Spanish general election, 2004

Spanish general election, 2004
14 March 2004

All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies and 208 (of 259) seats in the Senate
176 seats needed for a majority in the Congress of Deputies
Opinion polls
Registered 34,571,831 Increase1.8%
Turnout 26,155,436 (75.7%)
Increase7.0 pp
  First party Second party Third party
Leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Mariano Rajoy Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida
Leader since 22 July 2000 2 September 2003 2004
Leader's seat Madrid Madrid Barcelona
Last election 125 seats, 34.2%[lower-alpha 1] 183 seats, 44.5% 15 seats, 4.2%
Seats won 164 148 10
Seat change Increase39 Decrease35 Decrease5
Popular vote 11,026,163 9,763,144 835,471
Percentage 42.6% 37.7% 3.2%
Swing Increase8.4 pp Decrease6.8 pp Decrease1.0 pp

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira Josu Erkoreka Gaspar Llamazares
Leader since 2004 2004 29 October 2000
Leader's seat Barcelona Biscay Madrid
Last election 1 seat, 0.8% 7 seats, 1.5% 9 seats, 6.0%[lower-alpha 2]
Seats won 8 7 5
Seat change Increase7 ±0 Decrease4
Popular vote 652,196 420,980 1,284,081
Percentage 2.5% 1.6% 5.0%
Swing Increase1.7 pp Increase0.1 pp Decrease1.0 pp

Most voted party by autonomous community and province.

Prime Minister before election

José María Aznar

Elected Prime Minister

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

The 2004 Spanish general election was held on Sunday, 14 March 2004, to elect the 8th Cortes Generales of the Kingdom of Spain. All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies were up for election, as well as 208 of 259 seats in the Senate.

For the first time since the Spanish transition to democracy, none of the three main party leaders had previously led a general election campaign. The governing People's Party (PP) was led into the campaign by Mariano Rajoy, after outgoing Prime Minister José María Aznar had announced his intention not to seek a third term in office. The opposition Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) was led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, while Gaspar Llamazares stood as United Left (IU) candidate.

The electoral outcome was heavily influenced by the aftermath of the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings. For the remaining days before the election, the PP government kept claiming evidence that the terrorist organization ETA was responsible for the bombings. However, it soon became evident that the bombings had not been authored according to ETA's modus operandi, and new evidence pointed out to an Islamist attack with possible links to al-Qaeda. The government was accused of hiding information so as to prevent linking the attack to Islamist groups, as it would have been seen by the Spanish public as a consequence of the PP government taking Spain into the unpopular Iraq War, weakening its chances to being re-elected in the incoming election. Large demonstrations were held across Spain and protests were organized in front of several PP party headquarters the day previous to the election.

In the event, the election result took many by surprise. The PP had been shown to lead all opinion polls conducted before March 11, although its lead over the PSOE had started to narrow as the campaign advanced. The PP government's handling of the 11-M bombings is thought to have accelerated this trend and to have caused a last-minute voter mobilization in favour of the PSOE as a form of protest against the PP. The Socialists ended up leading with an unexpected 5-point margin and a record 11 million votes, the most votes garnered by any party in a Spanish political election up until that date (and only surpassed by PSOE's result of 2008).

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 (ERC) and IU, immediately announced their intention to support Zapatero's government. On April 16, 2004, Zapatero got the approval of the outright majority of the new Congress, with 183 out of 350 members voting for him, and became the Prime Minister of Spain the next day.[1]


Electoral system

The Spanish legislature, the Cortes Generales (Spanish for General Courts), was composed of two chambers at the time of the 2004 election:

This bicameral system was regarded as asymmetric, as while legislative initiative belonged to both chambers—as well as to the Government—the Congress had greater legislative power than the Senate, and it could override most of the Senate initiatives by an absolute majority of votes. Furthermore, only Congress had the ability to grant or revoke confidence from a Prime Minister. Nonetheless, the Senate possessed a few exclusive, yet limited in number functions which were not subject to the Congress' override.[2]

Settled customary practice had been to dissolve and hold elections for both chambers at the same time, thus triggering a "general" election. Article 115 of the Spanish Constitution allowed, however, for each chamber to be elected separately. The electoral system in Spain was on the basis of universal suffrage in a secret ballot.

Congress of Deputies

For the Congress of Deputies, 348 members were elected in 50 multi-member districts using the D'Hondt method and closed-list proportional representation for four-year terms. In addition, Ceuta and Melilla elected one member each using plurality voting. Each district was entitled to an initial minimum of two seats, with the remaining 248 seats being allocated among the 50 provinces in proportion to their populations. Only lists polling above 3% of the total vote in each district (which included blank ballots—for none of the above) were entitled to enter the seat distribution. However, in most districts there was a higher effective threshold at the constituency level, depending on the district magnitude.[3]

For the 2004 election, seats were distributed as follows:

Seat distribution for the 2004 election[4]
Seats Districts
35 × 1 = 35 Madrid(+1)
31 × 1 = 31 Barcelona
16 × 1 = 16 Valencia
12 × 1 = 12 Seville(–1)
11 × 1 = 11 Alicante
10 × 1 = 10 Málaga
9 × 4 = 36 A Coruña, Biscay, Cádiz and Murcia
8 × 3 = 24 Asturias(–1), Balearic Islands(+1) and Las Palmas(+1)
7 × 5 = 35 Córdoba, Granada, Pontevedra(–1), Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Zaragoza
6 × 5 = 30 Badajoz, Girona(+1), Gipuzkoa, Jaén, Tarragona
5 × 9 = 45 Almería, Cantabria, Castellón, Ciudad Real, Huelva, León, Navarre, Toledo and Valladolid
4 × 9 = 36 Álava, Albacete, Burgos, Cáceres(–1), Lleida, Lugo, Ourense, La Rioja and Salamanca
3 × 9 = 27 Ávila, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Huesca, Palencia, Segovia, Soria, Teruel and Zamora
1 × 2 = 2 Ceuta and Melilla
= 350 Total seats

