Elections in Spain

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Elections in Spain encompass four different types: general elections, regional elections, local elections, and elections to the European Parliament. General elections and regional elections are typically conducted at the conclusion of the national or regional legislative mandate, which usually spans four years since the previous election. However, early elections can be called in certain circumstances. On the other hand, local council elections (including municipal and insular elections) and elections to the European Parliament follow fixed dates, although some local government bodies, such as provincial councils, are not directly elected. In most elections, a party-list proportional representation (PR) system is employed, while the Senate utilizes the plurality system.

General elections[edit]

Evolution of Spanish vote for Congress of Deputies from 1975 to 2019.

General elections are elections held for the national legislature, which is called in Spain Cortes Generales (Spanish for "General Courts") and consists of two chambers, the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. The Congress and Senate usually serve concurrent terms that run for a maximum of four years. However, the Prime Minister has the prerogative to dissolve both Houses at any given time either jointly or separately.

Congress of Deputies[edit]

The Congress is made out of 350 members directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a four-year term of office. Each one of Spain's fifty provinces is a constituency entitled to an initial minimum of two seats; the cities of Ceuta and Melilla elect one member each. The remaining 248 seats are allocated among the fifty provinces in proportion to their populations. Parties, federations, coalitions and agrupaciones de electores (electors' groups) may present candidates or lists of candidates. The lists are closed, so electors may not choose individual candidates in, or alter the order of, such lists. Electors cast a ballot for a single list, or for a single candidate in Ceuta and Melilla.

The seats in each constituency are apportioned according to the largest average method of proportional representation (PR), conceived by the Belgian mathematician Victor d'Hondt in 1899 (d'Hondt method). However, in order to participate in the allocation of seats, a list must receive at least three percent of all valid votes cast in the constituency, including blank ballots. The single-member seats in Ceuta and Melilla are filled by the plurality or first-past-the-post method, under which the candidate obtaining the largest number of votes in the constituency is elected.[1]

Seat allocation in Congress

To illustrate the functioning of the system, the allocation of seats in the three provinces of the Self-Governing or Autonomous Community of Aragón - Huesca, Teruel and Zaragoza - for the June 1993 general election is presented here in detail. At the time, Zaragoza province had seven seats in Congress, while both Huesca and Teruel had three.[2]

In Zaragoza province, only four tickets, namely the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), the Popular Party (PP), the Aragonese Party (PAR) and the United Left (IU) won at least three percent of the valid votes cast in the election - including blank ballots - and were thus entitled to participate in the allocation of constituency seats. The tickets were sorted by number of votes from top to bottom, and the votes polled by each of these were then divided by 1, 2, 3, and so on until the number of seats to be allocated was reached, as detailed below:

1 174,061 172,753 108,690 60,074
2 87,030 86,376 54,345 30,037
3 58,020 57,584 36,230 20,024
4 43,515 43,188 27,172 15,018
5 34,812 34,550 21,738 12,014
6 29,010 28,792 18,115 10,012
7 24,865 24,679 15,527 8,582
Seats 3 2 1 1

Seats were then awarded to the tickets obtaining the largest quotients or averages (shown in bold). As indicated, the PSOE won three seats, the PP two, the PAR one and IU one. The seats won by each ticket were awarded to the candidates included therein, according to their ranking on the lists: therefore, the first three candidates on the PSOE list were elected to Congress, as were the first two candidates on the PP list and the candidates at the top of the PAR and IU lists, respectively.

Meanwhile, the results of the election in Huesca province were as follows:

1 50,720 43,059 23,784 9,756
2 25,360 21,529 11,892 4,878
3 16,906 14,353 7,928 3,252
Seats 2 1 0 0

The effective representation threshold in Huesca was 25,360 votes, or 19.0% of the valid vote.

Finally, the outcome of the election in Teruel was the following:

1 36,327 34,293 12,070 3,990
2 18,163 17,146 6,035 1,995
3 12,109 11,431 4,023 1,330
Seats 2 1 0 0

The effective representation threshold in Teruel was 18,163 votes, or 20.2% of the valid vote.

Having concluded the allocation of Congress seats in the three Aragón constituencies, the following peculiarities stand out:

  1. The effective representation threshold in each province was substantially larger than the three percent barrier set forth by law: in all three constituencies, the seat apportionment would have been the same regardless of the statutory threshold.
  2. The number of votes required to attain a seat in Zaragoza province - the largest of three constituencies - was substantially higher than the amount required to that end in Huesca or in Teruel.
  3. The proportional allocation of seats in each constituency appeared to favor the major parties in general and specifically the majority party.


The system for electing the Senate was first used in 1979, though with regard to the provinces the system is unchanged since 1977. Senators are elected directly from the provinces and indirectly from the autonomous communities; currently, there are 264 senators, 208 directly elected and 56 indirectly elected.

In the provinces, a majoritarian partial block voting system is used. All peninsular provinces elect four senators each; the insular provinces (Balearic and Canary Islands) elect one or three senators per island, and Ceuta and Melilla elect two senators each. Parties nominate three candidates; each voter has three votes (fewer in those constituencies electing fewer senators) and votes for candidates by name, the only instance of personal voting in Spanish national elections. The usual outcome is three senators for the party with the most votes, and one senator for the runner-up, except in very close races.

The autonomous communities receive one senator, plus one for each million inhabitants. They are entitled to determine how they choose their senators but are generally elected by the legislature of the respective community in proportion to its party composition.

