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Spanish legislative election, 2004
Legislative elections were held in Spain on March 14, 2004. At stake were all 350 seats in the lower house of the Cortes Generales, the Congress of Deputies, and 208 seats in upper house, the Senate. The governing People's Party (PP) was led into the campaign by Mariano Rajoy, successor to outgoing Prime Minister José María Aznar. In a result which defied most predictions, the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, won a plurality of seats in Congress of Deputies, and was able to form a government with the support of minor parties. The socialists received more votes than expected probably as a result of the government's handling of the 11 March 2004 Madrid attacks. During the days following the attacks, the national government initiated efforts to convince citizens and the media that ETA was to blame for the attacks, when evidence pointed to the possibility that an Islamic extremist group was behind the massacre. If the latter were the case, the attack could have been perceived by the electorate to be a consequence of the Spanish government's support of the invasion of Iraq and the provision of Spanish troops to participate in that conflict.
The day after the election, Zapatero announced his intention to form a minority PSOE government, without a coalition, saying in a radio interview: "the implicit mandate of the people is for us to form a minority government negotiating accords on each issue with other parliamentary groups". Two minor left-wing parties, Republican Left of Catalonia and United Left, immediately announced their intention to support Zapatero's government.
In the Congress of Deputies, the PP vote fell by 6.9 percent, and the party lost 39 seats. The PSOE vote rose by 8.5 percent, bringing a gain of 35 seats. On the left, the United Left (a coalition led by the Communist Party of Spain), lost four of its nine seats, but the leftwing Catalan party Republican Left of Catalonia gained seven seats. The conservative Catalan nationalist party, Convergence and Unity, which in the recent past has been allied with the PP, lost five of its 15 seats.
The PSOE's victory was celebrated in the street outside the party's headquarters in Calle Ferraz with shouts of "No war!" and "How happy we are, to live without Aznar", but also "Zapatero, don't fail us!". Consistent with the PSOE's long-standing opposition to the Iraq war, Rodríguez Zapatero had promised during the election campaign to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq by June. Zapatero withdrew the troops shortly after taking office, a decision he justified on his belief that the United Nations was not likely to assume responsibility for Iraq after the U.S.-led occupation formally ended at the end of June, which was his criterion for allowing troops to stay.
A feature of the result was the increased representation for the Republican Left of Catalonia, a minor left-wing party which has formed a coalition government with the PSOE in Catalonia. The Republican Left's leader, Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira, had recently held meetings with the Basque separatist group ETA in France, a revelation which had forced his exit from the recently formed Catalan regional government and had become a campaign issue in the general election.
Congress of Deputies
|(2000) -- Spanish general election, 2004 -- (2008)|
|Socialist Party (PSOE)||10,909,687||+3,080,477||42.64||+8.48||164||+39|
|People's Party (PP)||9,630,512||-599,833||37.64||-6.88||148||-35|
|United Left (IU)||1,269,532||+15,673||4.96||-1.00||5||-4|
|Convergence and Unity (CiU)||829,046||-135,944||3.22||-0.95||10||-5|
|Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)||649,999||+456,370||2.54||+1.70||8||+7|
|Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV)||417,154||+55,338||1.63||+0.10||7||0|
|Canary Islands Coalition (CC)||221,034||-22,455||0.86||-0.21||3||-1|
|Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG)||205,613||-97,113||0.80||-0.52||2||-1|
|Andalusian Party (PA)||181,261||-24,472||0.71||-0.18||0||-1|
|Aragonese Union (CHA)||93,865||+18,631||0.37||+0.04||1||0|
|Basque Solidarity (EA)||80,613||-19,957||0.32||-0.11||1||0|
|Navarre Yes (NB)||60,645||new||0.24||new||1||new|
Source: Spanish Interior Ministry
In the Senate the PP won 102 seats to the PSOE's 81, a better result than in the lower house. Even so, this was a 28-seat gain for the PSOE and a 25-seat loss for the PP. In Catalonia, a combined Socialist-Republican left ticket won 12 Senate seats, and the Basque Nationalists won six.
