The Spanish Senate (Spanish: Senado de España) is the upper house of Spain's parliament, the Cortes Generales. It is made up of 264 members: 208 elected by popular vote, and 56 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 9 March 2008. The composition of the Ninth Senate, which cannot serve beyond 2012, is:
|Spanish Socialist Workers' Party||86||18||104|
|Entesa Catalana de Progrés||12||4||16|
|Convergencia i Unió||4||3||7|
|Basque Nationalist Party||2||2||4|
|Others - Mixed Group||4||4||8|
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 absolute majority, vacant seats notwithstanding. |align=left|
To date, Senate elections have coincided with elections to the lower house, but the President of the Government (ie, Prime Minister) may legally advise the King to call elections for one chamber only under article 115 of 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.
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 and sorted alphabetically by surname within 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. Typically voters cast all three votes for candidates of a single party. As a result, the four Senators are usually three candidates from the most popular party and one from the next most popular. or sometimes two each from the two most popular parties. When voters divide votes among parties, the alphabetical organization within parties favors surnames early in the alphabet.
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 motion to appoint the delegation often requires no more than a plurality. Two anomalous examples are:
Due to population growth, Andalusia, the Balearic and Canary Islands, Catalonia, and Madrid each gain 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:
|Autonomous Community||Population (2007)||Senators||Distribution|
|Castilla - La Mancha||1,977,304||2|
|Castilla y León||2,528,417||3|
|Valencian Community||4,885,029||5||accessdate=2009-10-14|publisher=El Mundo|language=Spanish}}|
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 pass hostile amendments or even vetos which mean the proposal is sent back to the Congress, though the lower house can override those objections by an absolute majority vote. The process for constitutional amendments is slightly more tangled: the rule is to require three fifths (60%) of both houses, but if the Senate does not achieve such supermajority and a mixed Congress-Senate committee fails to resolve the issues, Congress may force the amendment through with a two-thirds vote as long as the absolute majority of the Senate was in favour.
On the other hand, the Senate has reserved functions in and of itself 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 its 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.) It exercised this power in April 2006, dissolving the Marbella city council after most 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.
|Antonio Fontan Pérez||July 13, 1977||January 2, 1979||Seville||UCD|
|Cecilio Valverde Mazuelas||April 27, 1979||August 31, 1982||Córdoba|
|José Federico de Carvajal||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|
|Francisco Javier Rojo García||April 2, 2004||January 15, 2008||Álava||PSE-EE|
|April 1, 2008|
Term expires in 2012