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Senate of Spain

IX Legislature
Coat of arms or logo
Founded 1837 (discontinued 1923-1977)
First Vice President
Second Vice President
Yolanda Vicente (PSOE)
Majority leader
Minority leader
Seats 266
Political groups

Government (162)

  •      PP (162)

Opposition (105)

Meeting place
Palacio del Senado
Centro, Madrid
Kingdom of Spain

The Senate (Spanish: Senado) is the upper house of Spain's parliament, the Cortes Generales. It is made up of 266 members: 208 elected by popular vote, and 58 appointed by the regional legislatures. All senators serve four-year terms, though regional legislatures may recall their appointees at any time.

The last election was held on 20 November 2011. The composition of the 10th Senate, which cannot serve beyond 2015, is:

Political party/group Elected Appointed Total
   People's Party 133 29 162
   Spanish Socialist Workers' Party 48 16 64
   Convergence and Union 9 4 13
   Entesa Catalana de Progrés (PSC, ICV, EUiA) 7 3 10
   Basque Nationalist Party 4 1 5
   Others - Mixed Group 7 5 12
Total 208 58 266


  • History 1
  • Organization 2
  • Elections to the Senate 3
    • Directly elected members 3.1
    • Regional legislatures-appointed members 3.2
  • Role 4
  • Presidents of the Spanish Senate 5
  • Notes 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The Spanish senate was instituted by the constitution of 1837 under the regency of Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies. It remained under the regimes of the constitutions of 1845, 1856, 1869 and 1876. It was composed, at that latter time, of three main categories: senators by their own right, senators for life and senators elected. This chamber was suppressed after the coup of General Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1923.

Only after the Spanish transition to democracy in 1978 was it re-instituted.


Senators form groups along party lines. Parties with fewer than ten senators form the Mixed Group. If the membership of an existing group falls below six during a session, it is merged into the Mixed Group at the next session. For example, Coalición Canaria lost its senate caucus in 2008 after electoral losses reduced its group from six to two. The Basque Nationalist Party, falling from seven to four, "borrowed" senators from the ruling Socialist Party to form their group; in exchange, they supported the election of socialist Javier Rojo as President of the Senate. The PNV group is again under threshold after returning the borrowed Socialists, and it faces dissolution after the current session.

Legally, 133 seats are required for an absolute majority, vacant seats notwithstanding.

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Elections to the Senate

To date, senate elections have coincided with elections to the lower house, but the President of the Government (i.e., the Prime Minister) may legally advise the king to call elections for one chamber only, under article 115 of the Spanish Constitution. While the Congress of Deputies is chosen by party list proportional representation, the members of the senate are chosen in two distinct ways: popular election by partial block voting and appointment from regional legislatures.

Directly elected members

Most members of the senate (currently 208 of 264) are directly elected by the people. Each province elects four senators without regard to population. Insular provinces are treated specially. The larger islands of the Balearics (Baleares) and Canaries (Canarias) – Majorca, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife – are assigned three seats each, and the smaller islands - Minorca, Ibiza-Formentera, Fuerteventura, Gomera, Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma – one each; Ceuta and Melilla are assigned two seats each. This allocation is heavily weighted in favor of small provinces; Madrid, with roughly 6 million people, and Soria, with 100,000 inhabitants, are each represented by four senators.

In non-insular constituencies, each party nominates three candidates. Candidates' names are organized in columns by party on a large (DIN A3 or larger) ochre-colored ballot called a sábana or bedsheet.

Each voter may mark up to three candidates' names, from any party. This is the only occasion when Spanish voters vote for individuals rather than a party list. Panachage is allowed, but typically voters cast all three votes for candidates of a single party. As a result, the four Senators are usually the three candidates from the most popular party and the first placed candidate from the next most popular.

Before 2011, a party couldn't choose the order of its candidates on the ballot paper; candidates were sorted alphabetically by surname. When a party didn't got all three of its candidates elected, this arrangement favored candidates with surnames early in the alphabet. This was the case for 2nd placed parties in every province and for both parties in tight races when voters didn't vote for three candidates of the same party (panachage).

Regional legislatures-appointed members

Article 69.5 of the Spanish Constitution empowers the legislative assembly of each autonomous community of Spain to appoint a senate delegation from its own ranks, with one Senator per one million citizens, rounded up. Demographic growth increased the combined size of the regional delegations from 51 to 56 in 2008 for the 9th term.

