US embassy cable - 04MADRID613

THE SPANISH NATIONAL ELECTIONS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS)

Identifier: 04MADRID613
Wikileaks: View 04MADRID613 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Madrid
Created: 2004-02-23 12:07:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV PREL SP Popular Party PSOE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 000613 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, SP, Popular Party, PSOE - Socialist Party, Spanish Election March 2004 
SUBJECT: THE SPANISH NATIONAL ELECTIONS:  FREQUENTLY ASKED 
QUESTIONS (FAQS) 
 
1.  (U)  This cable aims at providing "at a glance" answers 
to questions we have received from Washington audiences about 
the upcoming Spanish national elections, including the 
complexities of Spain's parliamentary system and its regional 
aspects. 
 
2.  (U)  WHEN ARE THE NATIONAL ELECTIONS? 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
Sunday, March 14, 2004 
 
3.  (U)  WHAT'S AT STAKE IN THIS ELECTION? 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
-- All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies. 
 
-- All 208 elected seats in the Senate. (an additional 51 
seats are appointed by the regional governments (called 
Autonomous Communities)) 
 
-- President of the Government (Prime Minister). Not voted on 
directly, but selected by the Congress of Deputies. 
 
-- Separate elections for regional assembly and government in 
Andalucia. 
 
4.  (U)  HOW ARE SEATS ALLOCATED AND MEMBERS ELECTED TO THE 
CONGRESS OF DEPUTIES? 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
-- Each of the 50 provinces is entitled to a minimum of two 
seats = 100 seats 
 
-- The autonomous cities of Ceuta & Melilla receive one seat 
each = 2 seats 
 
-- The remainder of the 248 seats are allocated to the 50 
provinces in proportion to their populations (Ceuta and 
Melilla are excluded) 
 
-- Voters do not choose individual candidates, but rather 
vote for a party list.  The political parties assign 
candidates for each province list.  Those candidates  do not 
necessarily have to be residents of the province, as members 
of Congress serve the nation, not their constituency. 
Constituency issues are handled by the regional, provincial 
and local governments or in the Senate, which has the 
responsibility of managing the relations between the national 
government and the regions. 
 
-- The candidates on the list are ranked-ordered by the 
party, with the rank designating the preference in which 
candidates will receive any seats won by the party.  For 
example, if a party wins three seats in a province, the top 
three names on its list will take a seat in Congress. 
Parties strategically place those they wish to ensure are 
elected by placing them at the head of a list or in a 
province where they expect to win enough seats to reach the 
candidate. 
 
-- In order to participate in the allocation of seats, a 
party must win at least 3% of all valid votes cast (this 
includes blank ballets) in their respective provinces. 
 
-- From the votes cast, seats are assigned in each province 
by a proportional representation formula, called the D,Hondt 
Method. 
 
5.  (SBU)  DOES THE SYSTEM HAVE ANY BIASES? 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
The D'Hondt Method's proportional-representational formula 
tends to over-represent the party that wins the highest 
percent of the vote, and under-represents the smallest 
parties.  It also benefits parties who agree to unite and run 
a combined candidate list, providing more seats than if the 
parties agreed to coalition after the election. 
 
6.  (SBU)  HAVE THE TWO MAJOR LEFT-LEANING PARTIES CONSIDERED 
RUNNING TOGETHER THIS ELECTION TO DEFEAT THE RULING 
CONSERVATIVES? 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
No, the Socialists (PSOE) and the far-left party (Izquierda 
Unida) have not run combined lists since the reintroduction 
of democracy.  Socialists and "communists" uniting (which is 
still remembered as being the constituents of the Popular 
Front coalition of the mid-1930,s) would likely drive some 
voters away, negating any benefit of the union.  The 
Socialists and far leftists have had agreements and joint 
candidate lists in regional races in Catalonia and Mallorca. 
 
7.  (U)  HOW IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT (PRIME 
MINISTER) SELECTED? 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
-- Indirectly, by majority vote of the Congress of Deputies. 
 
-- Just as political parties select the closed-list of 
candidates for Congress, the parties also select their 
candidates for President.  These are in practice designated 
before the election, but in theory, a party could put forward 
a different candidate after the election. 
-- The Presidential candidates run for a position in the 
Congress at the top of the party list in a given province ) 
usually Madrid. 
-- The political party which wins the largest number of seats 
will be invited by the King to form a government. 
 
-- The candidate for President of the Government (PM) then 
presents his program (similar to party platforms in the US, 
giving the candidate,s proposals for social, economic and 
foreign policy, etc.) to the Congress.  After this 
presentation, the Congress votes to approve the candidate, 
who must be approved by an absolute majority* of the 
Congress.  If this does not happen, the candidate can return 
to the Congress (approximately one week later) and win the 
Presidency with a simple majority*. 
 