Senate seats by Autonomous Community and Constituency
|Andalucía||Total (32)||PP (8)||PSOE (24)|
|Aragón||Total (12)||PP (4)||PSOE (8)|
|Asturias||Total (4)||PP (3)||PSOE (1)|
|Canarias||Total (11)||PP (3)||PSOE (5)||-||-||-||CC (3)|
|Cantabria||Total (4)||PP (3)||PSOE (1)|
|Castilla-La Mancha||Total (22)||PP (12)||PSOE (8)|
|Castilla y León||Total (36)||PP (25)||PSOE (11)|
|Ceuta||Total (2)||PP (2)||-|
|Extremadura||Total (8)||PP (2)||PSOE (6)|
|Galicia||Total (16)||PP (12)||PSOE (4)|
|Illes Balears||Total (5)||PP (4)||PSOE (1)|
|La Rioja||Total (3)||PP (3)||PSOE (1)|
|Madrid||Total (4)||PP (3)||PSOE (1)|
|Murcia||Total (4)||PP (3)||PSOE (1)|
|Navarra||Total (4)||PP (3)||PSOE (1)|
|País Vasco||Total (12)||PP 1||PSOE 5||-||EAJ-PNV 6|
|Valencia||Total||PP 9||PSOE 3|
|National Total||(208)||PP (102)||PSOE (81)||PSC-ERC (12)||EAJ-PNV (6)||CiU (4)||CC (3)|
The PSOE and its Catalan affiliate the PSC-ERC thus has 93 seats to the PP's 102. The rest of the nationalist parties, Catalan CiU, Basque EAJ-PNV, and Canary Islands CC are all conservative parties. Even if the six Basque Nationalists (EAJ-PNV), which are strongly at odds with the PP, vote with the left, the PP will still outvote them. The PSOE will thus need to gain the support of the Catalan and Canary Islands regionalists, the CiU and CC, to carry legislation in the Senate. Both parties have supported PSOE and PP governments in 1990-2000, when the largest party did not enjoy an absolute majority in the Congress.
It is possible that voters swung to the PSOE in the vote for the Congress of Deputies, which determines the government, but stuck with the PP in the voting for the Senate, thus placing a brake on a future socialist government. However, a swing in votes that fails to change who leads in a district has a larger effect in the Congress, with large numbers of seats per constituency allocated proportionally, that in the Senate, where constituencies elect up to four representatives and voters cast votes for up to three people (usually all from the same party).
This was the eighth general election since the restoration of democratic government in 1978, or the ninth if the elections to a constitutional assembly in 1977 are included. Each of Spain's autonomous communities elects a number of deputies and senators in rough proportion to its population. The smaller autonomous communities (such as La Rioja) form a single electoral district (a circumscription). The larger autonomous communities (such as Catalonia) are divided into several circumscriptions.
All 350 deputies are elected on party lists, by roughly proportional representation in each electoral district. The method used to allocate the seats is the D'Hondt method, which favours larger parties over smaller ones, and concentrated minorities over scattered ones.
In the Senate, each of Spain's 50 provinces (except in the Canary and Balearic Islands) elects four Senators regardless of population. This results in under-representation for the large urban circumscriptions of Madrid and Barcelona, and over-representation for the conservative provinces of Castille and Galicia. Further, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands elect additional senators (since circumscriptions consist of the island governnments rather than the provinces), and the small autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish enclaves on the coast of Morocco) elect two Senators each. The islands and the enclaves are PP strongholds. The net effect of this system is to advantage the PP at the expense of the PSOE in the Senate. In the senate elections, voters can cast votes for up to three different people. Voters tend to cast all their votes for members of the same party, with the result that most provinces allocate 3 senators to the party with the strongest support, and 1 senator to the second party.
The Congress of Deputies, which will convene on April 2, must appoint the prime minister (by recommending an appointment to the king) within two months of convening. Each of the candidates, starting with the candidate of the largest party, comes before the Congress for two investiture votes, the first by majority and the second by plurality. Typically, the leader of the largest bloc becomes Prime Minister of Spain, unless a coalition of different parties has a majority of seats.
At the 2000 general election, the People's Party won 183 seats, the Socialists won 125, the Catalan nationalist party Convergence and Unity won 15 and the United Left (a coalition around the Communist Party) won 8. Minor parties won the remaining 19 seats.
- Spanish Interior Ministry elections website
- People's Party
- Spanish Socialist Workers' Party
- Convergence and Unity
- Republican Left of Catalonia
- United Left
- Basque Nationalist Party
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