Elections, 2004 to 2009


Spain is made up of municipalities and regions. Each of these has it's own elected assembly. At national level there is a two house system, with a Senate and Congress of Deputies. Together these are know as the Cortes, although often in conversation this might refer to the lower house. In the Constitution the Senate is made up of 2 representatives of each of the provinces, while the Congress is elected according to the relative population of the provinces. The regions, which were designated after the Constitution, but which are mostly based on historic entities, have no direct representation in Madrid, although this is a matter of reforming debate. In addition, representatives of Spain sit in the EU parliament.

As soon as the total number of representatives for a constituency is known (i.e. 9 councillors for a medium sized town, deputies for a province), each party tries to make up a list with that number of people - or more. Those would be elected if all voters voted the 'list' of that party. Then there could be a couple of extras as possible substitutes should anyone die or otherwise leave the council or parliament during the term of office. Proportional representation means that the final number of representatives for each party is approximately identical to the votes cast. In the 2007 municipal elections an exception was made for very small places, where a first-past-the-post system has come into effect.

Time comes round

Pray 4 Spain has been following elections now for most of 5 years. A full cycle of elections is to view on this page, as we now provide the results of the 2009 elections. For current related issues, please return to the News page.

2009 - Regions and Europe

On 7th June there was the European Parliament election. On 1st March there were also regional elections in the Basque Country and Galicia, two of the regions with most autonomy. One year on from the last general election, these elections have shown up the impact on public opinion of the recession and other internal and international events on the Zapatero / socialist government, now in its second term. In the European election the conservative Partido Popular won most seats and got more votes than in any previous European election. Party leader Mariano Rajoy claims the issue of values was fundamental, as the government currently has a new, freer abortion bill in parliament. The other major issue was the recession and it is clear that voters do not trust president Zapatero to lead them quickly out of the mess, being too keen on protecting privileged unionised workers.


For the European election, Spain has 50 seats, but it treats the whole country as one district, so minority parties actually have a greater chance of gaining seats than they would do in a first past the post system. Thus the conservative regionalist parties of Catalonia, the Basque Country and several other regions joined in a coalition to gain two seats, as did the left wing Izquierda Unida and a new party UPD, somewhere between the main parties, gained a seat, the last seat going to the Greens. But most voted for the two major parties, so PP (conservative) gets 23 seats and PSOE (socialist) gets 21.

BBC Europe-wide coverage

Gibraltar is considered part of SW England! -BBC comment. So the English MEP will have a good excuse to charge for holidays in the sun.

Galicia and the Basque Country

In Galicia, home of the national Partido Popular leader, Mariano Rajoy, the right wing again won a majority, after the Socialist PSOE and regionalist BNG parties ran the region for the past 4 years.
In the Basque Country, the right of centre regionalist PNV had been in power since the advent of democracy, but is now in the position of having won most seats, but has been unable to return to government as the 'constitutionalist' parties led by PSOE now have enough seats to rule. In the Basque Country politics has been dominated by the independence movement in which terrorist group ETA is most visible. Yet PNV also has aspirations to independence, or at least a very high level of autonomy. Against these aspirations, the 'pro-democracy' constitutionalist main-line Spanish parties have won a vote of no confidence in policies which have encouraged ETA to believe it is winning its war on Spain. Socialist Patxi Lopez has become Lehendakari from May.

See the comment on the results from the BBC.
The Economist comment

2008 General Election - again hit by terrorism

Seats in Congreso 2008 -bar graph
After an intense campaign, affected at the last moment by a terrorist killing, the Socialist party (PSOE) won the general election on 9th March. The opposition Partido Popular also gains seats (and votes). The minority parties failed miserably as a 2 party system was consolidated. However, neither the Congress nor the Senate see an overall majority. In the regional election in Andalusia, on the same day, there was an overall majority for the PSOE.

Election Pie 2008
At the end of the Franco dictatorship there were hundreds of little parties, which have gradually disappeared or merged into major coalitions, which in time became parties. Since the socialists have no overall majority, they will still need support of moderate Catalan Nationalist party CiU, or a combination of other tiny parties, to rule in both houses. This means they may not be able to push through so much -or so quickly- 'progressive' legislation as they otherwise might have liked. Both the new speaker, José Bono, and the president, Zapatero, needed 2 votes before being elected to their posts, since Zapatero was unable to convince the nationalists to vote in favour.

