The Parliament of Catalonia

The Catalan Elected Chamber

Parliament of Catalonia Logo


President: Carme Forcadell (JxSí)

Vice Presidents: Lluís Maria Corominas i Díaz (JxSí), José María Espejo-Saavedra (C's)

President of the Generalitat: Carles Puigdemont (JxSì)

Leader of the Opposition: Inés Arrimadas (C's)

Voting System: Party-List Proportional Representation

Last Election: September 27th 2015

Location: Palau del Parlament de Catalunya, Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona

Website: www.parlament.cat

The Parliament of Catalonia is the legislative body of the Generalitat of Catalonia and is located in the Palau del Parlament in the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona. The other bodies that comprise the Generalitat are the Presidència de la Generalitat de Catalunya, the Consell Executiu o Govern, the Consell de Garanties Estatutàries, the Síndic de Greuges, the Sindicatura de Comptes and the Consell de l'Audiovisual de Catalunya.

The definition of the Parliament of Catalonia in Article 55 of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy is as follows

1. It represents the people of Catalonia.
2. It has legal authority, approves the Budget of the Generalitat of Catalonia and control and impulses the political actions of the government.
3. The Parliament is inviolable.

The Parliament of Catalonia has to comprise of between 100 and 150 deputies and is currently made up of 135 members, who are elected by universal suffrage.



History of the Parliament of Catalonia

Les Corts Catalanes (1283-1714)

Established in 1283, the Corts Catalanes are considered one of the earliest medieval parliaments. The constitutionalist historian Charles Howard McIlwain wrote "in the definition of organisation and regularity of procedures, neither the the English Parliament or the Franch States can compare with the Corts Catalanes" of the 14th century.

The antecedents of the Corts Catalanes go back to the Assemblies of Peace and Truce and the Cort Comtal in the 11th century. During the reign of Jaume I, the Cort Comtal became the Corts Generals de Catalunya, which consisted of three estates or branches:  the braç militar comprising the nobility, the braç eclesiàstic made up of the clergy and the braç reial with representatives from the municipalities.

In the 14th century, the Diputació del General or Generalitat became a permanent body, which acted as the government of Catalonia throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, defending the Catalan constitutional system from erosion by the Habsburg monarchs, who governed from Madrid.

After the War of the Spanish Succession, all autochthonous systems of government in Catalonia were abolished by the Decree of the Nueva Planta in 1716.

The Mancomunitat de Catalunya (1914-1925)

It wasn't until the 20th century that Catalonia had another system of self-government, the Mancomunitat or Commonwealth of Catalonia, which was abolished by Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1925.

Even though it only had administrative powers, which went no further than those of the provincial diputacions, the Mancomunitat had a great political importance because it was the first recognition by central government of the character and territorial unity of Catalonia since 1714.

It consisted of an Assembly of 96 deputies and a Council comprising 8 councillors and the President. The decisions were based on democratic votes from the representatives, whose opinions were valid whether not they were Catalanists.

The Republican Parliament of Catalonia (1932-1939)

The Generalitat of Catalonia was restored in 1931 and with it the Parliament. The first elections to the Parliament of Catalonia were held on November 20th 1932 and the first sessions were held on the December 6th.

The defeat of the Spanish Civil War meant that Parliament was abolished once again in 1939.

From Exile to Restoration

Throughout the dark period between 1939 and 1980, Parliament survived in exile whilst the supposed democratic countries turned a blind eye claiming that it was an internal Spanish affair.

The current Parliament of Catalonia was restored a little after the Generalitat and was formally legalised with the passing of the Statute of Autonomy in 1979.

The first elections were held on March 20th 1980 and the Parliament sat for the first time on April 10th.



The Parliament of Catalonia Today

Organisation

Today the Parliament of Catalonia is a representative legislative body comprising a single chamber, whose members are chosen for periods of four years from the date of elections.

Since the Transition to Democracy, the elections are organised around closed lists for each of the four provinces of Catalonia with 85 deputies for Barcelona, 18 for Tarragona, 17 for Girona and 15 for Lleida. Its functioning and organisation are controlled by rules that have the weight of law and the Parliament is dissolved by the President of the Generalitat.

The Plenary and the Duputació Permanent

Once elections have been held, the Parliament is constituted within the time period specified by the President's decree that announced the elections, which has to be within 20 days.

In the constitutory session a transitory body, known as a mesa d'edat, is created to oversee the accession of the deputies to their seats, which happens in the first constitutive plenary session.

All the deputies together conform the Plenary and this is the Parliament's supreme body and it debates and decides on topics within its competences according the Statute.

It meets for two periods each year: from September 1st to December 31st and from January 15th to July 31st.

Parliament can be called outside these periods by the President of the Generalitat, three parliamentary groups, a quarter of the members or by the Diputació Permenent.

The Diputació Permanent (art. 65 - 67 del Reglament) assumes the functions of the Plenary outside these periods and when elections have been called. It consists of 23 deputies, decided proportionall according to the make up of Parliament, as well as the President of the Generalitat.

The President and the Mesa

As soon as Parliament has been constituted, the deputies elect the President and the Mesa del Parlament, which is 7 deputies who will administer the internal functioning of the Parliament.

The President represents the institution and is responsible that rules are obeyed and order and courtesy are observed during Parliamentary sessions. He is aided by the Mesa, which is made up of 2 vice presidents and 4 secretaries.

According to the State, the Mesa's functions are:-

  • To take decisions that require parliamentary processing in the case of doubt or lack of regulations
  • To take decisions and measures that require parliamentary work
  • To put the parliamentary budget into practice
  • To verify as admissible/inadmissible parliamentary documents
    etc

Parliamentary Groups

Deputies can organise themselves into parliamentary groups consisting of a single party or an electoral coalition. There needs to be a minimum of 5 deputies to form a group and parties that have less 5 representatives join the grup mixt or mixed group.

Each group can desgnate a spokesperson who will form part of the Junta de Portaveus or Spokeperson's Council, which liases with the Mesa del Parlament to regulate parliamentary sessions, assign seating and decide which commissions have to work on projects or laws.

The votes of the spokespersons are weighted according to the number of deputies belonging to the group.

Commissions

Laws are normally first debated in commissions, which are groups of deputies charged with investigating and deciding on a particular topic.

All groups have the right to form part of commissions and some of the permanent ones are the Economy, Finance and Budget Commission or the Territorial Policy Commission.

Commissions can be either legislative, which draw up new laws, or specific, which are formed to consider or study a particular topic or to deal with other institutions.

Diputació Permanent

Formed by 23 members according to the relative weight of the party's in the Parliament and headed by the President, the Diputació Permanent acts in the name of the Parliament when there are no sessions (in January and August or in the period prior to elections, for example).


Current Composition


In the elections to the Catalan Parliament of September 27th 2015, the 135 seats were distributed as follows

The current Government of the Generalitat is under the control of the pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí, which is made up of PDECat, Esquerra Republicana and other independents.

The fact that Junts pel Sí only have 62 seats and the absolute majority is 68 has meant they have had to depend on the far left CUP, who refused to vote for chosen presidential candidate Artur Mas. This led to Mas standing aside in favour of the current President of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont.



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