Is the Prime Minister of Spain Really Its President?

On his first presidential trip to Europe, George W. Bush referred to the elected head of the government of Spain as “President” Aznar (OK, he also referred to him as “President Anzar,” but that’s a matter for Bushisms) while the major American newspapers covering the meeting referred to him as “Prime Minister Aznar.” Is Aznar the president or prime minister?

He’s two, two, two titles in one! Spain is a parliamentary monarchy, and so in translating into English the role of the elected leader, it is standard to refer to him as the prime minister. However, in Spain, Aznar is called Presidente del Gobierno, or president of the government, and the English translation of the Spanish Constitution says, “The Government consists of the President, Vice-Presidents. …” So, according to the Spanish Embassy and our State Department, it is correct to call Aznar either prime minister or president. On his 1997 trip to Spain, former President Clinton called Aznar prime minister.

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Explainer thanks readers Brian Kalt andJohn Ryan for suggesting the question. For more on parliamentary government, see this Explainer.