In the Senate, the Partido Popular are the majority party, with 101 seats, although adding the Catalan left wing coalition to PSOE brings it up to the same number of seats, so CiU again hold the key to stability, along with Basque PNV; in Andalusia, PSOE retain absolute majority, despite rise of PP.

On 7th March the campaign came to an abrupt halt 10 hours early, after ETA assasinated a former Socialist councillor, Isaias Carrasco, on the very last day of campaigning. Saturday is a day of reflection, but party leaders agreed to cancel their final rallies and -under intense security- attend the burial in the Basque Country. In the end, calls for people to continue to vote as if nothing had happened may have brought out more voters, but it is not believed that this time the result was affected by the killing.

Press results comment: BBC:

Mark Mardell's Blog
Main report

The Economist report

NY Times report

The Economist on Mariano Rajoy, opposition leader.


Municipal and Regional Elections

Not all regions have their own power to select election dates, yet. So these regions held elections coinciding with the 4-yearly municipal elections. In several cases, due to the introduction of new regional statutes with the incoming governments, this will be the last time this was the case.

With so many localities under scrutiny, it is hard to give an overall picture, but in some cases regional parliaments well outran their time allowance for the election of new governments. In other words, the political landscape was a dead heat between the various parties and tendencies.


Catalan regional elections, November 1st

Catalan Election result 2006 (El Mundo)
The regional election in Spain's most independent region, Catalonia, brought a phyric victory for the centre-right nationalist party Convergència i Unió. The party gained 2 more seats, but failed to return to government. The left wing nationalist ERC decided to join again with the left wing parties to revive the previous governing 'Tripartite', now renamed 'government of understanding'.

As a result, Socialist leader José Montilla was elected 128th president of the Generalitat and took over from president Maragall on 28th November. Montilla was born in a poor family in the southern region of Andalusia and, like many of the inhabitants his family was forced by hunger to move to the Barcelona suburbs during the 1960s. He got involved in politics during the last years of Franco, first with a Maoist group, later with the communists and finally in 1978 with the Socialists. He was for many years the mayor of Cornellá de Llobregat and for the past 2 years Minister of Commerce and Industry in Madrid.

CiU has won the largest number of seats in all 8 elections since the regional Generalitat was revived in 1980, but on several occasions needed the support of one of other minority parties to govern. Finally, in 2003 three left-wing parties, PSC, ERC and EU-els Verds joined up their combined majority of seats to form a left-wing 'catalanist' coalition. In May this year ERC finally had had enough and pulled out, leaving CiU to guarantee governability until an early election which has just taken place. The disagreement came over the final text of the new Catalan Estatut, the law governing the region. ERC had wanted Catalonia to be much more radically autonomous, but pragmatism had forced other parties to accept that the description of Catalonia as a nation shoud be watered down in the text approved in Madrid.

A strengthened Catalan Estatut, the region's local 'constitution' took effect on 9th August 2006. In its wake a number of other regions, such as Andalusia and the island archipelagos, also renegotiated their Statutes.

More about the approval process of the new Estatut
Background and the divisions in modern Spain
Catalan Government site, information about the Generalitat, with good historical background. Read the Estatut itself here.

Sources: El Mundo, TVE

The Catalan political parties

The differences in Catalonia mean that only one national party is clearly the same party here as in the rest of Spain, the Partido Popular. In addition, the Partit Socialista de Catalunya is fully aligned with the PSOE, now in national government in Madrid. The left wing coalition Iniciativa per Catalunya-Els Verds is allied with national Izquierda Unida, a coalition of left wing communists, ecologists and other minor parties.

In addition to these formations which are recognisable on the national political spectrum, there are two major regional parties. on the right wing, representing the Catalan shop keeper, is Convergencia i Unió, an alliance of two parties and holder of the presidency of the Generalitat since the first democratic regional elections in 1980. On the left wing is Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a party which has existed since the 2nd Republic (1930s) and boasted Josep Tarradellas, the president of the Generalitat in exile during the Franco era. Tarradellas returned to Catalonia as the recognised president, thus allowing the continuity of this institution into the Constitutional era.


