The appointment of ministers between 1977 and 2021 has underrepresented multilingual areas

Juan Rodríguez Teruel.
Juan Rodríguez Teruel.

  • A study in which the professor of the Department of Constitutional Law and Political Science and Administration Juan Rodríguez Teruel participates shows that there is no equitable geographical distribution of the plurality of the Spanish State in the appointment of ministers. The analysis of 223 of these positions through 375 appointments, between the years 1977 and 2021, sought to demonstrate a hypothetical overrepresentation of ministers from the Catalan, Basque and Galician minorities, although it has been found that areas with a monolingual identity dominate the ministerial elite.

    The research sought to demonstrate whether there was consociationalism in Spanish politics, that is, if there was a form of government in deeply divided societies in which power is distributed among the elites, beyond any majority logic, despite the religious, linguistic or ethnic differences that may exist between sociocultural groups.

    The work, published in the journal Ethnopolitics, does not reflect a consociational logic of representation of territorial interests, but rather favours cabinet ministers from areas with a monolingual linguistic orientation and emphasises the individual skills of the most qualified candidates. than the "hidden quotas" referred to Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia.

    In addition, the conclusions show that the territorial selection depends on three main variables: the regional educational level, the marginalisation of multilingual autonomous communities and the exclusion of regionalist and nationalist parties from Congress, characteristics that favour the election of ministerial candidates from regions without regional language such as Madrid, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Andalusia, Murcia or the Canary Islands.

    To reach these conclusions, the article analysed the cabinet ministers in Spain from June 15, 1977 (constituent legislature) to January 27, 2021 (14th legislature). At a methodological level, the complete data set included 223 Spanish ministers and 375 appointments in total, information that, available upon request, contains details related to cabinets, parties, incumbents, place of birth, duration, and portfolios during the last 44 years.

    Also participating in the publication are Jean-Baptiste Harguindéguy and Cristina Fernández Rivera (Pablo de Olavide University) and Almudena Sánchez Sánchez, from the Distance University of Madrid.

    Professor Juan Rodríguez Teruel states that: "we have adopted the methodological approach of political elites to address a more complex question about how access to the levers of political power is distributed within Spain. We have left aside the parliamentarians, where the electoral system preserves territorial balances, to focus on a segment of the rulers, the ministerial, precisely where the margin of decision of the heads of government should facilitate territorial representation, if that were a relevant criterion".

    In this sense, "the conclusions show something that our previous works had already pointed out: the territorial origin of individuals matters to facilitate their access to positions of power. Politicians from Mediterranean regions, from Catalonia to eastern Andalusia, are much less likely to enter government," according to Rodríguez Teruel. There is also a partisan effect. With the PP, this asymmetry is intensified, while with the PSOE it is reduced, without disappearing, and the overrepresentation of Madrid is maintained. "In addition, we have many indications that what is seen in the group of ministers can be seen even more accentuated in other segments of the political elite of the State (judicial or administrative)", according to the expert.

    The professor at the University of Valencia indicates that this asymmetry in access to power "is relevant in a country with a complex territorial composition, because it limits plurality in the direction of the State, conditions how it is presented to its citizens, and can have consequences of important decisions. As an example, a recent work by Professor Andrés Rodríguez Pose, which explains that in other countries this territorial distribution can have clear effects on public spending or other public policies. We will have to look at it for the Spanish case".


    Jean-Baptiste Harguindéguy, Cristina Fernández Rivera, Juan Rodríguez Teruel & Almudena Sánchez Sánchez (2022). ’The Territorial Dimension of Ministerial Selection in Spain: Constrained Consociationalism under Majoritarian Cabinets’. Ethnopolitics. DOI: 10.1080/17449057.2022.2031511

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