Elections in Spain

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For the most recent general election, see Spanish general election, 2011.
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There are four types of elections in Spain: general elections, elections to the legislatures of the autonomous communities, local elections and elections to the European Parliament. General elections and elections to the legislatures of the autonomous communities are called after the mandate of the national or regional legislature expires, usually four years after the last election, although early elections may occur. Elections to local councils (municipal, insular or provincial) and to the European Parliament are held on fixed dates. For most elections party list PR is used, but the plurality system is used for the Senate.

General elections[edit]

Evolution of popular vote in the Spanish General Elections from the democratic transition until 2008. Voter turnout is usually high.

General elections are elections held for the national legislature, which is called in Spain Cortes Generales (literally "General Courts") and consists of two chambers, the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) and the Senate (Senado). The Congress and Senate serve concurrent terms that run for a maximum of four years.

Congress of Deputies[edit]

The Congress has 350 members, elected from each province for a maximum four-year term following the d'Hondt method of proportional representation. While the constitution allows limited flexibility in determining this system, it has not changed since the return of democracy.

Seats are allocated as follows: Two seats are given to each of the 50 provinces and one each to Ceuta and Melilla, and the remaining 248 are then allocated proportionally to population. In practice, this system overrepresents smaller provinces, and results in very low proportionality in all but the most populous such as Madrid and Barcelona. Additionally, since there are so many constituencies (52), most are relatively small. This effectively increases the legal 3% threshold to obtain seats in a constituency, radically decreases proportionality, and favors the two large parties and parties with concentrated regional strength, at the expense of national third parties.


The system for electing the Senate was first used in 1979, though with regard to the provinces the system is unchanged since 1977. Senators are elected directly from the provinces and indirectly from the autonomous communities; currently, there are 264 senators, 208 directly elected and 56 indirectly elected.

In the provinces, a majoritarian partial block voting system is used. All peninsular provinces elect four senators each; the insular provinces (Balearic and Canary Islands) elect one or three senators per island, and Ceuta and Melilla elect two senators each. Parties nominate three candidates; each voter has three votes (fewer in those constituencies electing fewer senators) and votes for candidates by name, the only instance of personal voting in Spanish national elections. The usual outcome is three senators for the party with the most votes, and one senator for the runner-up, except in very close races.

The autonomous communities receive one senator, plus one for each million inhabitants. They are entitled to determine how they choose their senators but are generally elected by the legislature of the respective community in proportion to its party composition.

List of general elections in Spain[edit]

Political position of the government
Election Result Government Prime Minister
15 June
Hung parliament
UCD short by 10 MPs
Minority government
Adolfo Suárez González (1977–1979)
1 March
Hung parliament
UCD short by 8 MPs
with support from AP, PA and PAR
Adolfo Suárez González (1979–1981; resigned)
Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo y Bustelo (1981–1982)
28 October
PSOE absolute majority
Majority of 26
Majority government
Felipe González Márquez (1982–1986)
22 June
PSOE absolute majority
Majority of 8
Majority government
Felipe González Márquez (1986–1989)
29 October
PSOE overall majority
Short by 1 MP
with support from CC
Felipe González Márquez (1989–1993)
6 June
Hung parliament
PSOE short by 17 MPs
with support from CiU and PNV
Felipe González Márquez (1993–1996)
3 March
Hung parliament
PP short by 20 MPs
with support from CiU, PNV and CC
José María Aznar López (1996–2000)
12 March
PP absolute majority
Majority of 7
Majority government
José María Aznar López (2000–2004)
14 March
Hung parliament
PSOE short by 12 MPs
with support from IU and ERC
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2004–2008)
9 March
Hung parliament
PSOE short by 7 MPs
Minority government
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2008–2011)
20 November
PP absolute majority
Majority of 10
Majority government
Mariano Rajoy Brey (2011- )

Election results 1977-2011[edit]

e • d Summary of Spanish elections for the Congress of Deputies, 1977-2011
Popular vote
Parties (listed by date of foundation) 1977* 1979 1982 1986 1989 1993 1996 2000 2004 2008 2011
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 29.3 30.4 48.1 44.1 39.6 38.8 37.6 34.2 42.6 43.9 28.8
Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 1.6 1.7 1.9 1.5 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.5 1.6 1.2 1.3
Communist Party of Spain (PCE)/United Left (IU) 9.3 10.8 4.0 4.6 9.0 9.6 10.5 5.5 5.0 3.8 6.9
People's Alliance (AP)/People's Party (PP) 8.2 6.1 26.4 26.0 25.8 34.8 38.8 44.5 37.7 39.9 44.6
Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD) 34.4 34.8 6.8
Convergence and Union (CiU) 2.8 2.7 3.7 5.0 5.0 4.9 4.6 4.2 3.2 3.0 4.2
Democratic and Social Centre (CDS) 2.9 9.2 7.9 1.8
Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) 1.2 4.7
Other parties 14.4 13.5 6.2 9.6 11.5 8.9 7.2 10.1 9.9 7.1 9.6
Turnout 78.8 68.0 80.0 70.5 69.7 76.4 77.4 68.7 75.6 73.9 68.9
(numbers in italics mean absolute majorities)
Parties (listed by date of foundation) 1977* 1979 1982 1986 1989 1993 1996 2000 2004 2008 2011
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 118 121 202 184 175 159 141 125 164 169 110
Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 8 7 8 6 5 5 5 7 7 6 5
Communist Party of Spain (PCE)/United Left (IU) 19 23 4 7 17 18 21 8 5 2 11
People's Alliance (AP)/People's Party (PP) 16 10 107 105 107 141 156 183 148 154 186
Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD) 166 168 11
Convergence and Union (CiU) 11 8 12 18 18 17 16 15 10 10 16
Democratic and Social Centre (CDS) 2 19 14
Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) 1 5
Other parties 12 13 4 11 14 10 11 12 16 8 17
*The 1977 election was for the Constituent Congress.
Source: Ministerio del Interior

Latest elections[edit]

Elections to legislatures of the autonomous communities[edit]

Elections to the unicameral parliaments of the autonomous communities of Spain are held every four years. Thirteen of the seventeen autonomous parliaments (Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile and León, Castile–La Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre and Valencia) take place the same day, the fourth Sunday of May of the year before a leap year; the last election was held on May 22, 2011.

The other four communities can choose the date of their elections: the last elections in Andalusia and Catalonia were in 2012; Euskadi and Galicia held elections in 2009.

Local elections[edit]

Elections in the municipalities take place in all the country in the same day as the 13 regional elections, in May of the year before a leap year. Last time was May 22, 2011.

Elections to the European Parliament[edit]


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.[1]) Under this law, the elections 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.[2]

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.[3]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Law governing electoral procedures". Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "OSCE observers task force report on 2008 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe OSCE. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  3. ^ "OSCE observers task force report on 2004 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe, OSCE. Retrieved 6 August 2008.