

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