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1931 Spanish general election

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1931 Spanish general election

← 1923 28 June 1931 1933 →

All 470 seats of the Constituent Cortes
236 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Julián Besteiro Alejandro Lerroux Marcelino Domingo
Leader since 9 December 1925 1908 1929
Leader's seat Madrid-capital Madrid-capital Tarragona
Seats won 115 90 61
Seat change Increase115 Increase90 Increase61

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Francesc Macià Manuel Azaña Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Leader since 19 March 1931 1930 1930
Leader's seat Lleida Valencia-capital Jaén
Seats won 29 26 25
Seat change Increase29 Increase26 Increase25

Prime Minister before election

Niceto Alcalá-Zamora

Prime Minister after election

Manuel Azaña

The 1931 Spanish general election for the Constituent Cortes was the first such election held in the Second Republic. It took place in several rounds.


General Primo de Rivera, who had run a military dictatorship in Spain since 1923, resigned as head of government in January 1930.[1] There was little support for a return to the pre-1923 system, and the monarchy had lost credibility by backing the military government.[1] Dámaso Berenguer was ordered by the king to form a replacement government, but his dictablanda dictatorship failed to provide a viable alternative.[2] In the municipal elections of 12 April 1931, little support was shown for pro-monarchy parties in the major cities. King Alfonso XIII fled the country and the Second Spanish Republic was formed.[2][3]

The Second Republic was a source of hope to the poorest in Spanish society and a threat to the richest, but had broad support from all segments of society. Niceto Alcalá-Zamora was the first prime minister of the Republic.[4] The wealthier landowners and the middle class accepted the Republic because of the lack of any suitable alternative.[5]

Electoral system[edit]

An electoral law of May 1931 replaced the previous single-member constituencies with much larger multi-member ones. The Senate was abolished and so the government became unicameral. There would be one seat for every 50,000 people, with a separate seat for any city with more than 100,000 inhabitants.[6] Any electoral list gaining an outright majority of votes in a district would be guaranteed and simultaneously restricted to 80% of the seats. A list winning a plurality of votes but failing to win a majority would receive two thirds of the seats. The remainder would be passed to the second list if it received 20% of the vote. Voters were entitled to vote for as many or as few districts as they liked.[6] The system favoured multi-party coalitions, which could thus win a majority of votes.[7]

Women were unable to vote in this election, but they could stand for and be elected to office. They achieved the vote in the Constitution of December 1931 and were able to vote for the first time in 1933, before those in France and some other countries.[8]


The Liberal Republican Right (DLR) was led by Alcalá Zamora and Miguel Maura. Uniquely, it identified as Catholic and did the most to appeal to monarchists and those on the right. However, despite putting up 116 candidates across Spain, it led a poor campaign, which was poorly organised.[9]

Led by Alejandro Lerroux, the Radical Republican Party occupied most of the middle ground and was far more successful at winning conservative, moderate support. Such conservatism was at odds with most republicans, who believed greater reforms were necessary to bring about stability. That was the case with the Radical Socialist Party, led by Álvaro de Albornoz and Marcelino Domingo, which promulgated extremist views. "There is nothing to be conserved", Albornoz argued.[9]

Manuel Azaña led the Republican Action Party. Azaña was keen to change the political system quickly – he hated the moderation and compromise being argued by Lerroux.[9]

The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party stood to the left of the political spectrum, and was kept in line with the coalition by a majority of its leadership, rather than unanimously. A legal revolution was necessary, argued a key figure, Largo Caballero. However, extremists inside and outside of the party loomed as potential competition, and the party's line was thus that the coalition was only a stepping stone to a fully-socialist state.[9]

The official instructions were that civil authorities were not to interfere with the vote; but in some areas ad hoc republican patrols were set up, which undoubtedly deterred some conservatives from voting. Some members of councils stood; some provincial governors did the same, but not it their own area of governance.[10] The Republican-Socialist coalition dominated the campaigning; the right, still reeling at the loss of the monarchy, remained disorganised. Only in one area did the right manage to collectivise sufficiently: the Basque Country.[7] Many members of the right switched to republicans, despite having little in common with them: one group in Asturias went under the contradictory name the "Monarchist-Republican Party".[7]


The Republic and Socialist coalition won a huge victory and was helped by a public that was more liberally inclined than in 1933 or 1936. The lowest turnout, 56%, was in Ceuta; the highest, 88%, in Palencia. Broadly speaking, turnout was higher in the north than in the south. Overall, turnout was around 70% which was considered high.[11] The Socialists won around 2,000,000 votes; Republicans 1,700,000, Radical Socialists 1,350,000 and the Liberal Republican Right 950,000.[11][nb 1]


Summary of the 28 June 1931 election results:[12]

