Home Features History Letters from Spain New Arrivals Profiles Recipes Sightseeing Vocabulary Weather

The Electoral System

The d'Hondt system favours the larger political groups

The system for elections to the 350 seats in the Spanish Congress – the lower chamber of the Spanish parliament - is based on the d’Hondt method of proportional representation, and has remained unchanged since the first years of the return to democracy following the death of General Francisco Franco.

There are 52 constituencies representing the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the 50 Spanish provinces. Ceuta and Melilla each have an initial allocation of one seat in Congress, and two for each of the provinces. The remaining 248 seats are then allocated according to each constituency’s registered population.

Madrid and Barcelona would obviously have the highest number, 36 and 31 respectively, while Soria, with a low density of population, has just the minimum of two.

Voters cast their votes for Congress for a party’s list of candidates presented for their province, and not for any particular candidate. Any political party’s list of candidates which has not obtained at least 3% of the valid votes cast in the constituency is first excluded. The seats are then allocated in accordance with the D’Hont system: the total votes cast for each party in the electoral district are divided by 1, then 2, then 3, and continuing up until the total number of seats which are allocated for the constituency. For example, if there are 8 seats, then each party’s result would be divided by 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. The eight highest numbers obtained from the division then result in a parliamentary seat for the party which holds that number.

The system does tend to favour the larger parties and can work against the smaller parties with national support but which, in most provinces, fail to reach the 3% threshold to participate in the allocation of constituency seats. Other regional parties whose votes are concentrated in just a few constituencies may, on the other hand, obtain more seats in Congress despite obtaining a lower percentage of the vote across the country.