||This article examines the relationship between political parties and regional presidents in Italy and Spain, adopting a comparative case study approach based on extensive archival analysis and in-depth interviews with regional politicians. The findings confirm a strong pattern of growing presidentialism at regional level, regardless of whether there are formal mechanisms for direct election, and regardless of the partisan composition of regional government. Regional presidents tend to exert their growing power through a personalised control of regional party organisations, rather than governing past parties in a direct appeal to the electorate. Nevertheless, parties can still present a significant constraint on regional presidents, so successful regional presidents tend to maintain a mediating form of leadership and fully exploit the opportunities for party patronage to build up their support and smooth governing tensions. An autonomist drive helps presidents hold together disparate coalitions or loose parties at regional level, but their lack of internal coherence presents major problems when it comes to political succession.