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 264) seats in the Senate
176 seats needed for a majority in the Congress of Deputies
Opinion polls
Registered 35,073,179 Green Arrow Up Darker.svg1.5%
Turnout 25,900,439 (73.8%)
Red Arrow Down.svg1.9 pp
  First party Second party Third party
  José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero 2009b (cropped).jpg Mariano Rajoy in 2008 (cropped).jpg Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida 2006 (cropped).jpg
Leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Mariano Rajoy Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida
Leader since 22 July 2000 2 September 2003 24 January 2004
Leader's seat Madrid Madrid Barcelona
Last election 164 seats, 42.6% 148 seats, 37.7% 10 seats, 3.2%
Seats won 169 154 10
Seat change Green Arrow Up Darker.svg5 Green Arrow Up Darker.svg6 Arrow Blue Right 001.svg0
Popular vote 11,289,335 10,278,010 779,425
Percentage 43.9% 39.9% 3.0%
Swing Green Arrow Up Darker.svg1.3 pp Green Arrow Up Darker.svg2.2 pp Red Arrow Down.svg0.2 pp

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
  Josu Erkoreka 2009 (cropped).jpg Joan Ridao (cropped).jpg Gaspar Llamazares 2011 (cropped).jpg
Leader Josu Erkoreka Joan Ridao Gaspar Llamazares
Party EAJ/PNV esquerra IU
Leader since 2004 2007 29 October 2000
Leader's seat Biscay Barcelona Madrid
Last election 7 seats, 1.6% 8 seats, 2.5% 5 seats, 5.0%
Seats won 6 3 2
Seat change Red Arrow Down.svg1 Red Arrow Down.svg5 Red Arrow Down.svg3
Popular vote 306,128 298,139 969,946
Percentage 1.2% 1.2% 3.8%
Swing Red Arrow Down.svg0.4 pp Red Arrow Down.svg1.3 pp Red Arrow Down.svg1.2 pp

Constituency results map for the Congress of Deputies

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. All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies were up for election, as well as 208 of 264 seats in the Senate.

After four years of growing bipolarisation of Spanish politics, the election saw a record result for both ruling Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and opposition People's Party (PP), together obtaining more than 83% of the vote share—over 21 million votes—and 92% of the Congress seats. The PSOE under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero benefitted from tactical voting against the PP and emerged as the most-voted party just 7 seats short of an overall majority. On the other hand, Mariano Rajoy's PP saw an increate in its vote share and seat count but remained unable to overtake the Socialists.

United Left (IU) had its worst general election performance ever with less than 4% and 2 seats. Regional nationalist parties Convergence and Union (CiU), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) or Aragonese Union (CHA) were also hurt by the massive tactical voting towards the PSOE, falling to historical lows of popular support. Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), with 1 seat and slightly more than 300,000 votes, became the first nationwide party aside from PSOE, PP and IU entering in parliament in over two decades.

Zapatero was sworn in as Prime Minister of Spain for a second term in office in April 2008, just as the Spanish economy began showing signs of fatigue and economic slowdown after a decade of growth.


Electoral system[edit]

The Spanish Cortes Generales were envisaged as an imperfect bicameral system. The Congress of Deputies had greater legislative power than the Senate, having the ability to vote confidence in or withdraw it from a Prime Minister and to override Senate vetoes by an absolute majority of votes. Nonetheless, the Senate possessed a few exclusive, yet limited in number functions—such as its role in constitutional amendment—which were not subject to the Congress' override.[1][2] Voting for the Cortes Generales was on the basis of universal suffrage, which comprised all nationals over eighteen and in full enjoyment of their political rights.[3]

For the Congress of Deputies, 348 seats were elected using the D'Hondt method and a closed list proportional representation, with a threshold of 3 percent of valid votes—which included blank ballots—being applied in each constituency. Parties not reaching the threshold were not taken into consideration for seat distribution. Additionally, the use of the D'Hondt method might result in an effective threshold over three percent, depending on the district magnitude.[4] Seats were allocated to constituencies, corresponding to the provinces of Spain. Each constituency was entitled to an initial minimum of two seats, with the remaining 248 allocated among the constituencies in proportion to their populations. Ceuta and Melilla were allocated the two remaining seats, which were elected using plurality voting.[1][5][6][7]

