The Republic of San Marino’s Regency Institute is very old, and almost certainly began in the Communal period. The first time we hear mention two San Marino Regents (Filippo da Sterpeto and Oddone Scarito) is on a document dated 12 December 1243, though at that time they were not known as Regents, but as consules, meaning consuls, like the ancient Roman magistrates.
In the second half of the 13th century, other traces of Regents appear. As now, they remained in office for six months. At the end of the century, they changed name, becoming one Captain and the other Defender, while always maintaining their previous characteristics.
Over the years, they were given the title of Captains Regent, which they still have today, preceded by “Their Excellencies”. The Regents have always been appointed from within the Great and General Council, though through the centuries, various systems have been devised for their appointment.
Ever since the statute of late-1200, their term of office has been six months. Over the centuries, on rare occasions, this period has been extended, though the fact is that in San Marino, the danger has always been avoided of leaving one or more individuals as heads of state for too long, in order to prevent the risk of any one person wielding enough power to suffocate the joint-power of the Council.
Since the early 16th century, the Captains Regent, after terminating their appointment, cannot be re-elected until another three years have passed. This law, to which the odd rare exception has been made for very special reasons, is known as the Prohibition Law.
Since 1499, the so-called Regency Syndicate has been in operation; this is a sort of high court of law where all San Marino citizens can lodge complaints against the Regency for things done and not done.
The Regents are appointed every six months by the Great and General Council and the two persons are elected who obtain the absolute majority of votes. Being members of political parties, they are generally elected according from among the parties forming the government coalition, or in any case on the basis of the suggestions of the parties sitting in the Council.
The ceremony, called the “entry ceremony”, is staged on April 1 and October 1 of each year with civil and religious celebrations. When, in the past, no political parties existed (parliamentary sessions only began in San Marino in 1906), the Regents were elected on the basis of the social class to which they belonged, because the Council consisted of 20 nobles, 20 landowners (meaning living on or at the foot of the mountain), and 20 inhabitants of the townships (rural settlements).
Today, the two Captains Regent jointly exercise the functions of Heads of State and Government, albeit sometimes symbolically, in all State institutions, and represent the complex constitutional power. Among the powers of the institution are: promulgating laws, directing and coordinating the procedures that precede the formation of the Government (meaning the State Congress), presiding over the major bodies (Great and General Council, State Congress, Council of the XII).
The Regents represent a “super partes” body guaranteeing the constitution. Their duties include, at times of government crisis or absence, talking with the political parties to determine the possibility of forming a new government coalition, or convening political meetings. Moreover, in case of need or urgency, they have the power to pass laws through Regency Decrees, even though such decrees must be ratified within three months by the Great and General Council. Finally, they are the only body responsible for promulgating laws (executive power), with the consequent possibility of exercising a sort of formal control on the work done by the Council.
Indispensable requirements to be appointed Regent are: being a councillor, being an original citizen, being 25 years old or more, not having any outstanding accounts with justice.