The "Corts generals" or Parliament of Catalonia
The institution of parliament in Catalonia has its roots in the Assemblies of Peace and Truce and the Court of Counts. The Catalan Court of Counts was founded in the eleventh century as the counts of Barcelona consolidated their position as reigning princes. It was made up of civil magnates and the clergy, high councilors and judges. It was mixed in nature, collaborating with the sovereign in decision-making, both in legislative and fiscal matters, as well as in exercising judicial powers.
The Assemblies of Peace and Truce were promoted by the church and taken on by the reigning power, the counts of Barcelona, with the aim of ensuring breaks in the continual private wars between feudal lords, establishing a system of guarantees and compensation for the clergy and civil population and also making agreements of a fiscal nature. The first assembly took place in 1027. Many conditions of peace and truce were included in the Usatges de Barcelona (Usages of Barcelona), as well as in the Catalan civil and constitutional laws of the low Middle Ages and modern times; some have even survived in today's civil law.
During the reign of Peter II the Great (1276-1285), at the Barcelona Courts of 1283, via the "Volem, estatuÏm" (We want, we decree) Constitution, the system of negotiated rule characteristic of Catalan medieval and modern constitutional law was established. According to this system, norms were only valid if they came from the Courts in agreement with the ruler and different states of the land.
The Catalan Courts were made up of three braços or estates: the military estate, including representatives from the nobility; the ecclesiastical estate, with representatives from the religious hierarchy, and the royal estate, with representatives from the municipalities. The Courts could only be summoned by the king, in any city in Catalonia, and had to be presided over by him personally or by his lieutenant when this was not possible.
During the reign of Peter III the Ceremonious (1336-1387), the institution of the Diputaciö del General was created (the meeting of the Courts was called the General de Catalunya), with delegated powers to collect and administer the funding the Courts granted to the king. Gradually, the Diputaciö del General or Generalitat became more autonomous and accumulated executive and governmental powers, and by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was acting as the government for the Principality, defending its constitutional system before the monarchs.
The first monarch of the Bourbon dynasty, Philip V (1700-1746), respected the rights of the Catalan people by holding the Courts in 1701 and 1702. But, in the war of Succession, Catalonia opted to support the archduke Charles of Austria and recognized him as king. On losing the war and with the consequent fall of Barcelona in 1714, the victor abolished all public Catalan laws and the institutions representing it via the Decree of Nova Planta or New Proposition (1716), the most important of these institutions being the Courts.
Since that time, the Catalan people have aspired to recover their lost freedom. The Mancomunitat de Catalunya or Commonwealth of Catalonia from 1913 to 1925 was the first institutional step in recovering self-government, but this was abolished by the dictatorship of Primo of Rivera. Once the dictatorship had fallen and the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, a provisional Catalan government was set up (1931), taking the name of the Generalitat de Catalunya in remembrance of the former institution of self-government. Chosen by the majority of the Catalan people, the Statute of Autonomy that definitively legitimized and structured Catalan self-government was approved by the Courts of the Republic in 1932. This self-government was institutionalized, under the definitive name of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
The parliamentary tradition of Catalonia, interrupted in 1714, was therefore reinitiated. The first elections for the Parliament of Catalonia took place on November 20, 1932, and the constitutive sitting was held on December 6 of the same year. The first President of the Parliament was LluÍs Companys.
Franco's dictatorship destroyed the hopes of the Catalan people for self-government for a long time (1939-1975). During the process of re-establishing democracy in the Spanish State, Catalonia was able to recover the Generalitat, provisionally, via the return of its President (1977), Josep Tarradellas, who had kept the institution alive in exile. Once the Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978 and the new Statute of the Autonomy of Catalonia was approved and endorsed in 1979, the Generalitat was re-established definitively. The first elections for the re-established Parliament of Catalonia took place on March 20, 1980, and the constitutive sitting was held on April 10 of the same year.
Catalonia's self-government is founded on the Spanish Constitution of 1978, and also on the historical rights of the Catalan people, which, in the framework of the Constitution, give rise to recognition in Catalonia's Estatut (Statute) of the unique position of the Generalitat. Catalonia wishes to develop its political personality within the framework of a State which recognises and respects the diversity of identities of the peoples of Spain.
The Generalitat is the institutional system around which Catalonia's self-government is politically organised. The powers of the Generalitat emanate from the people of Catalonia and are exercised according to the Statute and the Constitution.
Catalonia governs itself in all those areas defined by the Statute as exclusive of the Generalitat; in other areas, it develops the basic rules dictated by the State and, in others, only carries out the legislation emanating from the State.
The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia establishes the Generalitat as a complex entity consisting of Parliament, Presidency of the Generalitat, Government and other institutions.
The Parliament represents the people of Catalonia. Its democratic origins give the Parliament supreme force and make it the most important institution of the Generalitat, from which all the rest are created. The Parliament of Catalonia is made up of a single chamber or house, is independent and inviolable.
One hundred and thirty-five elected members make up the Parliament of Catalonia. They are chosen by secret, direct, equal, free and universal ballot. The electoral system is proportional: Parliament seats are shared between the electoral lists in proportion to the votes each one has obtained. At the same time, this system must also ensure the adequate representation of all zones in the territory of Catalonia.
The candidates present themselves for election grouped in electoral lists, usually based on and organized around the program of a political party or a coalition of parties.
More info on the Catalonian Parliament