For the Senate, each of the 47 peninsular districts (the provinces) was assigned four seats. For the insular provinces, the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, districts were the islands themselves, with the larger—Mallorca, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife—being assigned three seats each, and the smaller—Menorca, Ibiza-Formentera, Fuerteventura, Gomera, Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma—one each. Ceuta and Melilla were assigned two seats each, for a total of 208 directly elected seats. The system used was that of limited voting. In districts electing four seats, electors could vote for up to three candidates; in those with two or three seats, for up to two candidates; and for one candidate in single-member constituencies. Electors voted for individual candidates; those attaining the largest number of votes in each district were elected for four-year terms.

In addition, the legislative assemblies of the autonomous communities were entitled to appoint at least one senator each, and one senator for every million inhabitants, adding a variable number of appointed seats to the 208 directly elected senators.[5] This appointment usually did not take place at the same time as the general election, but after the autonomous communities held their respective elections.


Dual membership of both chambers of the Cortes or of the Cortes and regional assemblies was prohibited, meaning that candidates had to resign from regional assemblies if elected. Active judges, magistrates, ombudsmen, serving military personnel, active police officers and members of constitutional and electoral tribunals were also ineligible,[6] as well as CEOs or equivalent leaders of state monopolies and public bodies, such as the Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.[7] Additionally, under the Political Parties Law, June 2002, parties and individual candidates could be prevented from standing by the Spanish Supreme Court if they were judicially perceived to discriminate against people on the basis of ideology, religion, beliefs, nationality, race, gender or sexual orientation, foment or organise violence as a means of achieving political objectives or support or compliment the actions of "terrorist organisations".[8]

Parties and coalitions of different parties which had registered with the Electoral Commission could present lists of candidates. Groups of electors which had not registered with the Commission could also present lists, provided that they obtained the signatures of 1% of registered electors in a particular district.[7]

Opinion polling


Congress of Deputies

Summary of the 14 March 2004 Congress of Deputies election results
Party Popular vote Seats
Votes % ±pp Won +/−
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)[lower-alpha 1] 11,026,163 42.59 +8.42 164 +39
People's Party (PP) 9,763,144 37.71 –6.81 148 –35
United Left (IU)[lower-alpha 2] 1,284,081 4.96 –1.01 5 –4
Convergence and Union (CiU) 835,471 3.23 –0.96 10 –5
Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) 652,196 2.52 +1.68 8 +7
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) 420,980 1.63 +0.10 7 ±0
Canarian Coalition (CC) 235,221 0.91 –0.16 3 –1
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 208,688 0.81 –0.51 2 –1
Andalusian Party (PA) 181,868 0.70 –0.19 0 –1
Aragonese Union (CHA) 94,252 0.36 +0.03 1 ±0
Basque Solidarity (EA) 80,905 0.31 –0.12 1 ±0
Yes to Navarre (NaBai) 61,045 0.24 New 1 +1
Valencian Nationalist Bloc–Green Left (BNV–EV) 40,759 0.16 –0.09 0 ±0
Nationalist Agreement (PSM–EN,EU,EV,ER) 40,289 0.16 +0.06 0 ±0
Citizens for Blank Votes (CenB) 40,208 0.16 New 0 ±0
AralarStanding (Aralar–Zutik) 38,560 0.15 New 0 ±0
The Greens Ecopacifists (LVE) 37,499 0.14 +0.04 0 ±0
Aragonese Party (PAR) 36,540 0.14 –0.03 0 ±0
Democratic and Social Centre (CDS) 34,101 0.13 +0.03 0 ±0
The Greens–The Ecologist Alternative (EV–AE) 30,528 0.12 New 0 ±0
Blank ballots 407,795 1.58 ±0.00
Total 25,891,299 100.00 350 ±0
Valid votes 25,891,299 98.99 –0.33
Invalid votes 264,137 1.01 +0.33
Votes cast / turnout 26,155,436 75.66 +6.95
Abstentions 8,416,395 24.34 –6.95
Registered voters 34,571,831
Source: Ministry of the Interior
  1. 1 2 Spanish Socialist Workers' Party results are compared to the combined totals of the PSOE and CREx–PREx in the 2000 election.
  2. 1 2 United Left results are compared to the combined totals of IU, IC–V and SIEx in the 2000 election.
Vote share
Blank ballots
Parliamentary seats


Summary of the 14 March 2004 Senate of Spain election results
Party Seats
Won +/− Not up Total seats
People's Party (PP) 102 –25 24 126
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 81 +28 15 96
United Left (IU) 0 ±0 2 2
Catalan Agreement of Progress (PSCERCICV–EUiA)[lower-alpha 1] 12 +4 4 16
Convergence and Union (CiU) 4 –4 2 6
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) 6 ±0 1 7
Canarian Coalition (CC) 3 –2 1 4
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 0 ±0 1 1
Aragonese Party (PAR) 0 ±0 1 1
Party of Independents from Lanzarote (PIL) 0 –1 0
Total 208 ±0 51 259
  1. Alliance of PSC (8 elected seats), ERC (3 elected seats) and ICV–EUiA (1 elected seat).
Parliamentary seats



First round: 16 April 2004
Absolute majority (176/350) required
Candidate: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Choice Vote
Parties Votes
YesYes PSOE (164), ERC (8), IUICV (5), CC (3), BNG (2), CHA (1)
183 / 350
No PP (148)
148 / 350
Abstentions CiU (10), PNV (7), EA (1), NaBai (1)
19 / 350
Source: Historia Electoral


Further reading

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