Election results 1977–2023[edit]

Summary of Spanish elections for the Congress of Deputies, 1977–2023
Election UCD[a] PSOE PP[b] IU[c] CDC[d] PNV ERC[e] BNG[f] EHB[g] CDS[h] CC[i] UPyD Cs Com. Pod.[j] Vox MP Sumar
1977 34.4 29.3 8.3 9.3 2.8 1.7 0.8 0.1 0.2
1979 34.8 30.4 6.1 10.8 1.7 1.6 0.7 0.3 1.0
1982 6.8 48.1 26.4 4.0 3.7 1.9 0.7 0.2 1.0 2.9
1986 Dissolved 44.1 26.0 4.6 5.0 1.5 0.4 0.1 1.1 9.2 0.3
1989 39.6 25.8 9.1 5.0 1.2 0.4 0.2 1.1 7.9 0.3
1993 38.8 34.8 9.6 4.9 1.2 0.8 0.5 0.9 1.8 0.9
1996 37.6 38.8 10.5 4.6 1.3 0.7 0.9 0.7 0.2 0.9
2000 34.2 44.5 5.4 4.2 1.5 0.8 1.3 Boycotted 0.1 1.1
2004 42.6 37.7 5.0 3.2 1.6 2.5 0.8 Banned 0.1 0.9
2008 43.9 39.9 3.8 3.0 1.2 1.2 0.8 0.0 0.7 1.2 0.2
2011 28.8 44.6 6.9 4.2 1.3 1.1 0.8 1.4 Dissolved 0.6 4.7 did not run 0.5
2015 22.0 28.7 3.7 2.2 1.2 2.4 0.3 0.9 0.3 0.6 13.9 [k] 20.7 0.2
2016 22.6 33.0 [k] 2.0 1.2 2.6 0.2 0.8 0.3 0.2 13.1 [k] 21.2 0.2
Apr. 2019 28.7 16.7 [l] 1.9 1.5 3.9 0.4 1.0 0.5 did not run 15.9 0.7 14.3 10.3
Nov. 2019 28.0 20.8 [l] 2.2 1.6 3.6 0.5 1.2 0.5 [m] 6.8 [n] 12.9 15.1 2.4
2023 31.7 33.1 [o] 1.6 1.1 1.9 0.6 1.4 0.5 Dissolved did not run [o] [o] 12.4 [o] 12.3

Regional elections[edit]

Elections to the unicameral parliaments of the autonomous communities of Spain are held every four years. Most of the seventeen autonomous parliaments elections take place the same day, the fourth Sunday of May of the year before a leap year; the last election was held on 28 May 2023. Despite this, not all the regions celebrate elections at the same time due to the power of the regional presidents to call early elections if necessary.

Local elections[edit]

Elections in the municipalities take place in all the country in the same day as the regional elections, the fourth Sunday of May of the year before a leap year. Last time was 28 May 2023.

Elections to the European Parliament[edit]


Electoral procedures[edit]

The laws regulating the conduct and administration of elections are laid out in detail in the 1985 electoral law. (Ley Orgánica del Régimen Electoral General.[3]) Under this law, the elections are supervised by the Electoral Commission (Junta Electoral), a permanent body composed of eight Supreme Court judges and five political scientists or sociologists appointed by the Congress of Deputies. The Electoral commission is supported in its work by the Interior Ministry. On election day, polling stations are run by electoral boards which consist of groups of citizens selected by lottery.[4]

The format of the ballot paper is designed by the Spanish state, however, the law allows political parties to produce and distribute their own ballot papers, either by mailing them to voters or by other means such as street distribution, provided that they comply with the official model. The government then covers the cost of all printed ballot papers. These must then be marked by voters, either in the polling station or outside the polling station and placed inside sealed envelopes which are then placed inside ballot boxes in the polling station. Following the close of polls, the ballots are then counted in each individual polling station in the presence of representatives of the political parties and candidates. The ballots are then immediately destroyed, with the exception of those considered invalid or challenged by the candidates' representatives, which are retained for further scrutiny. The result is that full recounts are impossible.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "General Aspects of the Electoral System". Election Resources on the Internet. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  2. ^ "Allocation of Seats in Congress". Election Resources on the Internet. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  3. ^ "Law governing electoral procedures". Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  4. ^ "OSCE observers task force report on 2008 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe OSCE. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  5. ^ "OSCE observers task force report on 2004 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe, OSCE. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2008.


  1. ^ Dissolved in 1983.
  2. ^ AP 1977, CD 1979, AP–PDP 1982, CP 1986.
  3. ^ PCE 1977–1982.
  4. ^ PDC 1977, CiU 1979–2011, DiL 2015, JxCat–Junts 2019, Junts 2023.
  5. ^ EC–FED 1977, ERC–CatSí 2011–2016, ERC–Sobiranistes 2019.
  6. ^ BNPG 1977–1979, Galician Nationalist Bloc–Galician Socialist Party 1982, Nós 2015–2016.
  7. ^ ESB-PSV 1977, HB 1979–1996, EH 2000, Amaiur 2011, EH Bildu 2015–2019.
  8. ^ Merged into PP in 2006, dissenters founded CDL which was merged into Cs in 2014.
  9. ^ AIC 1986–1989, CC–PNC 2008–2019.
  10. ^ Unidos Podemos 2015–2016, Unidas Podemos 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Within Unidos Podemos.
  12. ^ a b Within Unidas Podemos.
  13. ^ Within Ciudadanos.
  14. ^ Within Más País.
  15. ^ a b c d Within Sumar.

External links[edit]