August 2023 | Government approves new agency for the supervision of AI
The Council of Ministers approved the statute of the Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence (AI) (AESIA), becoming the first European country to establish a dedicated regulatory agency to ensure the responsible use of AI. The body will be attached to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation. The European Union is currently debating legislation which will require EU member states to form national supervisory authorities responsible for monitoring the enforcement of AI regulations. AESIA will be independent from the government and tasked with overseeing the use of AI in both the private and public sectors, with the ability to sanction harmful uses of AI. AlgorithmWatch has reported that the government failed to adequately include civil society when conceptualizing the agency and its functions, after civil society organisations called on the government to draw on their knowledge and experiences in a joint letter in September 2022.
July 2023 | Spain holds elections, results show no clear majority
In snap elections held on 23 July, both the opposition centre-right Popular Party (PP) and the governing Socialist Party (PSOE) gained votes at the expense of radical parties, as well as regional and independence parties. PP won the most seats in the Congress of Deputies (136), gaining 47 more seats compared to the 2019 general elections. PSOE won more votes than expected, as did its likely coalition partner, far-left Sumar. Far-right Vox dropped from 52 deputies to 33, but narrowly retains its position as third biggest party. However, both the left-wing and right-wing bloc fall short of the 176-seat threshold required for a majority, complicating government formation. Voter turnout reached 70 per cent, up by 4 percentage points compared to 2019, despite the elections taking place during the summer holidays. The volume of postal votes reached record highs, more than doubling the number of mail-in ballots from 2019, as many were on vacation and therefore not near their polling places. Women make up 48.8 per cent of the Congress of the Deputies candidates (compared to 48.2 per cent in 2019), but only 39.7 per cent of the heads of the list.
May 2023 | Prime Minister calls snap elections after victory for the right in local elections
Poor results for the ruling Socialist party (PSOE) in local and regional elections led Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to call for snap elections, which have been set for 23 July. The Council of Ministers subsequently approved a royal decree to dissolve Parliament. The opposition conservative People’s party won 31.5 per cent of the vote in the local elections (a 9 per cent increase from the 2019 elections) covering over 8,000 municipalities, and secured an absolute majority in both the Madrid region and in the city council. The ultra-conservative Vox party also made gains, and came in third place with 7.2 per cent of the municipal vote. There were also cases of arrests for alleged vote buying in Mojácar and Albudeite, two towns in the Southeast, and in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, with investigations ongoing.
April 2023 | Parliament approves amendments to sexual consent law
Parliament approved amendments to the sexual consent law, known as “Solo sí es sí,” which reformed the criminal code to remove the legal distinction between sexual abuse and rape, thereby widening the range of penalties for both crimes. The amendments were introduced in response to a loophole in the law’s sentencing guidelines, which led to the release of more than 100 offenders and reduced sentences for almost 1,000 others, generating backlash. The amendments are designed to strengthen minimum penalties, in order to mitigate retroactive sentence reductions and releases, and re-introduce a distinction between sexual assault with and without violence or intimidation. The amendments were opposed by Podemos, the party that spearheaded the law in August 2022, who view the new changes as shifting the burden of proof back onto the victim, undoing what had been the original law’s primary accomplishment. The amendments were termed a “severe setback to women’s rights” by Podemos member Irene Montero, Minister for Equality.