For the Senate, 208 seats were elected using an open list partial block voting, with electors voting for individual candidates instead of parties. In constituencies electing four seats, electors could vote for up to three candidates; in those with two or three seats, for up to two candidates; and for one candidate in single-member districts. Each of the 47 peninsular provinces was allocated four seats, whereas for insular provinces, such as the Balearic and Canary Islands, districts were the islands themselves, with the larger—Majorca, Gran Canaria and Tenerife—being allocated three seats each, and the smaller—Menorca, IbizaFormentera, Fuerteventura, La Gomera, El Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma—one each. Ceuta and Melilla elected two seats each. Additionally, autonomous communities could appoint at least one senator each and were entitled to one additional senator per each million inhabitants.[1][5][6][7]

The electoral law provided that parties, federations, coalitions and groupings of electors were allowed to present lists of candidates. However, groupings of electors were required to secure the signature of at least 1 percent of the electors registered in the constituency for which they sought election. Electors were barred from signing for more than one list of candidates. Concurrently, parties and federations intending to enter in coalition to take part jointly at an election were required to inform the relevant Electoral Commission within ten days of the election being called.[5][7]

Election date[edit]

The term of each House of the Cortes Generales—the Congress and the Senate—expired four years from the date of their previous election, unless they were dissolved earlier. The election Decree was required to be issued no later than the twenty-fifth day prior to the date of expiry of the Cortes in the event that the Prime Minister did not make use of his prerogative of early dissolution. The Decree was to be published on the following day in the Official State Gazette, with election day taking place on the fifty-fourth day from publication. The previous election was held on 14 March 2004, which meant that the legislature's term would expire on 14 March 2008. The election Decree was required to be published no later than 19 February 2008, with the election taking place on the fifty-fourth day from publication, setting the latest possible election date for the Cortes Generales on Sunday, 13 April 2008.[5][7]

The Prime Minister had the prerogative to dissolve both Houses at any given time—either jointly or separately—and call a snap election, provided that no motion of no confidence was in process, no state of emergency was in force and that dissolution did not occur before one year had elapsed since the previous one. Additionally, both Houses were to be dissolved and a new election called if an investiture process failed to elect a Prime Minister within a two-month period from the first ballot.[1][6] Barred this exception, there was no constitutional requirement for simultaneous elections for the Congress and the Senate, there being no precedent of separate elections and with governments having long preferred that elections for the two Houses take place simultaneously.

Parties and leaders[edit]

Below is a list of the main parties and coalitions which contested the election:

Parties and coalitions Composition Ideology Candidate
Nationwide lists
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) Social democracy José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
People's Party (PP) Conservatism, Christian democracy Mariano Rajoy
United Left (IU) Communism, Socialism Gaspar Llamazares
Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) Social liberalism, Radical centrism Rosa Díez
Regional lists
Convergence and Union (CiU) Centrism, Catalan autonomism Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida
Republican Left of Catalonia (esquerra) Left-wing nationalism, Catalan independentism Joan Ridao
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) Christian democracy, Basque autonomism Josu Erkoreka
Canarian CoalitionCanarian Nationalist Party (CC–PNC) Conservatism, Canarian nationalism Ana Oramas
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) Left-wing nationalism, Galician nationalism Francisco Jorquera
Aragonese Union (CHA) Eco-socialism, Aragonese nationalism Bizén Fuster
Basque Solidarity (EA) Social democracy, Basque nationalism Nekane Altzelai
Navarre Yes (NaBai) Basque nationalism, Navarrese regionalism Uxue Barkos


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[8]


