Biscay (Spanish Congress Electoral District)

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Location of Vizcaya district in Spain

Biscay (Basque: Bizkaia, Spanish: Vizcaya) is one of the 52 electoral districts (Spanish: circunscripciones) used for the Spanish Congress of Deputies - the lower chamber of the Spanish Parliament, the Cortes Generales. It is situated in the Basque Country and the largest city is Bilbao where around 30% of the electorate of almost a million live. At the time of the 2008 election, Barakaldo and Getxo were the only other large municipalities with electorates over 50,000.[1] Traditionally the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) received the largest vote share in the district, however they were overtaken by the left wing pro-independence Amaiur in 2011.

Boundaries and electoral system[edit]

Under Article 68 of the Spanish constitution [2] the boundaries must be the same as the province of Vizcaya and under Article 140 this can only be altered with the approval of congress. Voting is on the basis of universal suffrage in a secret ballot. The electoral system used is closed list proportional representation with seats allocated using the D'Hondt method. Only lists which poll 3% or more of all valid votes cast, including votes "en blanco" i.e. for "none of the above" can be considered for seats. Under article 12 of the constitution, the minimum voting age is 18.

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Electoral procedures[edit]

The laws regulating the conduct and administration of elections are laid out in detail in the 1985 electoral law. (Ley Orgánica del Régimen Electoral General.[3]) Under this law, the elections in Vizcaya, as in other districts, are supervised by the Electoral Commission (Junta Electoral), a permanent body composed of eight Supreme Court judges and five political scientists or sociologists appointed by the Congress of Deputies. The Electoral commission is supported in its work by the Interior Ministry. On election day, polling stations are run by electoral boards which consist of groups of citizens selected by lottery.[4]

The format of the ballot paper is designed by the Spanish state, however, the law allows political parties to produce and distribute their own ballot papers, either by mailing them to voters or by other means such as street distribution, provided that they comply with the official model. The government then covers the cost of all printed ballot papers. These must then be marked by voters, either in the polling station or outside the polling station and placed inside sealed envelopes which are then placed inside ballot boxes in the polling station. Following the close of polls, the ballots are then counted in each individual polling station in the presence of representatives of the political parties and candidates. The ballots are then immediately destroyed, with the exception of those considered invalid or challenged by the candidates' representatives, which are retained for further scrutiny. The result is that full recounts are impossible.[5]

Eligibility[edit]

Article 67.3 of the Spanish Constitution prohibits dual membership of both chambers of the Cortes or of the Cortes and regional assemblies, meaning that candidates must resign from regional assemblies if elected. Article 70 also makes active judges, magistrates, public defenders, serving military personnel, active police officers and members of constitutional and electoral tribunals ineligible.[2] Additionally, under Article 11 of the Political Parties Law, June 2002 (Ley Orgánica 6/2002, de 27 de junio, de Partidos Políticos), parties and individual candidates may be prevented from standing by the Spanish Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo), if they are judged to have violated Article 9 of that law which prohibits parties which are perceived to discriminate against people on the basis of ideology, religion, beliefs, nationality, race, gender or sexual orientation (Article 9a), foment or organise violence as a means of achieving political objectives (Article 9b) or support or compliment the actions of "terrorist organisations" (Article 9c).[6] Article 55, Section 2 of the 1985 electoral law also disqualifies director generals or equivalent leaders of state monopolies and public bodies such as the Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.[3] Lastly, following changes to the electoral law which took effect for the 2007 municipal elections, candidates' lists must be composed of at least 40% of candidates of either gender and each group of five candidates must contain at least two males and two females.[4]

Ban on Batasuna[edit]

The most notable effect of the Political Parties Law was that the political party Batasuna was banned on the grounds that it was part of the "terrorist network" of the armed separatist group ETA. In August 2002 Batasuna was initially suspended for three years by the judge Baltasar Garzon. The following month, the PP government began seeking a permanent ban. Batasuna lost their appeal against the ban in October 2002 and in March 2003, the Spanish Supreme Court permanently banned Batasuna.[7]

Presenting candidates[edit]

Parties and coalitions of different parties which have registered with the Electoral Commission can present lists of candidates (Article 44, 1985 electoral law). Groups of electors which have not registered with the commission can also present lists, provided that they obtain the signatures of 1% of registered electors in a particular district (Article 169).[3]

Number of members[edit]

In the general elections from 1977 until 1989 Vizcaya returned 10 members. That figure was reduced to 9 members for the 1993 General Election onwards. Vizcaya was one of the few districts whose electorate fell between 2000 and 2004 and it returns one member more than Asturias despite the latter now having a larger electorate.[8] As a result it lost a seat at the 2008 General Election being reduced to eight members.[9]

Under Spanish electoral law, all provinces are entitled to a minimum of 2 seats with a remaining 248 seats apportioned according to population.[10] These laws are laid out in detail in the 1985 electoral law. (Ley Orgánica del Régimen Electoral General) The practical effect of this law has been to overrepresent smaller provinces at the expense of larger provinces.

