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Spanish Senate

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The Spanish Senate (Spanish: Senado) is the upper house of the Cortes Generales, Spain's legislative branch.

It has 259 members: 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 are appointed by the regional legislatures. All senators serve four-year terms. The King has the reserve power to appoint senators whose number don't exceed one fifth of the total (thus, He can appoint up to 52 senators)

The last election was held on 14 March 2004. The results were as follows (regional legislatures-appointed members are counted sepparately):


Missing image
Senate_ES_Composition.png
Start of the 8th term


PP PSOE ECP PNV CiU CC Other Total
Outgoing 127 + 24
151
53 + 14
67
8 + 4
12
6 + 1
7
8 + 2
10
5 + 1
6
1 + 5
6
208 + 51
259
Incoming 102 + 24
126
79 + 15
94
12 + 4
16
6 + 1
7
4 + 2
6
5 + 1
6
0 + 4
4
208 + 51
259
Change -25 +27 +4 0 -4 0 -2 0


(Absolute majority is 130 seats)


Elections to the Senate

In Spain, elections to the upper house are held at the same time than elections to the lower, but the method is completely different. While the Congress of Deputies uses the simple D'Hondt method to allocate seats in each constituency (whose number of seats is determined by its population), the Senate members are elected in 2 different ways:

Directly elected members

The majority of the members of the Senate (actually 208 out of 259) are directly elected by the people. Each province (except insular ones) forms a constituency and is granted 4 senators (population doesn't count here, so the province of Madrid, roughly 6 million people, is very underrepresented compared to Soria's 100.000 inhabitants). Insular provinces are treated specially, and each big isle (or group of little isles) is granted a number of senators between 1 and 3.

The candidates sheet for Madrid with 3 votes cast
Enlarge
The candidates sheet for Madrid with 3 votes cast

In the elections to the Senate (opposed to the elections to the Congress of Deputies), each party appoints 3 candidates (less in insular constituencies). Then, all candidates are printed (sorted by party) on a single (very big, usually DIN A3 or bigger) sheet of ochre (sepia) color, called a bedsheet (Spanish sábana). Within a party the names are sorted by surname. This has the silly but perverse effect that candidates with a surname earlier in the alphabetic order usually receive more votes than their later comrades.

Each voter can cast up to 3 votes (less in insular constituencies) by crossing the empty square at the left of the candidate selected from any party. If more than 3 votes are cast, all votes are null, but if less than 3 votes are cast, the remaining votes are counted as blank votes. This is the only case in Spanish democracy where voters appoint individuals instead of a party list. As part of their propaganda efforts, usually parties mail voters pre-marked sheets before the election. The 4 top candidates are elected as senators. Although they are not required to do so, voters usually cast all their three votes for candidates from the same party. As a result, usually 3 senators from the most popular party are appointed, and 1 senator for the second party; sometimes a 2-2 result is obtained.

Regional legislatures-appointed members

The legislatures of the autonomous communities can appoint senators from their own ranks. Each legislature can appoint up to population/1000000 (rounded) senators, that is, approximately 1 senator per million of people. Currently, regional legislatures appoint 51 senators, even though the Spanish population is 42 million, because of rounding issues (Madrid's population is 5.6 million, but it elects 6 senators).

Usually, the legislature-appointed members reflect the scaled composition of the regional legislatures, but there isn't a legal requirement.

Role

In practice, the Senate has a subordinate role to the Congress of Deputies: the high-interest political debates are held in the Congress, and the Government is only responsible to it. Since early in the Spanish democracy, there have been talks of reforming the Senate. One of the studied proposals is making the Senate a chamber representing the autonomous communities of Spain, thus advancing in the federalization of Spain.

External links

Official Senate web page (http://www.senado.es) (Spanish)es:Senado español

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