The Kingdom of Spain was created in 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World and started an empire.
For the next three centuries Spain grew into a powerful European nation, but by the end of the 17th Century its powers had started to diminish. The 18th Century saw a renewal under the Bourbons, but subsequently Spain was occupied by the French in the 19th Century.
In the 20th Century Spain was plunged into a civil war in the mid 1930s from which emerged a nationalist dictatorship led by General Francisco Franco. That government came to an end in 1975 when Franco died.
The first post Franco elections took place in 1977 and were won by the Democratic Centre Union (UCD). They also won in 1979 and remained in power until 1982 when the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) won a convincing victory, taking 202 of the 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies.
The 1978 constitution rescinded the so called ‘fundamental principles’ by which General Franco had ruled and introduced an hereditary constitutional monarchy.
The PSOE would go on to win the 1986, 1989 and 1993 elections and remained in power until 1996. In that year the Socialists were beaten by the People’s Party (PP), who also won the 2000 election.
In 1986 Spain joined the European Economic Community which subsequently became the European Union.
Although it was a close election, the PSOE won the 2004 election as a result of the government’s handling of the 11th March Madrid train bombings. They went on to win again in 2008, but by early 2011, following the Europe wide economic crisis the Socialists were doing badly in the polls and even worse in local elections. With the government unable to carry on government business and the massive ‘Indignados’ protests, an election was called for 20th November.
King Don Felipe VI is Head of State.
The bicameral parliament consists of a Senate and a Congress of Deputies. The Senate has 264 seats of which 208 members are directly elected by popular vote and the other 56 are appointed by the regional legislatures with members serving four year terms. The Congress of Deputies has 350 seats of which each of the 50 electoral provinces fills a minimum of two seats and the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla fill one seat each with members serving a four-year term. The remaining 248 members are elected by popular vote on block lists and all serve four year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Spain at joint 41st out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 58 (where 100 is least corrupt).