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1881 Spanish general election

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1881 Spanish general election

← 1879 21 August 1881 (Congress)
2 September 1881 (Senate)
1884 →

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
Turnout604,758 (71.4%)
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Práxedes Mateo Sagasta Antonio Cánovas del Castillo Emilio Castelar
Party Fusionist Conservative Democratic
Leader since 1880 1874 1879
Leader's seat Zamora Cieza Huesca
Seats won 297 C / 135 S 48 C / 15 S 32 C / 12 S

Prime Minister before election

Práxedes Mateo Sagasta

Prime Minister after election

Práxedes Mateo Sagasta

The 1881 Spanish general election was held on Sunday, 21 August and on Friday, 2 September 1881, to elect the 2nd 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]

Though formally competitive, the 1881 general election was held under the recently developed system of turno pacifico; in accordance with a semi-formal power-sharing arrangement brokered by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, elections—under influence by machine bosses called caciques—served as a rubber stamp for a routine handover of power initiated by the King. The 1881 election, as expected, sanctioned the pre-arranged handover from the Conservatives to the newly-created Liberal Fusionist Party. From 1881 until the end of the constitutional monarchy, the turno power-sharing plan would continue dominating the Spanish political landscape nearly uninterruptedly.



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 criteria of Education or for professional reasons).[6][7]

For the Congress of Deputies, 88 seats were elected using a partial block voting 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]

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, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Guipúzcoa, Huelva, Logroño, Matanzas, Palencia, Pinar del Río, Puerto Príncipe, Santa Clara, Santander, Santiago de Cuba, Segovia, Soria, Teruel, Valladolid and Zamora 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][10][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]


Mainland Spain

Summary of the 21 August 1881 Congress of Deputies election results
Parties and alliances Popular vote Seats
Votes %
Liberal Fusionist Party (Fusionistas) 297
Liberal Conservative Party (Conservadores) 48
ProgressivePossibilist Democrats (Demócratas) 32
Democratic Progressive Party (PPD) 12
Democratic Party (PD) 10
Independent Monarchist Progressives (Prog.i) 10
Catholic Union (UC) 3
Traditionalists (Tradicionalistas) 2
Fuerist Party of the Basque Union (PFUV) 1
Independents (Independientes) 9
Total 604,758 392
Votes cast / turnout 604,758 71.40
Abstentions 242,203 28.60
Registered voters 846,961


Summary of the 21 August 1881 Congress of Deputies election results in Cuba
Parties and alliances Popular vote Seats
Votes %
Constitutional Union Party (Unión Conservadora) 18
Liberal Party (Liberal) 4
Progressive Liberal Party (Liberal Progresista) 2
Total 24
Votes cast / turnout
Registered voters 31,295
Const. Union
Prog. Liberal

Elected deputies[edit]

The following table lists the elected deputies:[16][17][18][19]



Summary of the 2 September 1881 Senate of Spain election results
Parties and alliances Seats
Liberal Fusionist Party (Fusionistas) 135
Liberal Conservative Party (Conservadores) 15
ProgressivePossibilist Democrats (Demócratas) 12
Democratic Progressive Party (PPD) 8
Democratic Party (PD) 4
Independents (Independientes) 8
Archbishops (Arzobispos) 10
Total elective seats 180


  1. ^ "Real decreto declarando disueltos el Congreso de los Diputados y la parte electiva del Senado" (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (in Spanish) (177). Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado: 871. 26 June 1881.
  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 Ley electoral de los Diputados a Cortes (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (Law) (in Spanish). 28 December 1878. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b Ley electoral de Senadores (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (Law) (in Spanish). 8 February 1877. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Real decreto determinando el número de Senadores que habrán de elegirse en cada una de las provincias con motivo de las próximas elecciones" (PDF). Gaceta de Madrid (in Spanish) (184). Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado: 23. 3 July 1881.
  12. ^ Martínez Ruiz, Maqueda Abreu & De Diego 1999, p. 109.
  13. ^ Carreras de Odriozola & Tafunell Sambola 2005, p. 1093.
  14. ^ For election results: For registered voters:
  15. ^ Roldán de Montaud 1999, pp. 254–258.
  16. ^ "Elecciones Generales por Provincias". National Library of Spain (in Spanish). La Correspondencia de España. 22 August 1881. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  17. ^ "Elecciones". National Library of Spain (in Spanish). El Fígaro. 24 August 1881. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  18. ^ "El futuro Congreso". Biblioteca Virtual de Andalucía (in Spanish). El Defensor de Granada. 26 August 1881. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  19. ^ "Archivo histórico de diputados". Congress of Deputies (in Spanish). Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  20. ^ "Las elecciones y el Senado". National Library of Spain (in Spanish). El Imparcial. 3 September 1881. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Segun cálculos muy verosímiles, las oposiciones traerán al Senado 15 demócratas, 12 conservadores, 10 ultramontanos y 3 independientes". La Vanguardia (in Spanish). 3 September 1881. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Más noticias sobre senadores". National Library of Spain (in Spanish). La Época. 4 September 1881. Retrieved 13 December 2020.


External links[edit]