Spanish legislative election, 2008

Spanish general election, 2008
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2004 ←
9 March 2008
→ 2011
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width="" colspan = 4 style="text-align: center" | All 350 seats of 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
Turnout 73.8%
  First party Second party Third party
Leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Mariano Rajoy Gaspar Llamazares
Leader since 22 July 2000 2 September 2003 29 October 2000
Leader's seat Madrid Madrid Barcelona
Last election 164 seats, 42.6% 148 seats, 37.7% 5 seats, 5.0%
Seats won 169 154 2
Seat change Increase5 Increase6 Decrease3
Popular vote 11,289,335 10,278,010 969,946
Percentage 43.9% 39.9% 3.0%
Swing Increase1.3% Increase2.2% Decrease1.2%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida Josu Erkoreka Rosa Díez
Leader since 2004 2004 26 September 2007
Last election 10 seats, 3.2% 7 seats, 1.6% New party
Seats won 10 6 1
Seat change Steady0 Decrease1 Increase1
Popular vote 779,425 306,128 306,079
Percentage 3.0% 1.2% 1.2%
Swing Decrease0.2% Decrease0.4% New party
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width="" colspan=4 style="text-align: center" | Most voted party in each province. Every province is a multi-member district for the Congress.
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Prime Minister before election

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

Elected Prime Minister

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

The 2008 Spanish general election was held on 9 March 2008 to elect the 9th Cortes Generales of the Kingdom of Spain. At stake were all 350 seats to the Congress of Deputies and 208 of 264 seats to the Senate.

Much like the previous election, this election returned a hung parliament with governing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) being the largest party, increasing their share of the vote but still short by seven seats of an overall majority in the Congress. The Socialist Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, declared victory on March 9, and the opposition People's Party conceded defeat.[1] The distance between both main parties remained essentially the same as in 2004, with a slight reduction in favour of the PP. Zapatero was elected Prime Minister for a second term, after which he proceeded to form a minority government.

This election is notable for several reasons: it was the second of only two times in Spanish history that a political party won more than 11 million votes in a general election. The PSOE also won the most popular votes of any political party ever, breaking their own record in 2004. The sums of both PP and PSOE's popular votes, percentage shares and seats (almost 83.8%, over 21 million votes cast and 323 seats) accounted for the largest amount of popular support for the two main parties of Spain in a general election to date.

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

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 November 25, 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.[2] 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 now 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

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 September 10, 2007.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] Sources close to the People's Party denied such interpretations. Some newspapers even speculated about the possibiliy of internal conflicts between the supporters of each politician.[7] However, the appearance of both politicians at electoral events together stopped or at least reduced criticism.[8]

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.[9]

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).[10] On November 14, 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.[11]

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 seats, 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

Reallocation of seats

Four districts - Córdoba, A Coruña, Soria and Vizcaya - lost a seat in the Congress of Deputies due to net population loss in these constituencies. Then, another four - Alicante, Almería, Murcia and Toledo, all with population increases, gained a seat each.

If the 2004 general election had been fought under the new distribution of seats, the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) would have lost one seat in both La Coruña and Vizcaya, while the opposition People's Party (PP) would have had one seat fewer in Córdoba as well as in Soria. However, PSOE would have captured the additional seats in Alicante, Murcia and Toledo, whereas PP would have only won the newly added seat in Almería. In all, PSOE would have made a net gain of one seat, for a total of 165, while PP would have come down by one, to 147 seats.[12]


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.


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 it to the end of the month, With Rajoy it's Possible). IU accused PP of copying its slogan from the last municipal elections[13]


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:

  • A slowing down in the housing market, with prices even beginning to fall in some areas.
  • Sharp increases in prices of some basic commodities.
  • Global instability as a result of market uncertainty.
  • A rise in unemployment.

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.[14] In addition to those factors both the PP and the PSOE made competing proposals on taxation.

