1879 Spanish general election

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1879 Spanish general election

← 1876 20 April 1879 (Congress)
3 May 1879 (Senate)
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All 392 seats in the Congress of Deputies and 180 (of 360) seats in the Senate
197 seats needed for a majority in the Congress of Deputies
Turnout621,436 (65.3%)
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Antonio Cánovas del Castillo Práxedes Mateo Sagasta Manuel Alonso Martínez
Party Conservative Liberal Left Parliamentary Centre
Leader since 1874 1872 1875
Leader's seat Madrid Zamora Castrojeriz
Seats won 288 64 13
Popular vote 402,357 139,314 20,473
Percentage 64.7% 22.4% 3.3%

  Fourth party
Leader Alejandro Pidal y Mon
Party Moderate
Leader since 1876
Leader's seat Villaviciosa
Seats won 11
Popular vote 16,501
Percentage 2.7%

Prime Minister before election

Arsenio Martínez Campos

Prime Minister after election

Arsenio Martínez Campos

The 1879 Spanish general election was held on Sunday, 20 April and on Saturday, 3 May 1879, to elect the 1st Restoration Cortes of the Kingdom of Spain. All 392 seats in the Congress of Deputies were up for election, as well as 180 of 360 seats in the Senate.[1]

This was the first election held under the Spanish Constitution of 1876 and the new electoral law of 1878, which re-established censitary suffrage.



The Spanish Constitution of 1876 enshrined Spain as a constitutional monarchy, awarding the monarch power to name senators and to revoke laws, as well as the title of commander-in-chief of the army. The monarch would also play a key role in the system of el turno pacífico (English: the Peaceful Turn) by appointing and dismissing governments and allowing the opposition to take power. Under this system, the major political parties of the time, the conservatives and the liberals—characterized as elite parties with loose structures and dominated by internal factions led by powerful individuals—alternated in power by means of election rigging, which they achieved through the encasillado, using the links between the Ministry of Governance, the provincial civil governors and the local bosses (caciques) to ensure victory and exclude minor parties from the power sharing.[2][3]

Electoral system[edit]

The Spanish Cortes were envisaged as "co-legislative bodies", based on a nearly perfect bicameralism. Both the Congress of Deputies and the Senate had legislative, control and budgetary functions, sharing equal powers except for laws on contributions or public credit, where the Congress had preeminence.[4][5] Voting for the Cortes was on the basis of censitary suffrage, which comprised national males over twenty-five, being taxpayers with a minimum quota of twenty-five pesetas per territorial contribution or fifty per industrial subsidy, as well as being enrolled in the so-called capacity census (either by education criteria or for professional reasons).[6][7]

For the Congress of Deputies, 88 seats were elected using a partial block voting system in 26 multi-member constituencies, with the remaining 304 being elected under a one-round first-past-the-post system in single-member districts. Candidates winning a plurality in each constituency were elected. In constituencies electing eight seats, electors could vote for up to six candidates; in those with seven seats, for up to five candidates; in those with six seats, for up to four; in those with four or five seats, for up to three candidates; and for one candidate in single-member districts. Additionally, up to ten deputies could be elected through cumulative voting in several single-member constituencies, provided that they obtained more than 10,000 votes overall. The Congress was entitled to one member per each 50,000 inhabitants, with each multi-member constituency being allocated a fixed number of seats: 8 for Madrid, 5 for Barcelona and Palma, 4 for Seville and 3 for Alicante, Almería, Badajoz, Burgos, Cádiz, Cartagena, Córdoba, Granada, Jaén, Jerez de la Frontera, La Coruña, Lugo, Málaga, Murcia, Oviedo, Pamplona, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Santander, Tarragona, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragoza. The law also provided for by-elections to fill seats vacated throughout the legislature.[4][8][a]

