Andorra is the last independent survivor of the March states, a number of buffer states created by Charlemagne to keep the Muslim Moors from advancing into Christian France. Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors. In the 800s, Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, named the Count of Urgell Overlord of Andorra. A descendant of the Count later gave the lands to the diocese headed by Bishop of Seu d'Urgell.
In the 11th century, fearing military action by neighboring lords, the bishop placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Spanish nobleman. Later, the Count of Foix, a French noble, became heir to Lord Caboet through marriage, and a dispute arose between the French Count and the Spanish bishop over Andorra.
In 1278, the conflict was resolved by the signing of a pareage, a feudal institution recognizing the principle of equality of rights shared by two rulers. This pareage provided that Andorra's sovereignty would be shared between the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell of Spain. The pareage gave the small state its territory and political form.
Over the years, the title was passed between French and Spanish rule until, in the reign of the French king Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell as Co-princes of Andorra.
Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France and Spain. In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with developments in diplomatic activity, transportation, and communications have removed the country from its isolation.
Andorra held elections in March 2001 and returned Head of Government Marc Forne to power. Three major parties with clear political tenets emerged in those elections: the conservative, ruling, Andorran Liberal Party (PLA) headed by Forne; the Democratic Party (PD), recently renamed as Andorran Democratic Center Party (ADCP); and the more left of center Social Democratic Party (PS). The PLA is a reorganization of the former Liberal Union. The other two were born from the remains of political formations now inactive but which at one time had parliamentary representation. Since the ratification of the Constitution in 1993, three coalition governments have been formed. The current government headed by Marc Forne won an absolute majority with 15 seats; the PD obtained 5 and the PS 6. Forne was sworn in as Cap de Govern, or head of government, on April 12, 2001.
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