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.[9] 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 Congress of Deputies election results
Parties and coalitions Popular vote Seats
Votes  % ±pp Total +/−
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 11,289,335 43.87 +1.28 169 +5
People's Party (PP) 10,278,010 39.94 +2.23 154 +6
United Left (IU) 969,946 3.77 –1.19 2 –3
Convergence and Union (CiU) 779,425 3.03 –0.20 10 ±0
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) 306,128 1.19 –0.44 6 –1
Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) 306,079 1.19 New 1 +1
Republican Left of Catalonia (esquerra) 298,139 1.16 –1.36 3 –5
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 212,543 0.83 +0.02 2 ±0
Canarian CoalitionCanarian Nationalist Party (CC–PNC)1 174,629 0.68 –0.25 2 –1
Andalusian Coalition (CA)2 68,679 0.27 –0.52 0 ±0
Navarre Yes (NaBai)3 62,398 0.24 ±0.00 1 ±0
Basque Solidarity (EA) 50,371 0.20 –0.11 0 –1
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
Aragonese Party (PAR) 40,054 0.16 +0.02 0 ±0
Aragonese Union (CHA) 38,202 0.15 –0.21 0 –1
New CanariesCanarian Centre (NC–CCN) 38,024 0.15 New 0 ±0
The Greens–Green Group (LV–GV) 30,840 0.12 +0.07 0 ±0
Aralar (Aralar) 29,989 0.12 –0.03 0 ±0
BlocInitiativeGreens (Bloc–IdPV–EVEE) 29,760 0.12 –0.04 0 ±0
Unity for the Isles (UIB)6 25,454 0.10 –0.10 0 ±0
Blank ballots 286,182 1.11 –0.47
Total 25,734,863 350 ±0
Valid votes 25,734,863 99.36 +0.37
Invalid votes 165,576 0.64 –0.37
Votes cast / turnout 25,900,439 73.85 –1.81
Abstentions 9,172,740 26.15 +1.81
Registered voters 35,073,179
Popular vote
Blank ballots


Summary of the 9 March 2008 Senate of Spain election results
Parties and coalitions Directly elected Regional
Total Seats +/− Total Seats Total Seats
People's Party People's Party (PP)1 101 98 ±0 23 23 124 121
Navarrese People's Union (UPN) 3 ±0 0 3
Valencian Union (UV) 0 –1 0 0
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 88 88 +7 19 19 107 107
Catalan Agreement
of Progress
Socialists' Party of CataloniaCpC (PSC–CpC) 12 8 ±0 4 2 16 10
Republican Left of Catalonia (esquerra) 3 ±0 1 4
Initiative for Catalonia Greens–EUiA (ICV–EUiA) 1 ±0 1 2
Convergence and Union Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) 4 4 ±0 3 2 7 6
Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC) 0 ±0 1 1
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) 2 2 –4 2 2 4 4
Canarian Coalition
Canarian Nationalist Party
Canarian CoalitionCanarian Nationalist Party (CC–PNC)2 1 0 –2 1 1 2 1
Independent Herrenian Group (AHI) 1 ±0 0 1
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 0 0 ±0 1 1 1 1
Aragonese Party (PAR) 0 0 ±0 1 1 1 1
Socialist Party of Majorca (PSM) 0 0 ±0 1 1 1 1
Independents 0 0 ±0 1 1 1 1
Total 208 208 ±0 56 56 264 264


José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE)
Ballot → 9 April 2008 11 April 2008
Required majority → 176 out of 350 Simple
168 / 350
169 / 350
158 / 350
158 / 350
23 / 350
23 / 350
1 / 350
0 / 350


  1. ^ Only in Asturias, the Balearic Islands and Madrid.
  2. ^ Only in the Valencian Community.


  1. ^ a b c d Spanish Constitution of 1978, 29 December 1978 Official State Gazette (in Spanish). Retrieved on 27 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Constitución española, Sinopsis artículo 66". (in Spanish). Congress of Deputies. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Carreras et al. 1989, pp. 1077.
  4. ^ Gallagher, Michael (30 July 2012). "Effective threshold in electoral systems". Trinity College, Dublin. Retrieved 22 July 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d General Electoral System Organic Law of 1985, Organic Law No. 5 of 19 June 1985 Official State Gazette (in Spanish). Retrieved on 28 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Constitution" (PDF). Congress of Deputies. Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Representation of the people Institutional Act". Central Electoral Commission. Retrieved 16 June 2017. 
  8. ^ El PP copia el Lema de IU en su Ultima Campaña Archived November 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Público, 23/11/2007
  9. ^ "Zapatero's bear fight". The Economist. 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  10. ^ "Electoral Results Consultation. Congress. March 2008. National totals". (in Spanish). Ministry of the Interior. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  11. ^ a b "General election 9 March 2008". (in Spanish). Electoral History. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  12. ^ "Electoral Results Consultation. Senate. March 2008. National totals". (in Spanish). Ministry of the Interior. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  13. ^ "Senate Election 2008". (in Spanish). Electoral History. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  14. ^ "Senate Composition 1977-2017". (in Spanish). Electoral History. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  15. ^ "Congress of Deputies: Most important votes". (in Spanish). Electoral History. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 

External links[edit]