Spanish general election, 2008

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Spanish general election, 2008
2004 ←
9 March 2008 → 2011

All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies and 208 (of the 264) seats in the Senate
176 seats needed for a majority in the Congress of Deputies
Opinion polls
Registered 35,073,179 Increase1.5%
Turnout 25,900,439 (73.8%)
Decrease1.9 pp
  First party Second party Third party
  José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero 2009 (cropped).jpg Mariano Rajoy in 2008 (cropped).jpg Gaspar Llamazares 2011 (cropped).jpg
Leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Mariano Rajoy Gaspar Llamazares
Leader since 22 July 2000 2 September 2003 29 October 2000
Leader's seat Madrid Madrid Madrid
Last election 164 seats, 42.6% 148 seats, 37.7% 5 seats, 5.0%
Seats won 169 154 2
Seat change Increase5 Increase6 Decrease3
Popular vote 11,289,335 10,278,010 969,946
Percentage 43.9% 39.9% 3.8%
Swing Increase1.3 pp Increase2.2 pp Decrease1.2 pp

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
  Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida 2011 (cropped).jpg Josu Erkoreka 2009 (cropped).jpg Rosa Díez 2008 (cropped).jpg
Leader Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida Josu Erkoreka Rosa Díez
Leader since 2004 2004 26 September 2007
Leader's seat Barcelona Biscay Madrid
Last election 10 seats, 3.2% 7 seats, 1.6% Did not contest
Seats won 10 6 1
Seat change ±0 Decrease1 Increase1
Popular vote 779,425 306,128 306,079
Percentage 3.0% 1.2% 1.2%
Swing Decrease0.2 pp Decrease0.4 pp New party

Most voted party by autonomous community and province.

Prime Minister before election

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

Elected Prime Minister

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

The 2008 Spanish general election was held on Sunday, 9 March 2008, to elect the 9th Cortes Generales of the Kingdom of Spain. At stake were all 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies and 208 of 264 seats in the Senate.

Much like the previous election, this election returned a hung parliament with governing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) being the largest party, increasing its share of the vote but remaining short by seven seats of an overall majority in the Congress. The Socialist Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, declared victory on 9 March, and the opposition People's Party (PP) conceded defeat.[1] The distance between both main parties remained essentially the same as in 2004, with a slight reduction in favour of the PP. Zapatero was elected Prime Minister for a second term, after which he proceeded to form a minority government.

This election is notable for several reasons: it was the second of only two times in Spanish history that a political party won more than 11 million votes in a general election. The PSOE also won the most popular votes of any political party ever, breaking its own record in 2004. The sums of both PSOE and PP's percentage shares popular votes, and seats (almost 83.8%, over 21 million votes cast and 323 seats) accounted for the largest amount of popular support for the two main parties of Spain in a general election to date. United Left (IU) obtained its worst result ever in a national election with less than 4%, 1 million votes and just 2 seats. Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), the first nationwide political party aside from PSOE, PP and IU gaining parliamentary presence in the Congress since the 1989 general election, won 1 seat and slightly more than 300,000 votes.


Electoral system[edit]

Congress of Deputies

The 350 members of the Congress of Deputies were elected in 50 multi-member districts using the D'Hondt method and a closed-list proportional representation. Ceuta and Melilla elected 1 member each using plurality voting. Each district was entitled to an initial minimum of 2 seats, with the remaining 248 seats being allocated among the 50 provinces in proportion to their populations. Only lists polling above 3% of the total vote in each district (which includes blank ballots—for none of the above) were entitled to enter the seat distribution.


For the Senate, each of the 47 peninsular provinces was assigned 4 seats. For insular provinces, such as Baleares and Canarias, districts are the islands themselves, with the larger — Mallorca, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife — being assigned 3 seats each, and the smaller — Menorca, Ibiza-Formentera, Fuerteventura, Gomera, Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma — 1 each. Ceuta and Melilla were assigned 2 seats each, for a total of 208 directly elected seats. In districts electing 4 seats, electors could vote for up to 3 candidates; in those with 2 or 3 seats, for up to 2 candidates; and for 1 candidate in single member constituencies. Electors would vote for individual candidates: those attaining the largest number of votes in each district would be elected for a 4-year term of office.

In addition, the legislative assemblies of the autonomous communities are entitled to appoint at least 1 senator each, as well as 1 senator for every million inhabitants, adding up a variable number of appointed seats to the directly-elected 208 senators.[2] This appointment usually did not take place at the same time that the general election, but when the autonomous communities held their elections.


