Andorra la Vella

Like most European countries Andorra has a history which goes back to early settlers around 3,500 B.C. The early settlers established themselves along the river valleys and were witnesses to some of the skirmishes between the Romans and Hannibal.

After the Romans came the Visigoths took over around 400 A.D. and after them Andorra was on the edge of the Muslim invasions from the south around 700 A.D. But for the Muslims (Moors) Andorra was a through route to places like Toulouse and Narbonne.

Nevertheless the Moors were to prove useful to Andorra in that Emperor Charlemagne (748 – 814 A.D) is said to have used the tiny state as a buffer to keep the Moors from southern France. He is believed to have granted the area protection and declared the Andorrans sovereign people.

Charles the Bald (823 – 877) named the Count of Urgell as overlord of Andorra and the lands subsequently belonged to the Diocese of Urgell (Catalonia). There followed a dispute over the rights of the land between the Count of Foix, a Catalan nobleman, and the Bishop. The dispute was resolved in 1278 by the signing of a “primer pariatge” which gave the two interested parties joint-sovereignty over Andorra. Andorra’s boundaries have remained unchanged ever since and Andorra has been able to maintain its independence against France and Spain.

In 1419 Andreu d’Alàs managed to get the co-princes to agree to the establishment of a “Consell de la Terra” (Earth Council) which was the origin of today’s General Council or parliament. Despite a tempestuous history for both co-princes Andorra was able to maintain its independence albeit in 1607 the King of France became one of the co-princes.

Although in 1793 the French revolutionary government refused to recognise Andorra’s suzerainty it was restored by Napoleon in 1806 and the co-sovereignty enjoyed by the French King passed to the President of France.

In 1866 Guillem de Plandolit i d’Areny, a nobleman and landowner, headed the “Nova Reforma”, that led to the active participation of the people in the government of Andorra. The General Council was then made up of 24 Councillors elected by the “síndics”.

Andorra up to this point had been a bit of a backwater, but in the early 1900s roads were built and in 1928 Spain established a postal service with Andorra followed in 1931 by the French. In 1929 a hydroelectric plant brought electricity to the country.

As things improved so the people wanted more, and in 1933 there were tensions between the people and the government which led to the removal of the council and the establishment of voting rights for men over 25 years old (women got the vote in the 1970s).

Andorra then found itself between two wars and decided to maintain strict neutrality in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) and the Second World War (1939 – 1945), although the Germans did occupy the country from 1940 to 1945. After the war Andorra started to develop especially utilising its tourism potential.

Andorra became a parliamentary democracy in 1993 with the approval of a new constitution in a referendum that year. The Spanish and French co-princes remained but more as figureheads than with any real powers. In the general election of 1993 the National Democratic Group won eight seats but was to disappear by 2001.

The centre-right Liberal Union won five seats in 1993 and has remained the longest represented party in the General Council with their zenith being in 2001 when, as the Liberal party of Andorra, they won 15 seats. They dropped to 14 seats in 2005 and by 2015 had won just eight seats.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party of Andorra (PS) appeared as a new party in 2001 and won six seats, they did best in 2009 when they won 14 seats but since then have fallen back to three seats in 2015.

The big party of the modern era is the centre-right Democrats for Andorra. They were formed in February 2011 and won the April general election by taking 20 of the 28 General Council seats. Although they dropped back in the March 2015 election to 15 seats they still hold the General Council and are led by Prime Minister Antoni Marti.

The Executive Council president is elected by the General Council and formally appointed by the co-princes for a four-year term.

The unicameral General Council of the Valleys has 28 seats. Members are elected by direct popular vote, 14 from a single national constituency and 14 to represent each of the seven parishes. They serve four-year terms.