Spanish general election, 2008

Spanish general election, 2008
9 March 2008

All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies and 208 (of 264) seats in the Senate
176 seats needed for a majority in the Congress of Deputies
Opinion polls
Registered 35,073,179 Increase1.5%
Turnout 25,900,439 (73.8%)
Decrease1.9 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 164 seats, 42.6% 148 seats, 37.7% 10 seats, 3.2%
Seats won 169 154 10
Seat change Increase5 Increase6 ±0
Popular vote 11,289,335 10,278,010 779,425
Percentage 43.9% 39.9% 3.0%
Swing Increase1.3 pp Increase2.2 pp Decrease0.2 pp

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Josu Erkoreka Joan Ridao Gaspar Llamazares
Party EAJ/PNV esquerra IU
Leader since 2004 2007 29 October 2000
Leader's seat Biscay Barcelona Madrid
Last election 7 seats, 1.6% 8 seats, 2.5% 5 seats, 5.0%
Seats won 6 3 2
Seat change Decrease1 Decrease5 Decrease3
Popular vote 306,128 298,139 969,946
Percentage 1.2% 1.2% 3.8%
Swing Decrease0.4 pp Decrease1.3 pp Decrease1.2 pp

Most voted party by autonomous community and province.

Prime Minister before election

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

Elected Prime Minister

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

The 2008 Spanish general election was held on Sunday, 9 March 2008, to elect the 9th Cortes Generales of the Kingdom of Spain. All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies were up for election, as well as 208 of 264 seats in the Senate.

After four years of growing bipolarisation of Spanish politics, the election saw a record result for both ruling Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and opposition People's Party (PP), together obtaining more than 83% of the vote share—over 21 million votes—and 92% of the Congress seats. The PSOE under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero benefitted from tactical voting against the PP and emerged as the most-voted party just 7 seats short of an overall majority. On the other hand, Mariano Rajoy's PP saw an increate in its vote share and seat count but remained unable to overtake the Socialists.

United Left (IU) had its worst general election performance ever with less than 4% and 2 seats. Regional nationalist parties Convergence and Union (CiU), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) or Aragonese Union (CHA) were also hurt by the massive tactical voting towards the PSOE, falling to historical lows of popular support. Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), with 1 seat and slightly more than 300,000 votes, became the first nationwide party aside from PSOE, PP and IU entering in parliament in over two decades.

Zapatero was sworn in as Prime Minister of Spain for a second term in office in April 2008, just as the Spanish economy began showing signs of fatigue and economic slowdown after a decade of growth.


Electoral system

The Spanish legislature, the Cortes Generales (Spanish for General Courts), was composed of two chambers at the time of the 2008 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.[1]

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.[2]

For the 2008 election, seats were distributed as follows:

Seat distribution for the 2008 election[3]
Seats Districts
35 × 1 = 35 Madrid
31 × 1 = 31 Barcelona
16 × 1 = 16 Valencia
12 × 2 = 24 Alicante(+1) and Seville
10 × 2 = 20 Málaga and Murcia(+1)
9 × 1 = 9 Cádiz
8 × 5 = 40 A Coruña(–1), Asturias, Balearic Islands, Las Palmas and Biscay(–1)
7 × 4 = 28 Granada, Pontevedra, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Zaragoza
6 × 8 = 48 Almería(+1), Badajoz, Córdoba(–1), Girona, Gipuzkoa, Jaén, Tarragona and Toledo(+1)
5 × 7 = 35 Cantabria, Castellón, Ciudad Real, Huelva, León, Navarre and Valladolid
4 × 9 = 36 Álava, Albacete, Burgos, Cáceres, Lleida, Lugo, Ourense, La Rioja and Salamanca
3 × 8 = 24 Ávila, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Huesca, Palencia, Segovia, Teruel and Zamora
2 × 1 = 2 Soria(–1)
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.[4] 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,[5] as well as CEOs or equivalent leaders of state monopolies and public bodies, such as the Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.[6] 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".[7]

Following changes to the electoral law which took effect for the 2007 municipal elections, candidates' lists were required to be composed of at least 40% of candidates of either gender and each group of five candidates to contain at least two males and two females.[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.[6]

Candidates and coalitions

By tradition, the first candidate on each Madrid party list for the Congress of Deputies is the Prime Ministerial candidate for that party. Nationalist parties who did not expect to win enough seats to be contenders for the office of Prime Minister typically designated one of their list leaders as their main candidate. Those candidates were generally featured more prominently in the Spanish national media than other list leaders or candidates. Regional, provincial and local media nearly always covers the activities of the Prime Ministerial candidates, together with the leading candidates in their area.

Spanish Socialist Workers' Party

On 9 March 2008, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero won the general elections.

