The Cortes was the Spanish Parliament. In the 1933 elections, CEDA won the most seats in the Cortes. President Niceto Alcalá Zamora refused to ask its leader, José Maria Gil Robles, to form a government. However, seven members of the CEDA served as ministers during the next three years.

In the elections of February 1936, 34.3 per cent of the vote went to the Popular Front, 33.2 per cent to the conservative parties and the rest to regional and centre parties. This gave the Popular Front 271 seats out of the 448 in the Cortes and Manuel Azaña was asked to form a new government.

The new government immediately upset the conservatives by realizing all left-wing political prisoners. The government also introduced agrarian reforms that penalized the landed aristocracy. Other measures included transferring right-wing military leaders such as Francisco Franco to posts outside Spain, outlawing the Falange Española and granting Catalonia political and administrative autonomy.

On the 10th May 1936 the conservative Niceto Alcala Zamora was ousted as president and replaced by the left-wing Manuel Azaña. Soon afterwards Spanish Army officers, including Emilio Mola, Francisco Franco and José Sanjurjo, began plotting to overthrow the Popular Front government. This resulted in the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War on 17th July, 1936.

It is estimated that during the first few months of the war, 28 members of the Cortes were killed in the Republican zone, whereas 59 were murdered in the Nationalist zone.

When the government left Madrid in November 1936, the Cortes was moved to Valencia. However, after Juan Negrin became prime minister in May 1937, he announced that his government would rule by decree. The Cortes now only met at six monthly periods to discuss government selected topics.

When Negrin and his government fled to France the Cortes met in Paris. The final session of the Cortes of the Republic was held on 31st March, 1939.

After the war General Francisco Franco established a carefully controlled Cortes which acted on legislation drafted by his ministers.