The following information naturally refers to the period prior to the outbreak of the civil war; the new government will undoubtedly bring important innovations in this area.
The constitution of December 9, 1931 bears the characteristics of the situation in which it was elaborated and promulgated. The coalition government of the transition period, unable by its very nature to draw up its own draft constitution, deferred its drafting and drafting to an “apolitical” committee of experts; the project drawn up by this committee was transmitted by the government to the constituent Cortes, which in turn transmitted it to a committee of “revolutionary” parties. This latter committee drew up its project, which is the basis of the constitution. Despite the preliminary declaration, according to which the Spanish state (art. 1) is defined as a “democratic republic of workers of all classes”, the constitution is therefore democratic-parliamentary rather than socialist. The main model of it was the French constitution, from which the Spanish differs especially for the large part made to international law as is being concretized through the League of Nations (declaration of renunciation of war as a means of national policy, etc.: articles 6, 7).
The basis of the Spanish constitution is a remarkably developed parliamentary democracy. The head of state is the president of the republic, who must be at least forty years old, and remains in office for six years. It is appointed by the members of the Cortes (Congreso de log diputados) and by a number of special electors equal to that of the members of the Cortes or Congress (compromisarios) : these electors are elected with a mandate valid exclusively for the election of the president, and by suffrage universal (also extended to women: Spain is the first Latin country to grant the vote to women), secret and direct.
According to searchforpublicschools, the president declares the war (defensive) and concludes the peace; appoints officials and dismisses them; it has the right to issue special provisions in case of need, has a dilatory veto right against the decisions of the Congress, and can also dissolve the Congress itself. The vote of three-fifths of the deputies is enough for the deposition of the president to be put to the vote: but this must be decided by the Congress to which the compromisarios are aggregated; if this vote does not decide the deposition of the president, the Congress is automatically dissolved. The same proportion of votes is required in order to accept the indictment of the president, before the court of constitutional guarantees (Tribunal de guarías constitucionales): here too the sentence implies the deposition of the president, the acquittal and the dissolution of the Congress.
The Congress is made up of about five hundred members, elected by universal, secret, direct suffrage, with a mandate valid for four years (the right to be elected is acquired at the age of twenty-three, for both men and women). The Congress exercises legislative power: at the head of it is the Council of Ministers (Consejo de ministros), whose president is appointed by the president of the republic, who also appoints the ministers on the proposal of their president. The council of ministers is accountable to Congress.
The Spanish democratic republic according to the 1931 constitution is a secular state (art. 3). It is a unitary state (integral): the official language is Castilian. But it is admitted that the regions (Regiones autónomas), territories with marked characteristics that form particular units due to their history, their economic-social constitution, their geographical situation, their culture, are constituted into autonomous provinces, which can regulate its public law in its own statute. This autonomy, which was a concession to Catalonia, is severely limited by the following clauses: foreign policy, including commercial relations, relations with the Church, military affairs, public finance, social and labor legislation of a general nature, school legislation, social assistance are reserved to the central authority. Furthermore, the statutes of autonomous provinces or regions, to be accepted by the government of the republic, they must be accepted by the majority (of two thirds) of the municipalities of the autonomous region itself, and be approved by the Cortes who can also revoke the autonomous statutes. The regions have the following fundamental rights, in addition to the right to give themselves an autonomous statute (which cannot be incorporated into the constitution, and therefore is always subject to amendments): the right to enact their own laws, supplementing and in addition to those of the state, or for local needs, and to assume, on the basis of special agreements, the administration of some services pertaining to the central authority. Although beyond Catalonia the Basques and other “regional” groups also have claims to autonomy,
The main supplementary law of the constitution is that for agrarian reform (15 September 1932, supplementary decree 7 September 1933), for the requisition of uncultivated or badly cultivated lands, lands in need of special irrigation measures, etc.; and for the expropriation of the possessions of the great of Spain, of the crown, of the orders expelled from Spain, and for the redistribution and state administration of these lands. Other important laws are that for amnesty (April 14, 1934), that on the assets of the clergy (April 6, 1934), that on the reform and recruitment of the army (especially cadres, October 26, 1933); that on public order (July 28, 1933).