As in 2004, the governing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) was led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Mr Zapatero was the only PSOE candidate who sought the nomination and he was therefore proclaimed candidate on 25 November 2007 at a rally in Fuenlabrada, Madrid. The PSOE ran in all Spanish constituencies. In Catalonia, the Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC) operated as part of the PSOE's ticket.

The current Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega led the party's list in the province of Valencia. After the election, she continued as Deputy Prime Minister.

José Bono Martínez, former Minister of Defence and President of Castile-La Mancha for 21 years, led the list in Toledo. After the election, he was elected President (i.e., Speaker) of the Congress of Deputies.

After some discussion due to the need for ensuring the future support of the Prime Minister for his economic policy and his intentions to retire, the current Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, Pedro Solbes, was second on the Madrid list.[9] He continued as Minister of Economy after the election.

Other prominent politicians who led provincial lists for the Socialist Party included the current Minister of Culture, César Antonio Molina, in A Coruña, the current Home Minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, in Cádiz, the Minister of Public Works, Magdalena Álvarez, in Málaga, the former Minister of Housing (and later Minister of Defence) Carme Chacón, in Barcelona and the former Home Minister and current Socialist Parliamentary Group spokesman, José Antonio Alonso, in León.

There were relatively few disputes about the composition of the election lists, except for minor problems on the Balearic Island of Formentera and in the capital. In Madrid the selection of the remaining candidates on the list after the socialist leadership (Prime Minister Zapatero, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Solbes, and the electoral coordinator Jesús Caldera) was unclear, since the regional socialist federation had recently changed their leadership. Besides this, Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), an old federated socialist union, suggested presenting joint lists. The final decision by the PSOE leadership to include a deputy linked to UGT, Manuel de la Rocha, ended the discussion.

People's Party

PP President Mariano Rajoy (right) and Secretary-General Ángel Acebes addressed supporters outside the party headquarters on 13, Genova St. (Madrid) after the election.

The People's Party (PP) was led by Mariano Rajoy, former Deputy Prime Minister and successor to the former Prime Minister José María Aznar. He was nominated as candidate by the National Board of Directors of the party on 10 September 2007.[10] PP ran in all the constituencies with its sister party the Navarrese People's Union (UPN) acting as part of the PP ticket in Navarre.

Rajoy chose Manuel Pizarro as his candidate for Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance.[11] Pizarro is the former chairman of Endesa, where he was noted for his criticism of the economic policies of Zapatero's Government.

The People's Party suggested reducing taxes and raising the minimum threshold for Income Tax.

Some controversy took place when the Mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, sought a place on the Madrid list for the Congress, something which increased his rivalry with fellow Madrid PP rank Esperanza Aguirre (president of the Community of Madrid and leader of the party in this Autonomous Community). The subsequent People's Party leadership's refusal was considered by the press as a victory for Aguirre, preventing him from taking advantage in the succession of Rajoy in the eventuality of an electoral defeat.[12] Several left leaning media and political parties referred to this as a victory of the most radical, reactionary, sectors close to Aguirre over the so-called moderate way represented by Gallardón.[13] Sources close to the People's Party denied such interpretations. Some newspapers even speculated about the possibility of internal conflicts between the supporters of each politician.[14] However, the appearance of both politicians at electoral events together stopped or at least reduced criticism.[15]

With the People's Party defeat, there was some speculation over Rajoy's eventual resigning for future electoral contests. Then, at a meeting of his party's Executive Committee on 11 March, Rajoy dispelled doubts about his future by stating that he would stand again as party leader at a party congress in June.[16]

United Left

United Left (IU) is a coalition of several leftist movements. During the previous legislature, there had been internal fighting between the main component of the coalition, the Communist Party (PCE) and the faction headed by Llamazares. This led to a primary election between October and November 2007. This internal election was contested by Gaspar Llamazares, the then General Coordinator of United Left and Margarita Sanz, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Valencian Country - the Valencian federation of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE).[17] On 14 November Llamazares was declared the winner, beating his contender by a wide margin. After that, three members of the Communist Party, who were most critical, including the former leader of it, Felipe Alcaraz, were expelled from the Directive Committee.