Dual membership of both chambers of the Cortes or of the Cortes and regional assemblies was prohibited. Active judges, magistrates, ombudsmen, serving military personnel, active police officers and members of constitutional and electoral tribunals were also ineligible,[3] as well as CEOs or equivalent leaders of state monopolies and public bodies, such as the Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.[4] Additionally, under the Political Parties Law, June 2002, parties and individual candidates may be prevented from standing by the Spanish Supreme Court, if they were judicially perceived to discriminate against people on the basis of ideology, religion, beliefs, nationality, race, gender or sexual orientation, foment or organise violence as a means of achieving political objectives or support or compliment the actions of "terrorist organisations".[5]

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.[6]

Parties and coalitions of different parties which had registered with the Electoral Commission could present lists of candidates. Groups of electors which had not registered with the commission could also present lists, provided that they obtained the signatures of 1% of registered electors in a particular district.[4]

Candidates and coalitions[edit]

By tradition, the first candidate on each Madrid party list for the Congress of Deputies is the Prime Ministerial candidate for that party. nationalist parties who did not expect to win enough seats to be contenders for the office of Prime Minister typically designated one of their list leaders as their main candidate. Those candidates were generally featured more prominently in the Spanish national media than other list leaders or candidates. Regional, provincial and local media nearly always covers the activities of the Prime Ministerial candidates, together with the leading candidates in their area.

Spanish Socialist Workers' Party[edit]

On 9 March 2008, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero won the general elections.

As in 2004, the governing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) was led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Mr Zapatero was the only PSOE candidate who sought the nomination and he was therefore proclaimed candidate on 25 November 2007 at a rally in Fuenlabrada, Madrid. The PSOE ran in all Spanish constituencies. In Catalonia, the Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC) operated as part of the PSOE's ticket.

The current Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega led the party's list in the province of Valencia. After the election, she continued as Deputy Prime Minister.

José Bono Martínez, former Minister of Defence and President of Castile-La Mancha for 21 years, led the list in Toledo. After the election, he was elected President (i.e., Speaker) of the Congress of Deputies.

After some discussion due to the need for ensuring the future support of the Prime Minister for his economic policy and his intentions to retire, the current Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, Pedro Solbes, was second on the Madrid list.[7] He continued as Minister of Economy after the election.

Other prominent politicians who led provincial lists for the Socialist Party included the current Minister of Culture, César Antonio Molina, in A Coruña, the current Home Minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, in Cádiz, the Minister of Public Works, Magdalena Álvarez, in Málaga, the former Minister of Housing (and later Minister of Defence) Carme Chacón, in Barcelona and the former Home Minister and current Socialist Parliamentary Group spokesman, José Antonio Alonso, in León.

There were relatively few disputes about the composition of the election lists, except for minor problems on the Balearic Island of Formentera and in the capital. In Madrid the selection of the remaining candidates on the list after the socialist leadership (Prime Minister Zapatero, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Solbes, and the electoral coordinator Jesús Caldera) was unclear, since the regional socialist federation had recently changed their leadership. Besides this, Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), an old federated socialist union, suggested presenting joint lists. The final decision by the PSOE leadership to include a deputy linked to UGT, Manuel de la Rocha, ended the discussion.

People's Party[edit]

PP President Mariano Rajoy (right) and Secretary-General Ángel Acebes addressed supporters outside the party headquarters on 13, Genova St. (Madrid) after the election.

The People's Party (PP) was led by Mariano Rajoy, former Deputy Prime Minister and successor to the former Prime Minister José María Aznar. He was nominated as candidate by the National Board of Directors of the party on 10 September 2007.[8] PP ran in all the constituencies with its sister party the Navarrese People's Union (UPN) acting as part of the PP ticket in Navarre.

Rajoy chose Manuel Pizarro as his candidate for Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance.[9] Pizarro is the former chairman of Endesa, where he was noted for his criticism of the economic policies of Zapatero's Government.

The People's Party suggested reducing taxes and raising the minimum threshold for Income Tax.

