Another form of citizen participation is through the country's political life. Spanish nationals aged over 18 and people included on the population register have the right and the duty to vote, i.e. to select representatives in various governing bodies.

There are four levels on which it is possible to participate by means of voting, namely Europe, Spain, Catalonia and towns or cities.

Àmbit europeu

The European Union (EU) is a union of independent democratic states that share their sovereignty in order to make them more powerful and to obtain a level of international influence that none of them could achieve individually. Doing so involves having a number of common institutions for the purpose of decision-making on a European scale with regard to matters of interest to all the member states. The institutions in question include the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament. The powers and responsibilities of each of the European institutions are agreed upon by the presidents or prime ministers of all the EU countries and ratified by their parliaments.

EU citizens vote to choose the members of the European Parliament every five years. The European Parliament works as a legislator, has budgetary powers and exercises democratic controls over all the European institutions.

Àmbit estatal

Every four years, the people of Spain elect their representatives in the country's Congress and Senate. Those representatives, in turn, choose the president of the Spanish government from the political parties with the most votes. The Spanish government has its headquarters in Madrid and offices in Spain's different regions.

Àmbit autonòmic

In Catalonia, citizens vote to select the members of the Catalan Parliament. There are 135 such members, who are elected every four years from among all the political parties represented. Their functions are to choose the president of the Catalan government, to control the way Catalonia is governed and to draft and pass laws.

Towns or cities
Àmbit municipal

Each municipal area is governed and represented by a town or city council. Such bodies consist of a mayor and a group of councillors, who manage and make plans regarding public affairs in their local area. Councillors are chosen by means of voting every four years. Those who are chosen have to select one of their number to be the mayor.

Foreigners may only vote in municipal elections if a reciprocal arrangement has been established with their country of origin, meaning that Spanish citizens are also able to vote in that country. People from the EU, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and Chile currently have the right to vote in municipal elections.

The policies applied at each level of government reflect the will of the citizens, for which reason it is very important to exercise your right to vote.

Political parties and unions
Partits polítics i organitzacions sindicals

You can also participate in political life by being a member of a political party or a union. There are political parties to represent all viewpoints, and their organisation is usually based on their ordinary members, who democratically choose candidates for different elections.

Unions are associations formed by workers to protect and promote their members' economic and social interests. They usually join together within federations or trade union confederations, which may be independent or may have a political orientation.

As a foreign citizen legally resident in Spain, you have the same right as Spanish nationals to join a union of your choice or to become a member of a political party