Spain: The Consolidation of Strong Regional Governments and the Limits of Local Decentralization

César Colino and Eloísa del Pino

in The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199562978
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Spain: The Consolidation of Strong Regional Governments and the Limits of Local Decentralization

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  • Politics
  • Regional Political Studies
  • Comparative Politics


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This article discusses the consolidation of strong regional government and the limits of central decentralization in Spain. The Spanish model of subnational democracy evolved in parallel to the consolidation of the first successful experience of liberal democracy which has occurred at the national level during the last thirty years in Spain. The new constitution of Spain embraced democracy, rule of law, cultural pluralism, and the welfare state. It restructured the traditional Spanish state by identifying democracy with regional and local autonomy, hence creating new constitutionally protected local self-government and regional democracies. This newfound democracy at the subnational level has been introduced by state tradition but at the same time it was influenced by a consensus towards majoritarian model. It has provided cultural-political recognition, social integration, and economic development. It has overcome the long-standing traditional cleavages in Spain and has guaranteed political stability, improved governance, and respect for minorities. However, due to the manner with which subnational democracy emerged and due to some of the unique characteristics of the Soanish history and political culture, democracy at both the national and local level suffered from shortcomings in terms of their capacity to promote and encourage citizen participation in the public sphere.

Keywords: regional government; central decentralization; Spain; liberal democracy; democracy; local autonomy; regional autonomy; local self-government; regional democracies; subnational democracy

Article.  10563 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Regional Political Studies ; Comparative Politics

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