Some controversy took place when the Mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, sought a place on the Madrid list for the Congress, something which increased his rivalry with fellow Madrid PP rank Esperanza Aguirre (president of the Community of Madrid and leader of the party in this Autonomous Community). The subsequent People's Party leadership's refusal was considered by the press as a victory for Aguirre, preventing him from taking advantage in the succession of Rajoy in the eventuality of an electoral defeat.[10] Several left leaning media and political parties referred to this as a victory of the most radical, reactionary, sectors close to Aguirre over the so-called moderate way represented by Gallardón.[11] Sources close to the People's Party denied such interpretations. Some newspapers even speculated about the possibility of internal conflicts between the supporters of each politician.[12] However, the appearance of both politicians at electoral events together stopped or at least reduced criticism.[13]

With the People's Party defeat, there was some speculation over Rajoy's eventual resigning for future electoral contests. Then, at a meeting of his party's Executive Committee on 11 March, Rajoy dispelled doubts about his future by stating that he would stand again as party leader at a party congress in June.[14]

United Left[edit]

United Left (IU) is a coalition of several leftist movements. During the previous legislature, there had been internal fighting between the main component of the coalition, the Communist Party (PCE) and the faction headed by Llamazares. This led to a primary election between October and November 2007. This internal election was contested by Gaspar Llamazares, the then General Coordinator of United Left and Margarita Sanz, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Valencian Country - the Valencian federation of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE).[15] On 14 November Llamazares was declared the winner, beating his contender by a wide margin. After that, three members of the Communist Party, who were most critical, including the former leader of it, Felipe Alcaraz, were expelled from the Directive Committee.

IU ran in all constituencies; in many of them, they ran in coalition with other parties. In Catalonia, IU ran with Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds. Felipe Alcaraz, executive chairman of PCE, announced his intention not to seek nomination for Seville, another of the traditional PCE/IU seats and district where he had been deputy from 1993 to 2004, in the Andalusian Council of IU, after losing the provincial assembly, he was substituted by the former mayor of Carmona Sebastián Martín Recio who failed to gain a seat.[16]

The Assembly of EUPV (IU's federation in the Valencian Community) elected Antonio Montalbán as its leading candidate for Valencia, one of the traditional districts where IU or PCE have obtained deputies, against incumbent Isaura Navarro after heated debate on ideology matters and different stances regarding the convenience of keeping a coalition with another party, the Valencian Nationalist Bloc (BNV). The coalition with the BNV was finally discarded by the party Executive. This led to a schism within EUPV which saw incumbent EUPV MP Isaura Navarro, among others, defecting to a newly created party made up of critics with the direction of EUPV. The new party was named Iniciativa pel País Valencià (IpV) and ran in these elections in coalition with the BNV, the party which had been discarded by EUPV. Ultimately EUPV failed to hold their seat in Valencia (IpV-BLOC did not win any seat in this constituency either).

The outcome of these elections proved a hard blow for IU, which got its worst ever result, obtaining two (S) down from five at the Spanish Parliament, subsequently Llamazares resigned in the immediate aftermath of the elections.

Convergence and Union[edit]

In November 2007, Convergence and Union (CiU) designated their leader in Congress and leader of the Democratic Union of Catalonia Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida as main candidate. CiU only contested the four Catalan provinces.

Republican Left of Catalonia[edit]

In August 2007, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC in its Catalan acronym) designated their spokesman in the Catalan Parliament Joan Ridao i Martín as their leader for the elections. ERC ran in Catalonia and in the Valencian Community through its local branch ERPV. It also participated in an electoral coalition with other nationalist parties in the Balearic Islands constituency called Unitat per les Illes.

ERC was the party with the biggest loss in these elections, obtaining three MPs, down from their previous eight seats. These bad results opened an ongoing internal dispute over ideology and strategies.

Basque Nationalist Party[edit]

The Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ–PNV) ran only in the three Basque provinces. Josu Erkoreka headed the ticket in Vizcaya, the most populous on the three provinces. In Navarre they were part of the Nafarroa Bai coalition.

Minor parties in Congress[edit]

Reallocation of seats[edit]

Escudo de España (colores THV).svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Four districts - Córdoba, A Coruña, Soria and Vizcaya - lost a seat in the Congress of Deputies due to net population loss in these constituencies. Then, another four - Alicante, Almería, Murcia and Toledo, all with population increases, gained a seat each.