Conventionally, the proportions of the regional delegations mimic their legislative assemblies, as required in principle by Article 69.5 of the constitution. However, Autonomous Communities have considerable leeway, and a motion to appoint the delegation often requires no more than a plurality. Two anomalous examples are:

  • After the 2007 election, the single senator from the Balearic Islands was from neither the largest bloc (the People's Party, with 28 of 59 seats), nor the second-largest (the PSOE, with 16), but in fact from the fourth-largest bloc, the Socialist Party of Majorca, which held only four of 59 seats. This arrangement was part of a five-party coalition agreement. This anomaly was resolved in 2008, when the Balearic Islands gained a second senate seat which was filled by the PP.
  • Since 2003, the PSOE has ruled Aragon with support from regionalist parties. In the 2007 election, it won 30 of 67 seats. Nevertheless, Aragon's two appointed senators came from the opposition People's Party (23 seats) and the regionalist Aragonese Party (9 seats).

Due to population growth, Andalusia, the Balearic and Canary Islands, Catalonia, and Madrid each gained a new senator in 2008. Andalusia was the last Autonomous Community to allocate its new seat; it rebuilt its entire delegation after its 2008 regional elections. The current distribution is:

The candidates sheet for Madrid with 3 votes cast
Autonomous Community Population (2011) Senators Senator/pop.-ratio Distribution
Andalusia 8,059,461 9 895,496                         


Aragón 1,296,655 2 648,328          
Asturias 1,074,862 2 537,431          
Balearic Islands 1,030,650 2 515,325          
Canary Islands 2,025,951 3 675,317               
Cantabria 572,824 1 572,824     
Castilla - La Mancha 2,000,000+ 3 666,667 (roughly)               
Castilla y León 2,528,417 3 842,806               
Catalonia 7,210,508 8 901,314                    


Valencian Community 5,000,000+ 6 833,333 (roughly)                              
Extremadura 1,089,990 2 544,970          
Galicia 2,772,533 3 924,178               
Madrid 6,081,689 7 868,812                         


Murcia 1,392,117 2 696,059          
Navarre 605,876 1 605,876     
Basque Country 2,141,860 3 713,953               
La Rioja 308,968 1 308,968     
Total 45.200.737 58 779.323 Source: [2]



The Spanish parliamentary system is bicameral but asymmetric. The Congress of Deputies has more independent functions, and it can also override most senate measures. Only the congress can grant or revoke confidence to a prime minister. In the ordinary lawmaking process, either house may be the initiator, and the senate can amend hostilely or veto, the proposal then being sent back to the lower house, which can override these objections by an absolute majority vote. Organic laws, which govern basic civil rights and regional devolutions, need an absolute majority of both congress and senate to pass.

The process for constitutional amendments is slightly more tangled: the rule is to require a three fifths (60%) of both houses, but if the senate does not achieve such a supermajority and a mixed congress-senate committee fails to resolve the issues, the congress may force the amendment through with a two-thirds vote as long as an absolute majority of the senate was in favour.

On the other hand, the senate has certain exclusive functions in the appointment of constitutional posts, such as judges of the Constitutional Court or the members of the General Council of the Judicial Power. Although it has never exercised this authority, the senate is solely responsible for disciplining regional presidents (article 155 of the Spanish Constitution). Only the senate can suspend local governments. (Local Regime Framework Act article 61.[1]) It exercised this power in April 2006, dissolving the Marbella city council when most of its members were found to have engaged in corrupt practices.

Senate reform has been a topic of discussion since the early days of Spanish democracy. One proposal would advance the federalization of Spain by remaking the senate to represent the autonomous communities of Spain.

Presidents of the Spanish Senate

Term President From To Constituency Political party
Antonio Fontán Pérez July 13, 1977 January 2, 1979 Seville UCD
Cecilio Valverde Mazuelas April 27, 1979 August 31, 1982 Córdoba
José Federico de Carvajal Pérez November 18, 1982 April 23, 1986 Madrid PSOE
July 15, 1986 September 2, 1989
Juan José Laborda Martín November 21, 1989 April 12, 1993 Burgos
June 29, 1993 January 9, 1996
Juan Ignacio Barrero Valverde March 27, 1996 February 8, 1999 Badajoz PP
Esperanza Aguirre Gil de Biedma February 8, 1999 January 18, 2000 Madrid
April 5, 2000 October 21, 2002
Juan José Lucas Giménez October 22, 2002 January 20, 2004 Castille and León (appointed)
Francisco Javier Rojo García April 2, 2004 January 15, 2008 Álava PSE-EE
April 1, 2008 December 13, 2011
Pío García-Escudero Márquez December 13, 2011 term expires in 2015 Madrid PP


See also


  1. ^ (Spanish)Spanish Official Gazette: Local Regime Framework Act (Law 7/1985)

External links

  • Official website (Spanish)

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