IU ran in all constituencies; in many of them, they ran in coalition with other parties. In Catalonia, IU ran with Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds. Felipe Alcaraz, executive chairman of PCE, announced his intention not to seek nomination for Seville, another of the traditional PCE/IU seats and district where he had been deputy from 1993 to 2004, in the Andalusian Council of IU, after losing the provincial assembly, he was substituted by the former mayor of Carmona Sebastián Martín Recio who failed to gain a seat.[18]

The Assembly of EUPV (IU's federation in the Valencian Community) elected Antonio Montalbán as its leading candidate for Valencia, one of the traditional districts where IU or PCE have obtained deputies, against incumbent Isaura Navarro after heated debate on ideology matters and different stances regarding the convenience of keeping a coalition with another party, the Valencian Nationalist Bloc (BNV). The coalition with the BNV was finally discarded by the party Executive. This led to a schism within EUPV which saw incumbent EUPV MP Isaura Navarro, among others, defecting to a newly created party made up of critics with the direction of EUPV. The new party was named Iniciativa pel País Valencià (IpV) and ran in these elections in coalition with the BNV, the party which had been discarded by EUPV. Ultimately EUPV failed to hold their seat in Valencia (IpV-BLOC did not win any seat in this constituency either).

The outcome of these elections proved a hard blow for IU, which got its worst ever result, obtaining two (S) down from five at the Spanish Parliament, subsequently Llamazares resigned in the immediate aftermath of the elections.

Convergence and Union

In November 2007, Convergence and Union (CiU) designated their leader in Congress and leader of the Democratic Union of Catalonia Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida as main candidate. CiU only contested the four Catalan provinces.

Republican Left of Catalonia

In August 2007, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC in its Catalan acronym) designated their spokesman in the Catalan Parliament Joan Ridao i Martín as their leader for the elections. ERC ran in Catalonia and in the Valencian Community through its local branch ERPV. It also participated in an electoral coalition with other nationalist parties in the Balearic Islands constituency called Unitat per les Illes.

ERC was the party with the biggest loss in these elections, obtaining three MPs, down from their previous eight seats. These bad results opened an ongoing internal dispute over ideology and strategies.

Basque Nationalist Party

The Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) ran only in the three Basque provinces. Josu Erkoreka headed the ticket in Vizcaya, the most populous on the three provinces. In Navarre they were part of the Nafarroa Bai coalition.

Minor parties in Congress


Although the official electoral campaign period in Spain only lasts for the 15 days before the election, (with the exception of the day just before the election), many parties, especially the PP and PSOE, start their "pre-campaigns" months in advance, often before having finalised their electoral lists.


The first phase campaign was done under the slogan "Con Z de Zapatero" (With Z of Zapatero), a joke based on the Prime Minister and socialist candidate's habit of tending to pronounce words ending with D as if they ended with Z. The campaign was linked to terms like equality (Igualdad-Igualdaz) or solidarity (Solidaridad-Solidaridaz), emphasizing the policies carried out by the current government. The second phase was done under the slogan "La Mirada Positiva" (The Positive outlook), emphasising the future government platform, and "Vota con todas tus fuerzas" (Vote with all of your strength), aiming to mobilize the indecisive or potentially abstaining voters. Another common slogan through all the campaign was "Motivos para creer" (Reasons to believe in).


For the pre-campaign the PP used the slogan "Con Rajoy es Posible" (With Rajoy it's Possible). Usually emphasizing PP's campaign proposals, such as "Llegar a fin de mes, Con Rajoy es Posible" (Making ends meet, With Rajoy it's Possible). IU accused PP of copying its slogan from the last municipal elections[19]


IU chose the pre-campaign slogan "LlamazarES + Más Izquierda" (LlamazarES (is) More Left), calling attention to their position as the third national party.

Campaign issues

The economy

The economy became a major campaign issue due to a number of factors:

The sudden emergence of the economy as a political issue came after several years of steady economic growth, and led some observers to suggest that maybe the government would have benefitted from calling an earlier election.[20] In addition to those factors both the PP and the PSOE made competing proposals on taxation.