For the Senate, 180 seats were indirectly elected, with electors voting for delegates instead of senators. Elected delegates—equivalent in number to one-sixth of the councillors in each municipal corporation—would then vote for senators using a write-in, two-round majority voting system. The provinces of Álava, Albacete, Ávila, Biscay, the Canary Islands, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Guipúzcoa, Huelva, Logroño, Matanzas, Palencia, Pinar del Río, Puerto Príncipe, Santa Clara, Santander, Santiago de Cuba, Segovia, Soria, Teruel and Valladolid were allocated two seats each, whereas each of the remaining provinces was allocated three seats, for a total of 147. The remaining 33 were allocated to a number of institutions, electing one seat each—the Archdioceses of Burgos, Granada, Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Cuba, Seville, Tarragona, Toledo, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragoza; the Royal Spanish Academy; the Royal Academies of History, Fine Arts, Sciences, Moral and Political Sciences and Medicine; the Universities of Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Havana, Oviedo, Salamanca, Santiago, Seville, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragoza; and the Economic Societies of Friends of the Country from Madrid, Barcelona, CubaPuerto Rico, León, Seville and Valencia. An additional 180 seats comprised senators in their own right—the Monarch's offspring and the heir apparent once coming of age; Grandees of Spain of the first class; Captain Generals of the Army and the Navy Admiral; the Patriarch of the Indies and archbishops; as well as other high-ranking state figures—and senators for life (who were appointed by the Monarch).[9][11]

Election date[edit]

The term of each House of the Cortes—the Congress and one-half of the elective part of the Senate—expired five years from the date of their previous election, unless they were dissolved earlier. The Monarch had the prerogative to dissolve both Houses at any given time—either jointly or separately—and call a snap election.[4][8][9]


Congress of Deputies[edit]

Summary of the 20 April 1879 Congress of Deputies election results
Parties and alliances Popular vote Seats
Votes[b] %
Liberal Conservative Party (Conservadores) 402,357 64.75 288
Liberal Left Coalition (Izquierda Liberal) 139,314 22.42 64
Constitutional Party (PC) 49
Democratic Progressive Party (PPD) 9
Democratic Party (PD) 6
Parliamentary Centre (Centro Parlamentario) 20,473 3.29 13
Moderate Party (Moderados) 16,501 2.66 11
Ultramontanists (Ultramontanos) 7,965 1.28 7
Fuerist Party of the Basque Union (PFUV) 3,861 0.62 1
Independents (Independientes) 22,729 3.66 6
Other candidates/blank ballots 8,236 1.33 0
Vacants 2
Total 621,436 392
Votes cast / turnout 621,436 65.28
Abstentions 330,564 34.72
Registered voters 952,000
Popular vote
Liberal Left
Liberal Left


Summary of the 20 April 1879 Congress of Deputies election results in Cuba
Parties and alliances Popular vote Seats
Votes %
Constitutional Union Party (Unión Constitucional) 17
Liberal Party (Liberal) 7
Total 17,734 24
Votes cast / turnout 17,734 56.16
Abstentions 13,844 43.84
Registered voters 31,578
Const. Union

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amendments in the electoral law throughout 1877 had seen the approval of separate laws for both chambers, with a modified version of the 1865 electoral law being provisionally reinstated for the Congress until a final, definitive law was approved in 1878.[8][9][10]
  2. ^ In multi-member constituencies, votes have been allocated by calculating the arithmetic average of each candidacy and adding it to the votes of single-member constituencies.


  1. ^ "Real decreto declarando disueltos el Congreso de los Diputados y la parte electiva del Senado y convocando nuevas elecciones" (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (in Spanish) (75). Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado: 759. 16 March 1879.
  2. ^ Martorell Linares 1997, pp. 139–143.
  3. ^ Martínez Relanzón 2017, pp. 147–148.
  4. ^ a b c Constitución de 1876 (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (in Spanish). 30 June 1876. Retrieved 27 December 2016. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 December 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "El Senado en la historia constitucional española". Senate of Spain (in Spanish). Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  6. ^ García Muñoz 2002, pp. 105–106.
  7. ^ Carreras de Odriozola & Tafunell Sambola 2005, p. 1077.
  8. ^ a b c Ley electoral de los Diputados a Cortes (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (Law) (in Spanish). 28 December 1878. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Ley electoral de Senadores (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (Law) (in Spanish). 8 February 1877. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  10. ^ Ley reformando la electoral de Diputados a Cortes, y restableciendo la penal para los delitos electorales de 22 de Junio de 1864 (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (Law) (in Spanish). 20 July 1877. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  11. ^ Ley dictando reglas para la elección de Senadores en las islas de Cuba y Puerto Rico (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (Law) (in Spanish). 9 January 1879. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  12. ^ Villa García 2013, pp. 129–138.
  13. ^ Caballero Domínguez 1999, p. 50.
  14. ^ Carreras de Odriozola & Tafunell Sambola 2005, p. 1093.
  15. ^ "Elecciones a Cortes 20 de abril de 1879". Historia Electoral.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  16. ^ Roldán de Montaud 1999, pp. 251–254.


External links[edit]