Spanish regional elections

Elections were held today for assemblies in the Spanish regions of Galicia and Euskadi (Basque Country). The following is excerpted from Reuters:

With 98 percent of ballots counted in northwesterly Galicia, [national] Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s party was on course to cede control back to the conservative main opposition party, the Popular Party, after heading a government there for four years.

[…the] PP increased their representation to 39 seats from 37, just enough for a majority in the 75-seat house.

The Socialists, who had governed in coalition with Galician nationalists, slipped to 24 seats from 25.

The Basque picture is a bit more mixed:

With 99.9 percent of ballots tallied, the PNV [Basque Nationalist Party] had the biggest share of the vote, but Zapatero’s party appeared set to increase its share to 25 seats from the 18 it won in 2005.

With the PP set to get 13 seats, a majority coalition in the 75-seat regional Basque assembly between the two main national parties appeared to be a possibility, although they are likely to make uneasy bedfellows.

I do not know Basque politics at all, but the idea of a coalition between the two main national parties–the PP and the PSOE–seems unlikely. This result portends a minority PNV government to me. (Minority governments are routine in Spain; in fact, Zapatero heads one currently in Madird.)

10 thoughts on “Spanish regional elections

  1. Since the Basque results were published, I have been discussing with some of my colleagues about which is going to be the next government in the Basque Country. A cabinet headed by the PSOE and with PP members could look a bit strange. In addition, in a pre-electoral survey, only 4.6 percent of the Basque people wanted a coalition between PSOE & PP. By contrast, 20 percent of the surveyed considered a coalition between PNV and PSOE as the most desirable option. Moreover, Ibarretxe (PNV) was the most valued candidate in the same survey.
    Anyway, my prediction is that PSOE and PP are going to form a government. These two parties are very interested in finishing with 30 years of PNV’s government. Furthermore, people in the rest of Spain would prefer this option rather than a PNV’s minority government. Yesterday, the Socialist candidate, Patxi Lopez, made a speech announcing that he considered himself as legitimized for heading a new government.
    Last remark: As Matt points out, Rodriguez Zapatero (the Spanish PM) is heading a minority government in Madrid and needs some help from the rest of the parties to pass laws in the Spanish Parliament. If PSOE forms a government with PP in the Basque Country, things will worsen for Rodriguez Zapatero, who usually passes his laws with the help of the six national deputies of the PNV.


  2. Pedro, thanks for the comment. That is fascinating that there might actually be PP-PSOE cooperation in governing the Basque Country. Would this sort of arrangement be a first?

    Also, I want to ask about the name of the PM. I have always though he should be called, as you say, Rodriguez Zapatero. And if he is to be referred to by one ‘last’ name it should be Rodriguez. Yet most international press coverage says Zapatero. So, just how do Spaniards refer to him?


  3. Expanding upon Pedro’s comments, I should note that the Basque Socialists are very likely to gain an extra seat in Araba province – from the Basque Solidarity (EA) party – once absentee ballots are tallied this week. If that happens, PSE-EE/PSOE and PP would have an overall majority in the Basque Parliament; otherwise, they’d need the support from the small Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) party, which won one seat in the election – and that could be one tough pill to swallow for the Socialists, as UPyD is even more anti-nationalist than PP (albeit staunchly secularist, unlike PP).

    Incidentally, the Socialists may also gain an additional seat from PP in the Galician Parliament – leaving PP with a one-vote majority – provided the absentee vote goes their way in Ourense province, as it did in last year’s general election.

    My website now has sections on the autonomic elections and party politics of both the Basque Country and Galicia; I also wrote a guest posting on the JURIST blog’s Hotline about the banning of Basque radical nationalist parties ahead of the election, which includes a link to the poll Pedro refers to.

    Finally, I’ve observed that throughout the Spanish-speaking world, not just Spain the current Spanish prime minister is often referred to by his mother’s surname i.e. Zapatero, contrary to our usual practice of using the father’s last name, which goes first.


  4. Manuel is absolutely right about how absentee ballots could (slightly) change the picture in both regions.

    With regard to the PM’s name, you two are completely right. We refer to him most of the times as Zapatero instead of Rodriguez, his father’s family name. I guess that this is because Zapatero is a pretty unusual name compared to Rodriguez. An also common way to mention Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is by his initials (ZP).

    As far as I remember, this could be the first coalition government between PP and PSOE at the regional level. Obviously, this kind of arrangements have not been existed in the national level either. However, we have a “similar” situation in Navarra. Navarra is one of the 17 Spanish Autonomous Communities, and in 2007 regional elections the PP won the elections but fell short of the majority of seats. Since that year, a minority government headed by the PP is ruling. PSOE supports in, but is not in the government. The curious thing occurred in 2008, when the PP in Navarra split in two parts. The say non-national wing kept the regional government, while a group of former activists of the party in Navarra formed a new party loyal to the national direction of the party.


  5. Do all regional assemblies have apportionment rules favoring small provinces? In the Basque case (3 provinces each 25 seats) the smallest province is the least nationalist voting province, Alava: coincidence?


  6. Generally speaking, the allocation of regional assembly seats in multi-province communities is usually skewed in favor of the smaller provinces (or the smaller islands in the case of the Balearic and the Canary Islands, which use insular constituencies). That said, I think the Basque case – equal representation for all three provinces irrespective of population – is unique in Spain.

    However, Spain also has six single-province communities, of which four elect their assemblies on a community-wide basis, while the other two use between three and five multi-member constituencies.

    Thirteen of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities have held their elections simultaneously every four years since 1983, along with nationwide municipal elections; the most recent election was held back in 2007, and I wrote a brief overview of their electoral systems, available in English here (and in Spanish here).


  7. As I had previously commented here, the Basque Socialists (PSE-EE) have won the last seat in Araba province over Basque Solidarity (EA), following today’s absentee vote tally; further details are available on my blog, in English and Spanish.

    I had also noted before that the Socialists could gain an additional seat from PP in the Galician Parliament if the absentee vote in Ourense province (which will be tallied next Monday) favors them. However, I should clarify that the Galician Socialists need not win a majority of the expatriate vote over PP: they just need to have an overall ratio of more than five votes for every eight PP votes cast in the province.

    Right now the PSdeG-to-PP ratio stands at 4.98-to-8, which D’Hondt truncates to a 4-8 seat allocation, with the remaining two seats going to BNG, the Galician Nationalist Bloc (my website’s Galicia page now has detailed results of last Sunday’s vote). However, the Galician press has correctly pointed out that even if the province’s absentee votes were to be distributed in exactly the same manner as four years ago (PP: 10,928; PSdeG-PSOE: 8,359; BNG: 1,015), the last seat would switch from PP to the Socialists; in a nutshell, the PSdeG-to-PP vote ratio would change to 5-to-7.87, which D’Hondt would round down to 5-7.

    In case you’re wondering where the vote ratios come from, I’m dividing the party list votes by the last D’Hondt quotient used to allocate seats (in this case, the fourteenth), and then discarding any fractions to obtain the number of seats for each party; in fact, this procedure is one of three methods that can be used to allocate seats under the D’Hondt rule, as I’ve noted in my website’s Spain page.


  8. As previously anticipated, the Galician Socialists (PSdeG-PSOE) won the last seat in Ourense province from PP, following yesterday’s absentee vote tally; my blog has more details in both English and Spanish.

    If I’m not mistaken, the upcoming PP government would be the third in Galicia’s history to hold a one-vote majority in the autonomic legislature: PP also held 38 of 75 seats from 1989 to 1993, and the outgoing PSdeG-BNG coalition government was defending a 38-37 majority over PP – the exact opposite of the current situation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.