Opinion polling


Congress of Deputies

Summary of the 9 March 2008 Congress of Deputies election results
Party Popular vote Seats
Votes % ±pp Won +/−
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 11,289,335 43.87 +1.28 169 +5
People's Party (PP) 10,278,010 39.94 +2.23 154 +6
United Left (IU) 969,946 3.77 –1.19 2 –3
Convergence and Union (CiU) 779,425 3.03 –0.20 10 ±0
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) 306,128 1.19 –0.44 6 –1
Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) 306,079 1.19 New 1 +1
Republican Left of Catalonia (esquerra) 298,139 1.16 –1.36 3 –5
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 212,543 0.83 +0.02 2 ±0
Canarian CoalitionCanarian Nationalist Party (CC–PNC)[lower-alpha 1] 174,629 0.68 –0.25 2 –1
Andalusian Coalition (CA)[lower-alpha 2] 68,679 0.27 –0.52 0 ±0
Yes to Navarre (NaBai) 62,398 0.24 ±0.00 1 ±0
Basque Solidarity (EA) 50,371 0.20 –0.11 0 –1
Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (C's) 46,313 0.18 New 0 ±0
Anti-Bullfighting Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA) 44,795 0.17 New 0 ±0
The Greens (LV) 41,531 0.16 New 0 ±0
Aragonese Party (PAR) 40,054 0.16 +0.02 0 ±0
Aragonese Union (CHA) 38,202 0.15 –0.21 0 –1
New Canaries–Canarian Centre (NC–CCN) 38,024 0.15 New 0 ±0
The Greens–Green Group (LV–GV) 30,840 0.12 +0.07 0 ±0
Aralar (Aralar) 29,989 0.12 –0.03 0 ±0
Bloc–Initiative–Greens (BNV–IdPV–EV–EE) 29,760 0.12 –0.04 0 ±0
Unity for the Islands (UIB) 25,454 0.10 –0.06 0 ±0
Blank ballots 286,182 1.11 –0.47
Total 25,734,863 100.00 350 ±0
Valid votes 25,734,863 99.36 +0.37
Invalid votes 165,576 0.64 –0.37
Votes cast / turnout 25,900,439 73.85 –1.81
Abstentions 9,172,740 26.15 +1.81
Registered voters 35,073,179
Source: Ministry of the Interior
  1. CC–PNC results are compared to the combined totals of CC and PNC in the 2004 election.
  2. Andalusian Coalition results are compared to the combined totals of the PA and PSA in the 2004 election.
Vote share
Blank ballots
Parliamentary seats


Summary of the 9 March 2008 Senate of Spain election results
Party Seats
Won +/− Not up Total seats
People's Party (PP) 101 –1 23 124
Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) 88 +7 19 107
Catalan Agreement of Progress (PSCERCICV–EUiA)[lower-alpha 1] 12 ±0 4 16
Convergence and Union (CiU) 4 ±0 3 7
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ/PNV) 2 –4 2 4
Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) 0 ±0 1 1
Canarian Coalition–Canarian Nationalist Party (CC–PNC) 1 –2 1 2
Aragonese Party (PAR) 0 ±0 1 1
Socialist Party of Majorca (PSM) 0 ±0 1 1
Independents 0 ±0 1 1
Total 208 ±0 56 264
  1. Alliance of PSC (8 elected seats), ERC (3 elected seats) and ICV–EUiA (1 elected seat).
Parliamentary seats



First round: 9 April 2008
Absolute majority (176/350) required
Candidate: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Choice Vote
Parties Votes
Yes PSOE (168)
168 / 350
No PP (154), ERC (3), UPyD (1)
158 / 350
Abstentions CiU (10), PNV (6), IUICV (2), BNG (2), CC (2), NaBai (1)
23 / 350
Absences: PSOE (1)
Source: Historia Electoral
Second round: 11 April 2008
Simple majority required
Candidate: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Choice Vote
Parties Votes
YesYes PSOE (169)
169 / 350
No PP (154), ERC (3), UPyD (1)
158 / 350
Abstentions CiU (10), PNV (6), IUICV (2), BNG (2), CC (2), NaBai (1)
23 / 350
Source: Historia Electoral


  1. "Article 66 Summary". Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  2. "Effective threshold in electoral systems". Trinity College, Dublin. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  3. "Royal Decree 33/2008, of 14 January, of dissolution of the Congress of Deputies and Senate and of the calling of elections" (PDF). Boletín Oficial del Estado (in Spanish) (13): 2607–2608. 15 January 2008.
  4. "General Aspects of the Electoral System".
  5. "The Spanish Constitution of 1978".
  6. 1 2 "Law governing electoral procedures". Retrieved 2011-03-06.
  7. "Law regarding registration of political parties". Retrieved 2011-03-06.
  8. "OSCE observers task force report on 2008 Spanish election" (PDF). Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe OSCE. Retrieved 2011-03-06.
  9. "El Periodico de Cataluña- 26/11/2007- Solbes confirma su permanencia en el Gobierno si el PSOE gana las elecciones legislativas". 2010-06-14. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  10. (AFP) 10/09/2007. "Agence France Press". Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  11. (AFP) 15/01/2008 (2008-01-15). "AFP Manuel Pizarro podría ser ministro de Economía de Rajoy". Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  12. "Gallardón: ''He sido derrotado''". 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  13. "Post in the blog of Pepe Blanco, member of the direction of the Socialist Party". 2004-02-27. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  14. "''El PP de Vizcaya alerta de que la crisis de Gallardón puede "costar el Gobierno"''". 2008-01-17. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  16. El País, 12 March 2008
  17. Izquierda Unida Official Page
  18. (Spanish) Diario de Cordoba 4-12-2007 Felie Alcaraz renuncia a encabezar la lista de IU en Sevilla
  19. El PP copia el Lema de IU en su Ultima Campaña, Público, 23/11/2007
  20. "Zapatero's bear fight". The Economist. 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2010-06-18.

External links

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