Galicia, June 2005

Regional elections were held in Galicia on June 19th. As a result of a very close vote, despite the Partido Popular getting more votes and seats than any other party, the coalition of Socialists and Nationalists meant that a change in government was finally brought about.

Manuel Fraga, Spain's longest serving regional president and by far the longest serving politician, had hoped for yet another term in office as president of Galicia, Spain's most north-westerly region. Although polls suggested the Partido Popular would once again get the most votes, both voting and the combined seats of the Socialists and Galician Block (BNG) saw Fraga finaly into retirement - by one.

Founder of the Partido Popular, Fraga had already been involved in politics under the Franco dicatorship. He was born in Vilalba, Lugo, in 1922 to become one in a long line of famous sons of Galicia in Spanish politics. (Franco was also from Galicia, as is the current national PP leader, Mariano Rajoy.) He got his first post in 1951 as general secretary of the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica, rising to become 'Information Minister' in 1962. In the pre-transition government, between Franco's death and July 1976 he also did a term as Home (Interior) Minister. He became regional president in 1989.

Basque regional Elections, April 2005

The Basque regional Election campaign was run to the background of increasing success by Spanish and French police forces in arresting presumed ETA terrorists, together with the new and unrelated terrorist threat of Al Quaida and its influence in the 2004 general election, when there was a far greater than expected swing to the left wing Socialist Party. Euskal Herritarok, a party associated with ETA was banned and after several attempts to establish a new party, at the last moment one named PCTV/EHAK, was allowed to run, since none of the candidates could be identified as having any prior links with ETA or the various incarnations of the party HB/EH/SA which had been banned for its apology for terrorism.

Basque Election Results 2005
The result of the election was a political upset for almost every party. The conservative parties on both sides of the nationalist/ costitutionalist divide lost 4 seats each. The socialist party gained five and PCTV gained all the EH seats plus two more. The other seat went to minority party Aralar, an offshoot of EH, but dedicated to the peaceable, democratic achievement of its aims.

Above all, it is clear that with over 12% of the voters (8% of the total electorate) voting for a party which appears to sympathise with terrorism, the confrontational policies adopted by Madrid over the past years, particularly during the Partido Popular government, have proven counterproductive to a change in public opinion, however effective in -almost- putting an end to the immediate violence. 150,000 people are clearly in support of, or accept the use of violence as an appropriate way to achieve political aims.

General Elections, 2004

On March 14th a general election was held. In the wake of the 3/11 train bombings in Madrid, this was a major political upset.

The main parties contesting it were the Partido Popular (conservatives, previously in government) and the Socialist PSOE. The previous president (prime minister), José María Aznar, did not stand again and his replacement candidate was Mariano Rajoy. The socialist candidate and now president was José Luís Rodriguez Zapatero. In addition to these parties, the outcome was swayed by the seats obtained by minority parties, such as the left wing IU alliance or the regional parties of the larger and more independent-minded regions, particularly Catalonia and the Basque Country.

This election, even before the bombings, was one of the bitterest contests since the advent of democracy in the late 1980s.

Results from El Mundo

More concerning the effects of the bombings and the results of the elections

Europe '04

The last elections for the European Parliament were held in May, 2004, coinciding this time around with the integration of ten new nations in the European Union. The results can be seen in the News Archives.

The churches

The Spanish evangelicals have tended in the past to be drawn more to the PSOE than to the PP. Despite evangelicals in other parts of the world being regarded as amongst the most conservative, in Spain the conservatives represent a particularly hard line Catholicism and thus sympathise with limitations on the freedom of religion, or at least special privileges for the RC church. In addition, most evangelicals are not among the wealthiest who have benefitted most from the tax cuts which have kept the economy healthy through the recent years of recession in western lands. Thus, with one exception, they were mostly in favour of the PSOE positions on many policies until the 2004 elections. The exception, of course, is related to 'progressive' values, as the PSOE stands for relatively free abortion, is pro-homosexuals and so on. The new government has a major programme underway to rid the Spanish law books of anything which stinks -to them- of Catholicism and the Franco dictatorship. Pray as evangelical believers and churches now learn to live with the consequences of the 2004 elections and come to terms with the new government. Pray, also that evangelicals would get more involved in politics at all levels and thus begin to have more of a say in national political life

There are apparently about 800,000 members of the electorate in Spain who call themselves Protestants.

More about the government

Back to News