Vizcaya had a ratio of 109,064 voters per deputy in 2004 [11] above the Spanish average of 98,777 voters per deputy.[12]

Summary of seats won 1977–2008[edit]

1977 1979 1982 1986 1989 1993 1996 2000 2004 2008
Seats 10 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 9 8
Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 4 4 3
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 3 2 4 3 2 3 2 2 3 4
Euskadiko Ezkerra (EE) 1 1
Democratic Centre Union (UCD) 2 2 1
People's Party (PP) 1 1 1 2 2 3 2 1
Batasuna (HB) 2 1 2 2 1 1
Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) 1
United Left (IU) 1

Note: Seats shown for the PP include seats won by their predecessors, the Popular Alliance and Popular Coalition before 1989. They ran in an electoral alliance with the UCD in 1982. Euskadiko Ezkerra merged with the PSOE after the 1989 election.

Vote share summary 1977–2008[edit]

1977 1979 1982 1986 1989 1993 1996 2000 2004 2008
Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 31.0 29.2 33.4 29.3 27.9 29.5 29.2 34.2 37.3 31.2
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 25.3 19.1 29.6 26.6 20.8 24.9 23.8 22.9 26.8 37.0
Euskadiko Ezkerra (EE) 5.4 5.9 6.6 8.4 7.9
Democratic Centre Union (UCD) 16.4 16.0 12.0
People's Party (PP) 6.7 4.2 10.7 9.7 15.3 18.4 27.3 18.7 18.4
United Left (IU) 5.4 5.8 2.2 1.6 3.6 7.1 9.7 5.8 8.9 4.4
Batasuna (HB) 14.5 13.1 15.9 15.1 12.5 9.9
Democratic and Social Centre (CDS) 1.5 5.0 3.4 0.8 0.1 0.1 0.1
Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) 7.9 6.3 5.2 5.1 4.3 3.1

Note:PP's predecessors contested the 1979 election under the label "Unión Foral" [13]

Results[edit]

The 2008 election was overshadowed by the killing of a former PSOE councillor by ETA[14] in the town of Mondragón in the neighbouring district of Guipúzcoa which led to a suspension of campaigning. Whether as a result of this or not, PSOE-EE recorded their best over vote share in the district, overtaking the Basque Nationalist PNV for the first time ever and recording the second highest increase in their vote share in any of the 52 districts. With the reduction in representation in the district, both PNV and PP lost seats, with PSOE-EE gaining a seat. IU, having come within 2500 votes of winning a seat in 2004, had one of their worst results here, with only the Balearic Islands seeing a larger drop in their vote share. Both the PNV and PP lost a seat.In the case of the PP, an increase of 576 votes would have given them the final seat.

2008 General Election[edit]

e • d Summary of the 11 March 2008 Congress of Deputies election results in Vizcaya.
Parties and alliances Votes % Seats Members elected
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) 233,371 36.99 4 Eduardo Madina, Arantza Mendizábal*, José María Benegas, Josu Montalbán Goicoechea
Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) 196,242 31.10 3 Josu Iñaki Erkoreka, Aitor Esteban, Pedro María Azpiazu
People's Party (Partido Popular) 116,110 18.40 1 Ignacio Astarloa
United Left 27,471 4.35 0
Eusko Alkartasuna 19,605 3.11 0
Aralar 9,740 1.54 0
Union, Progress and Democracy 5,997 0.95 0
Others 11,800 1.90 0

*On 23 May 2008 Mendizábal was substituted by Óscar Seco Revilla

2004 General Election[edit]

While Bilbao produced a result close to the average, PSOE did better in the second town of Barakaldo polling nearly 40%. PP had a better than avaerage performance in Getxo taking second place with 29% of the vote. PNV had their best performances in the northern coastal towns. In Bermeo they polled 52%, while in the neighbouring municipalities of Gorliz and Plentzia at the end of the Bilbao Metro they polled nearly 60%.

e • d Summary of the 14 March 2004 Congress of Deputies election results in Vizcaya.
Parties and alliances Votes % Seats Members elected
Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) 258,488 37.29 4 Pedro María Azpiazu, Josu Iñaki Erkoreka, Aitor Esteban, Margarita Uría
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) 185,514 26.76 3 José María Benegas, Eduardo Madina, Arantza Mendizábal
People's Party (Partido Popular) 129,889 18.74 2 Marisa Arrúe, Ignacio Astarloa
United Left 59,493 8.58 0
Eusko Alkartasuna 30,096 4.34 0
Aralar 12,791 1.85 0
Others 8,160 2.44 0

Source:[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Number of voters by municipality 2008". Spanish census office. Retrieved 2009-08-27. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b Spanish Constitution
  3. ^ a b c "Law governing electoral procedures". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  4. ^ a b "OSCE observers task force report on 2008 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe OSCE. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  5. ^ "OSCE observers task force report on 2004 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe, OSCE. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  6. ^ "Law regarding registration of political parties". Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  7. ^ BBC 17 March 2003
  8. ^ Asturias 2004 electorate
  9. ^ Vizcaya representation reduced
  10. ^ General features of Spanish electoral system
  11. ^ Vizcaya election result 2004
  12. ^ 2004 Spanish election
  13. ^ Unión Foral in 1979 election.
  14. ^ ETA blamed for killing PSOE former councillor
  15. ^ Interior ministry link to election results

External links[edit]