The Constitution of Andorra: 18 main principles
1. The 1993 Constitution defines Andorra as «a democratic and social independent State abiding by the rule of law» (Article 1.1). It proclaims that «Sovereignty is vested in the Andorran People, who exercise it through the different means of participation and by way of the institutions established in this Constitution» (Article 1.3) and that «The political system of Andorra is that of a parliamentary Co-principality» (Article 1.4).
2. Therefore, with the enactment of the Constitution Andorra got full independence from France and Spain, although the Co-princes continue as Head of State (Article 43), but the government retains the executive power. The two Co-princes serve coequally with limited powers that do not include veto over government acts. Article 48 of the Constitution states that each Co-prince must appoint a personal representative in Andorra. In addition both France and Spain have their own embassies. As Coprinces of Andorra, the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell participate in the negotiation of the international treaties with France and Spain which deal with internal security, defence, Andorran territory, diplomatic representation, and judicial or penal cooperation (Article 66). Some consider institution of the Co-princes as an anachronism, while the majority sees them as a link with Andorra’s
traditions and a way to balance the power of Andorra’s neighbours.
3. The Consell General possesses legislative power, approves the budget of the country and controls
the political activity of the government (Article 50).
4. Its 28 members are elected every four years by Andorran citizens over the age of eighteen according to a mixed system (Article 50)13. Fourteen councillors are elected according to the proportional system in a single constituency, on closed lists. Although the legislation does not set explicitly any electoral threshold, a party list must in practice obtain at least 7.14 % of votes in order to win a seat, taking into account the size of the electoral districts.
5. Fourteen councillors are elected by the majority system in the Parròquies (Parishes or municipalities). Every Parish has two seats, which favours strongly the small ones (e.g. in 2015 local elections Andorra la Vella has 7,538 electors, Canillo only 91514). The list that obtains more votes in a Parish gets both seats.
6. Political parties wishing to submit a list must obtain the signature of 0.5% of the voters in the constituency concerned. They must submit complete lists – fourteen candidates and three alternates for seats allocated according to the proportional system and two candidates and three alternates for the seats awarded according to the majority system. It is not possible to be a candidate both for a seat on the proportional system and for a seat in the majority system. It is not possible to sit both in a municipal council and in the national parliament.
7. The Sindicatura is the ruling organ of the General Council and it is chaired by the Síndic General (Article 55).
8. Executive power is vested in the government, which has a four-year mandate. The government consists of the Head of government (Cap de Govern, elected by the General Council and appointed by the Co-princes) and ministers (appointed and dismissed by the Head of government)
9. The government conducts Andorra’s national and international policy, administers the State and exercises regulatory powers (Article 72). It can also initiate bills as the General Council, three municipalities or a tenth part of the electoral roll (Article 58).
10. The government as a whole is politically answerable to the General Council: one fifth of the councillors may sign a reasoned motion of censure against the Head of government. If the motion is approved, the head of government shall be dismissed (Article 69).
11. Membership of the government is incompatible with membership of the Consell General (Article 78.2).
12. Jurisdictional power in Andorra is held by the Batlles (magistrates), the Magistrates’ Court (Tribunal de Battles), the Criminal Court (Tribunal de Corts) and the High Court of Justice (Tribunal Superior de la Justicia d’Andorra), and also by the respective presidents of those courts (Article 87). It has three jurisdictions: civil, criminal and administrative.
13. Jurisdictional power is organized pursuant to the llei qualificada on justice of 3 September 1993 (a llei qualificada is a law enacted by the absolute majority of the members of the Consell General, according to Article 57.3).
14. The Superior Council of Justice (Consell Superior de la Justicia) is the self-governing institutional body, which represents the judicial power. It consists of five members nominated one by each Co-Princes, one by the Head of government, one by the Sindic General and one by Magistrates and Battles. Their term of office is six years, renewable once (Article 89). It imposes discipline, ensures the independence and smooth operation of the justice system — although it does not itself exercise judicial functions — and appoints the members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, upon the advice of the government (Article 93.2).
15. The Constitutional Tribunal has several competences and its jurisprudence, open and innovative, represents an important element contributing to the system’s dynamism16. It judges, a posteriori, the constitutionality of laws and of legislative decrees, through indirect review (on an appeal lodged by the court responsible for applying the constitutionally dubious disposition) and direct review (on an appeal lodged, in this case, by the Head of government, one fifth of the members of the Consell General, or by three municipalities). The Tribunal decides indeed, a priori, on the constitutionality of international treaties, at the request of one of the Co-princes, one fifth of the parliamentarians or the Head of government; it adjudicates on conflicts of jurisdiction between the organs of the State (Co-princes, Consell General, government, Consell superior de la Justícia) and between the State and the Comuns). It decides on the constitutional amparo remedies; verifies the constitutionality of the parliamentary standing order on the basis of an appeal lodged by one fifth of the councillors; rends its opinion to the Co-princes, at the request of even one of them, when promulgating the law.
16. The Tribunal de Comptes (Court of Auditors), organically linked to the Consell General, is an independent technical body which inspects public expenditure and also checks the transparency of the economic, financial and accounting management of the public administration, examining its compliance with all the legal provisions in force; it also issues reports and opinions on the accounts and economic and financial management of the Andorran public administration.
17. In addition to the courts, which are the main guardians of human rights, the independent institution of the Ombudsman (Raonador del Ciutadà) was created in 199818. The Ombudsman’s main function is to defend and oversee the fulfilment and application of the rights and liberties included in the Constitution and to ensure that the public sector adheres to constitutional principles. The Ombudsman is independent from other institutions and provides its functions free of charge to interested persons.
Complaints or claims may be lodged by any physical or legal person who can cite a legitimate interest, regardless of their nationality, age, status or residence. The Raonador del Ciutadà deals, inter alia, with individual complaints concerning activities of the government. The Ombudsman presents an annual activity report to Parliament.
18. Andorran citizens can automatically transmit their nationality to their children according to the ius sanguinis principle. Andorran nationality may also be acquired after 20 years’ residency in Andorra regardless of nationality of origin, 10 years’ residency if the person has completed a period of compulsory schooling in Andorra or 3 years’ residency if the person is married to an Andorran national. Persons who wish to become Andorran nationals must give up their nationality of origin.