-- After the installation of a new government, the party can 
designate one or more Vice Presidents, but the position of 
Vice President in Spain does not necessarily go to the 
party,s next most influential member(s). 
 
Note 
*Absolute majority means a majority representing more than 
half the number voting (In the case of the Congress of 
Deputies, 176 votes of the total 350).  Simple majority means 
the greatest number of votes. 
 
8.  (U)  HAVE THE TWO MAJOR PARTIES EVER HAD TO SHARE POWER? 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
No. Since the reintroduction of democracy in 1977, one of the 
major parties has always been able to either win an absolute 
majority or coalition with smaller parties to win a majority 
and select their President. 
 
9.  (U)  IS THERE A CONTROLLED CAMPAIGN TIME? 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
Official campaigning begins two weeks before the actual 
elections.  All canvassing for votes must cease one day 
before the actual election day, and no campaigning is 
permitted either on the last day ("day of reflection") or on 
election day. 
 
10.  (U)  WHO ARE THE MAIN PARTIES  IN THE ELECTORAL RACE? 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
The two main parties are: 
PP ) Popular Party; Leader:  Mariano Rajoy 
PSOE ) Spanish Socialist Worker,s Party; Leader:  Jose Luis 
Rodriguez Zapatero 
 
Others include: 
CiU ) Convergence and Union (Moderate Catalan Nationalists); 
Leader:  Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida 
IU ) United Left; Leader:  Gaspar Llamazares 
PNV ) Basque Nationalist Party; Leader:  Josu Jon Imaz 
CC ) Canarian Coalition; Leader:  Paulino Rivero 
BNG ) Galician Nationalist Bloc; Leader:  Anxo Quintana 
AP ) Andalusian Party; Leader:  Antonio Ortega 
ERC ) Catalonia,s Republican Left; Leader:  Josep-Lluis 
Carod-Rovira 
 
11.  (SBU)  HOW DO THE TWO MAIN PARTIES COMPARE ON POLICY? 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
The ruling Popular Party (PP), led by Mariano Rajoy, has 
pledged to continue the PP,s commitment to a strong 
transatlantic alliance, supporting a Spanish military role in 
Iraq peacekeeping efforts and maintaining close ties with the 
United States in the War on Terrorism.  The PP also promises 
to keep the strong economy on track and to preserve the 
integrity of the Spanish state from growing nationalist 
pressures in Catalonia and the Basque Country. 
 
The Spanish Socialist Worker,s Party (PSOE), led by Jose 
Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has agreed to maintain the Spanish 
presence in Iraq until the end of the current commitment 
(June 30), but advocates the withdrawal of Spanish forces 
after that date unless the UN is in control of peacekeeping. 
While the PSOE states a desire for a constructive 
transatlantic alliance with the US, it stresses the primacy 
of Spain,s relationship with the European Union.  The PSOE 
pledges to maintain full Spanish cooperation in the War on 
Terrorism.  The PSOE also proposes to increase social 
programs without raising taxes. 
 
12.  (U)  WHAT IS THE POPULATION OF SPAIN IN RELATION TO THE 
NUMBER OF ELIGIBILE PARTIES? 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
Population:  42,717,064 
Number of eligible voters**:  34,403,965 
 
Note 
**Voters do not need to be registered to vote in Spain.  The 
only requirements are that the voter be over 18 years of age, 
listed on the census, and a Spanish citizen.  Permanent 
residents and some other non-citizens are allowed to vote in 
municipal elections, but not in national or regional 
elections. 
 
13.  (U)  HOW ARE MEMBERS ELECTED TO THE SPANISH SENATE? 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
-- There are 208 directly elected seats: 
           - Each of the 47 peninsular provinces is assigned 
4 seats = 188 seats 
     - The larger Balears and Canarias (3 islands) are 
assigned 3 seats each = 9 seats 
     - The smaller islands (seven) are assigned one seat each 
= 7 seats 
     - Ceuta & Melilla are assigned two seats each = 4 seats 
 
-- The legislative assemblies of the regional governments 
(Autonomous Communities) are also assigned one seat each and 
one seat for every million inhabitants.  These positions are 
appointed by the regional government assemblies and are not 
involved in the electoral process. 
 
-- Voters select specific candidates for the Senate, as it 
uses an "open" list of candidates.  Voters have three votes 
for the four seats allocated to the province, and can cast 
all three for a single candidate or split their votes as they 
choose among different parties. 
 
-- The Senate in the Spanish system is by far the weaker of 
the two houses. 
 
14.  (SBU)  WHAT'S THE LIKELY OUTCOME IN THE REGIONAL 
ELECTIONS IN ANDALUCIA? 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
Andalucia has been a PSOE stronghold, and polls indicate that 
they are close to an absolute majority and should be able to 
form a government in coalition with smaller parties. 
MANZANARES 

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