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Cablegate: The Spanish National Elections: Frequently Asked

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 PSOE
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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