If the 2004 general election had been fought under the new distribution of seats the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) would have lost one seat in both La Coruña and Vizcaya, while the opposition People's Party (PP) would have had one seat fewer in Córdoba as well as in Soria. However, PSOE would have captured the additional seats in Alicante, Murcia and Toledo, whereas PP would have only won the newly added seat in Almería. In all, PSOE would have made a net gain of one seat, for a total of 165, while PP would have come down by one, to 147 seats.[17]


Although the official electoral campaign period in Spain only lasts for the 15 days before the election, (with the exception of the day just before the election), many parties, especially the PP and PSOE, start their "pre-campaigns" months in advance, often before having finalised their electoral lists.


The first phase campaign was done under the slogan "Con Z de Zapatero" (With Z of Zapatero), a joke based on the Prime Minister and socialist candidate's habit of tending to pronounce words ending with D as if they ended with Z. The campaign was linked to terms like equality (Igualdad-Igualdaz) or solidarity (Solidaridad-Solidaridaz), emphasizing the policies carried out by the current government. The second phase was done under the slogan "La Mirada Positiva" (The Positive outlook), emphasising the future government platform, and "Vota con todas tus fuerzas" (Vote with all of your strength), aiming to mobilize the indecisive or potentially abstaining voters. Another common slogan through all the campaign was "Motivos para creer" (Reasons to believe in).


For the pre-campaign the PP used the slogan "Con Rajoy es Posible" (With Rajoy it's Possible). Usually emphasizing PP's campaign proposals, such as "Llegar a fin de mes, Con Rajoy es Posible" (Making ends meet, With Rajoy it's Possible). IU accused PP of copying its slogan from the last municipal elections[18]


IU chose the pre-campaign slogan "LlamazarES + Más Izquierda" (LlamazarES (is) More Left), calling attention to their position as the third national party.

Campaign issues[edit]

The economy[edit]

The economy became a major campaign issue due to a number of factors:

  • A slowing down in the housing market, with prices even beginning to fall in some areas.
  • Sharp increases in prices of some basic commodities.
  • Global instability as a result of market uncertainty.
  • A rise in unemployment.

The sudden emergence of the economy as a political issue came after several years of steady economic growth, and led some observers to suggest that maybe the government would have benefitted from calling an earlier election.[19] In addition to those factors both the PP and the PSOE made competing proposals on taxation.

Opinion polls[edit]



Congress of Deputies[edit]


Summary of the 9 March 2008 Spanish Congress of Deputies election results
Spanish Congress of Deputies election, 2008 results.svg
Party Vote Seats
Votes  % ±pp Won +/−
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 11,289,335 43.87 Increase1.28 169 Increase5
People's Party (PP) 10,278,010 39.94 Increase2.23 154 Increase6
United Left (IU) 969,946 3.77 Decrease1.19 2 Decrease3
Convergence and Union (CiU) 779,425 3.03 Decrease0.20 10 ±0
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV) 306,128 1.19 Decrease0.44 6 Decrease1
Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) 306,079 1.19 New 1 Increase1
Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) 298,139 1.16 Decrease1.36 3 Decrease5
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 212,543 0.83 Increase0.02 2 ±0
Canarian Coalition-Canarian Nationalist Party (CC-PNC) 174,629 0.68 Decrease0.25 2 Decrease1
Andalusian Coalition (CA) 68,679 0.27 Decrease0.43 0 ±0
Yes to Navarre (NaBai) 62,398 0.24 ±0.00 1 ±0
Basque Solidarity (EA) 50,371 0.20 Decrease0.11 0 Decrease1
Citizens-Party of the Citizenry (C's) 46,313 0.18 New 0 ±0
Anti-Bullfighting Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA) 44,795 0.17 New 0 ±0
The Greens (LV) 41,531 0.16 New 0 ±0
Aragonese Party (PAR) 40,054 0.16 Increase0.02 0 ±0
Aragonese Union (CHA) 38,202 0.15 Decrease0.21 0 Decrease1
New Canarias-Canarian Centre (NCa-CCN) 38,024 0.15 New 0 ±0
The Greens-Green Group (LV-GV) 30,840 0.12 Increase0.07 0 ±0
Aralar (Aralar) 29,989 0.12 Decrease0.03 0 ±0
Bloc-Initiative-Greens (BNV-IDPV-EV-EE) 29,760 0.12 Decrease0.04 0 ±0
Unity for the Islands (UIB) 25,454 0.10 Decrease0.06 0 ±0
Blank ballots 286,182 1.11 Decrease0.47
Total 25,734,863 100.00 350 ±0
Valid votes 25,734,863 99.36 Increase0.37
Invalid votes 165,576 0.64 Decrease0.37
Votes cast / turnout 25,900,439 73.85 Decrease1.81
Abstentions 9,172,740 26.15 Increase1.81
Registered voters 35,073,179
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Vote share
Blank ballots
Parliamentary seats