Opinion polls

Main article: Opinion polling for the Spanish general election, 2008


Some regions were of particular significance: on the one hand, Catalonia and the Basque Country were instrumental to the PSOE victory, as most of its new seats came from them. The abstention of nationalist voters was cited as being of particular importance, but the gains of the governing party in traditionally nationalist areas cannot be entirely attributed to this factor. PSOE's biggest increases in vote share came in the three Basque provinces, where the election had been overshadowed by the killing of Isaías Carrasco, a local PSOE councillor, by ETA. Galicia also continued its long term shift to the left. Orense was the only district where the PSOE gained a seat directly from the PP, while in Lugo the PSOE vote continued its long term increase. PSOE also polled well in Melilla where they came close to winning the seat.

On the other hand, in Madrid, where the two candidates for the office of President of the Government headed their respective lists, the PSOE suffered a significant setback: while in the last election they had come extremely close to winning (finishing less than one point behind) and had managed to deprive the PP of its majority, the main opposition party has now scored 49.34% with a 10-point lead over the PSOE and recovered the majority of seats in the region, whilst both the PSOE and IU lost one seat each. Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), the new party under the leadership of Rosa Díez, captured the remaining seat, entering Parliament for the first time. Many traditional PSOE strongholds either fell to the PP, like Móstoles, or saw PSOE support fall sharply, like Parla where a previous record 36-point margin was reduced to a 15% lead. The PP's best results came on the Mediterranean coast south of Catalonia. Their highest vote share in a single constituency came in Murcia, with more than 60% of the popular vote. Murcia also registered the worst result in vote share terms for the PSOE, resulting in a large gap between the two main parties. The main opposition party also did well in the Valencian Community and in Almería. As in previous elections, the party struggled in regions where Nationalist parties have historically been strong. However they regained their representation in Lleida, leaving Girona as the only electoral district without PP representation.

One seat in Barcelona was close between the PP and Convergence and Union, the PP won it by a margin of about 250 votes after the scrutiny of overseas votes.

Investiture voting

On April 9, Zapatero did not obtain the required absolute majority in the investiture voting. The 169 votes from his party (actually 168, as one PSOE deputy missed the voting) were not enough to re-elect him PM at the first try. The 154 PP deputies were joined by four others. One was Rosa María Díez González, the former socialist Euro MP who formed a new party based in the Basque country in opposition to Zapatero's willingness to cooperate with Basque nationalists. She complained of "the discrimination suffered by tens of thousands of families who are unable to educate their children in the Spanish language" because Basques learn in Basque at school, and she was booed in the congress for this. The three Republican Left of Catalonia deputies also voted No. They said that, while not shutting any doors, they wanted to show their disappointment that Zapatero seemed reluctant to decentralize further, and seemed to be too co-operative with the conservatives and the centre-right Catalan CiU, although they remained convinced that they could agree on the social democratic agenda. The rest of nationalist parties (CiU, PNV, CC, BNG, NaBai) and United Left abstained.

9 April 2008
Investiture voting for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE)

Absolute majority: 176/350

Vote Parties Votes
Yes PSOE (168) 168a
No PP (154), ERC (3), UPyD (1) 158
Abstentions CiU (10), EAJ-PNV (6), IU (2), BNG (2), CC-PNC (2),
Na-Bai (1)
a 1 PSOE deputy missed the voting.[15]

The voting was repeated two days later on 11 April.[16] Zapatero was re-elected Prime Minister by 169 to 158 with 23 abstentions. As in the first vote, only the PSOE deputies voted for his candidature.

11 April 2008
Investiture voting for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE)

Simple majority

Vote Parties Votes
YesY Yes PSOE (169) 169
No PP (154), ERC (3), UPyD (1) 158
Abstentions CiU (10), EAJ-PNV (6), IU (2), BNG (2), CC-PNC (2),
Na-Bai (1)


External links

  • Election Guide- Spain Profile
  • NSD: European Election Database - Spain publishes regional level election data; allows for comparisons of election results, 1993–2008
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