Electoral alliance % vote Seats won
Combined Socialist–Republican Coalition+ 34.28% 193
PSOE and the Leftist Coalition+ 14.56% 80
Catalan Leftists[nb 2] 9.64% 42
Galician Republican Party (Partido Republicano Gallego) and allies+ 3.73% 24
Spanish Radical Republican Socialist Party (Partido Republicano Radical Socialista Español)+ 3.53% 13
Democratic Federal Republican Party (Partido Republicano Democrático Federal) and Federalist independents 1.06% 7
Communist Party 0.77%
Socialist Revolution Party (Partido Social Revolucionario) 0.57% 1
Extreme Federal Left Party 0.30% 2
Radical Republican Party (Partido Republicano Radical) and allies+[nb 3] 10.59% 42
Liberal Republican Right (Derecha Liberal Republicana) and allies+ 4.39% 8
Liberal Democratic Republican Party (Partido Republicano Liberal Demócrata) and Supporters of the Republic 1.05% 4
Gallician Independents 0.78% 5
Other Republican Independents 0.74% 2
Republican Party of the Center (Partido Republicano de Centro)[nb 4] 0.56% 2
Republican Action (Acción Republicana)+ 0.47%
Republican Catalan Party (Partido Catalanista Republicà)+ 0.31% 1
Agrarian Party 3.41% 17
Catholic-Fuerista Coalition 3.59% 15
National Action (Acción Nacional) 2.34% 7
Regionalist League (Lliga Regionalista)+ 1.97% 3
Independent Catholics of the Right 0.72%
Monarchist Independent 0.17% 1
Monarchist League (Unión Monárquica) 0.10% 1
Basque Nationalist Action (Acción Nacionalista Vasca) 0.08%
Other Socialists 0.29%
Coalitions marked + also formed part of the Combined Socialist–Republican Coalition in some seats.
Totals: 100.00% 470


Distribution of seats.

Party divisions at the start of the Cortes, after seats had been awarded between coalitions:[12]

Affiliation Party Name in Spanish or Catalan Abbreviation Seats
Marxist and/or revolutionary Left
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party Partido Socialista Obrero Español PSOE 115
Socialist Union of Catalonia Unió Socialista de Catalunya USC 4
Revolutionary Antifascist Left Izquierda Revolucionaria Antifascista IRA
Extreme Federal Left Extrema Izquierda Federal EIF 2
Leftist Federal independents 2
Workers and Peasants' Bloc[nb 5] Bloc Obrer i Camperol/Bloque Obrero y Campesino IRA
Communist Party of Spain Partido Comunista de España PCE
Republican Left
Radical Socialist Republican Party Partido Republicano Radical Socialista PRSS 61
Republican Action[nb 6] Acción Republicana AR 26
Democratic Federal Republican Party Partido Republicano Democrático Federal PRD Fed. 16
The Association of Service to the Republic Agrupación al Servicio de la República ASR 13
Radical Socialist Catalan Left[nb 7] Esquerra Catalana Radical Socialista ECRS 2
Republican Independents 6
Nationalist Left
Republican Left of Catalonia Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya ERC 29
Federation of Galician Republicans[nb 8] Federación Republicana Gallega FRG 15
Nationalist Republican Party Partido Nazonalista Repubricán PNzR 1
Republicans of the Centre and of the Right
Radical Republican Party Partido Republicano Radical PRR 90
Liberal Republican Right Derecha Liberal Republicana DLR 25
Liberal Democrat Republican Party Partido Republicano Liberal Demócrata PRLD 4
Centre Republican Party Partido Republicano de Centro PRCe 2
Supporters of the Republic Apoyo a la República AAR 2
Provincial Republican Association Agrupación Republicana Provincial ARP 2
Independents of the Centre 4
Regionalists and Nationalists of the Centre and of the Right
Basque Nationalist Party[nb 9] Partido Nacionalista Vasco PNV 7
Galician Independents[nb 10] 5
Catalan League Lliga Catalana LR 2
Catalan Republican Party[nb 11] Partit Catalanista Republicà PCR 2
Agrarian Republican Autonomy Party Partido Agrario Republicano Autonomista PARA 1
Independents (pro-Statute of Estella) 3
Parties of the Right
Agrarian Independents 15
National Action[nb 12] Acción Nacional AN 5
Monarchist parties of the Right
Traditionalist Communion[nb 13] Comunión Tradicionalista (Carlista) CT 4
Agrarian Catholics Católico Agrarios CA 3
Monarchist Union Unión Monárquica CT 1
Traditional Catholic Party[nb 14] Partido Católico Tradicionalista PCT 1
Liberal Monarchists Monárquico Liberal ML 1
Total: 470



  1. ^ Payne notes the difficulty in separating votes between parties because of the wide range of coalitions and other problems.
  2. ^ Included the ERC, ECRS and the Radical Republican Party.
  3. ^ Included the PRR, DLR, and RS.
  4. ^ Only stood in the Balearic Islands.
  5. ^ Trotskyist Communists. Stood only in Madrid and Catalonia.
  6. ^ Stood only in coalition with other parties.
  7. ^ Linked to the PRRS
  8. ^ Included ORGA and the Galician Republican Party.
  9. ^ In coalition with the CT.
  10. ^ Formed the Galicianist Party in December 1931.
  11. ^ Formed in March 1931 from the Catalan Action (Acció Catalana) and Republican Catalan Action (Acció Republicana de Catalunya) parties.
  12. ^ Became part of CEDA in 1932.
  13. ^ In coalition with the PNV.
  14. ^ In coalition with the CT and PNV.


  1. ^ a b Preston (2006). p. 36.
  2. ^ a b Preston (2006). p. 37.
  3. ^ Beevor (2006). p. 20.
  4. ^ Thomas (1961). p. 21.
  5. ^ Preston (2006). pp. 38–39.
  6. ^ a b Payne (1993). p. 47.
  7. ^ a b c Payne (1993). p. 48.
  8. ^ Beevor, Antony: THE BATTLE FOR SPAIN. page 30. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 2006.
  9. ^ a b c d Payne (1993). p. 49.
  10. ^ Payne (1993). pp. 47–48.
  11. ^ a b Payne (1993). p. 50.
  12. ^ a b See both "Elecciones 28 junio 1931" (in Spanish). Retrieved 31 August 2011. and "Votos por coaliciones" (in Spanish). Retrieved 31 August 2011..