Results by district[edit]



Summary of the 9 March 2008 Spanish Senate election results
Spanish Senate election, 2008 results.svg
Party Vote Seats
Votes  % +/− Won +/− Total +/−
People's Party (PP) 101 Decrease1 124 Increase1
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 88 Increase7 107 Increase9
Catalan Agreement of Progress (PSC-ERC-ICV-EUiA) 12 ±0 16 ±0
Convergence and Union (CiU) 4 ±0 7 Increase1
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV) 2 Decrease4 4 Decrease4
Canarian Coalition-Canarian Nationalist Party (CC-PNC) 1 Decrease2 2 Decrease2
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 0 ±0 1 ±0
Aragonese Party (PAR) 0 ±0 1 ±0
Socialist Party of Majorca (PSM) 0 ±0 1 ±0
Independents 0 ±0 1 ±0
Others 0 ±0 0 ±0
Blank ballots 524,750 2.06 Decrease0.61
Total 25,527,940 100.00 208 ±0 264 Increase5
Valid votes 25,527,940 97.71 Increase0.62
Invalid votes 597,299 2.29 Decrease0.62
Votes cast / turnout 26,125,239 74.49 Decrease1.26
Abstentions 8,947,940 25.51 Increase1.26
Registered voters 35,073,179
Parliamentary seats

The Spanish Senate at the time of the 2008 election was composed by 208 directly-elected seats and 56 seats appointed by the regional parliaments of the autonomous communities when a new Parliament resulting from a regional election convenes. The appointment process of these seats depended on the political composition of those regional assemblies, and as such, it could change each time regional elections were held.


Investiture vote[edit]

First round: 9 April 2008
Absolute majority (176/350) required
Candidate: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Choice Vote
Parties Votes
Yes PSOE (168)
168 / 350
No PP (154), ERC (3), UPyD (1)
158 / 350
Abstentions CiU (10), PNV (6), IU (2), BNG (2), CC (2),
NaBai (1)
23 / 350
Absences: PSOE (1)
Source: Historia Electoral
Second round: 11 April 2008
Simple majority required
Candidate: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Choice Vote
Parties Votes
YesYYes PSOE (169)
169 / 350
No PP (154), ERC (3), UPyD (1)
158 / 350
Abstentions CiU (10), PNV (6), IU (2), BNG (2), CC (2),
NaBai (1)
23 / 350
Source: Historia Electoral


  1. ^ "Worldwide". 2008-03-09. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  2. ^ "General Aspects of the Electoral System". 
  3. ^ "The Spanish Constitution of 1978". 
  4. ^ a b "Law governing electoral procedures". Retrieved 2011-03-06. 
  5. ^ "Law regarding registration of political parties". Retrieved 2011-03-06. 
  6. ^ "OSCE observers task force report on 2008 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe OSCE. Retrieved 2011-03-06. 
  7. ^ "El Periodico de Cataluña- 26/11/2007- Solbes confirma su permanencia en el Gobierno si el PSOE gana las elecciones legislativas". 2010-06-14. Retrieved 2010-06-18. [dead link]
  8. ^ (AFP) – 10/09/2007. "Agence France Press". Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  9. ^ (AFP) – 15/01/2008 (2008-01-15). "AFP Manuel Pizarro podría ser ministro de Economía de Rajoy". Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  10. ^ "Gallardón: ''He sido derrotado''". 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  11. ^ "Post in the blog of Pepe Blanco, member of the direction of the Socialist Party". 2004-02-27. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  12. ^ "''El PP de Vizcaya alerta de que la crisis de Gallardón puede "costar el Gobierno"''". 2008-01-17. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ El País, 12 March 2008
  15. ^ Izquierda Unida Official Page[dead link]
  16. ^ (Spanish) Diario de Cordoba 4-12-2007 Felie Alcaraz renuncia a encabezar la lista de IU en Sevilla
  17. ^ "redistribution of seats for 2008". Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  18. ^ El PP copia el Lema de IU en su Ultima Campaña, Público, 23/11/2007
  19. ^ "Zapatero's bear fight". The Economist. 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 

External links[edit]