1980 vote of no confidence in the government of Adolfo Suárez

A motion of no confidence in the Spanish government of Adolfo Suárez was debated and voted in the Congress of Deputies between 28 and 30 May 1980. It was brought by Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) leader Felipe González.[1][2][3] The motion was announced by González during a parliamentary debate in the Congress of Deputies on 21 May and registered that same day, in a move aimed at obtaining a "moral censure" of the government that caught it and most deputies by surprise.[4][5][6] Among the motives given to justify the motion's tabling were the alleged lack of a coherent political project in the government's programme for the construction of the democratic and autonomic state, its inability to tackle the economic situation of the country, its refusal to comply with agreements reached with other political projects or with non-law proposals passed by parliament and its growing parliamentary weakness.[7]

1980 vote of no confidence in the government of Adolfo Suárez
Adolfo Suárez recibe los aplausos de los diputados de su grupo tras su intervención en la sesión plenaria del Congreso de los Diputados (1980-05-21).jpg
Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez (seated bottom right), with the UCD parliamentary group during the parliamentary debate on 21 May 1980 in which the motion was announced.
Date28–30 May 1980
LocationCongress of Deputies, Spain
CauseThe Government's alleged mismanagement, parliamentary solitude and inability to tackle the country's economic situation.
OutcomeMotion rejected.

While the motion was defeated—it was supported by 152 deputies and opposed by 166 of the governing Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD)—it revealed the government's solitude and loss of support since Suárez's investiture in the aftermath of the 1979 general election, not receiving the backing of its erstwhile allies and seeing its management under heavy criticism by other parties throughout the debate.[8] Concurrently, the motion's debate provided a platform for Felipe González to present and defend his political programme to society, as it was broadcast live on radio and deferred on television, which was regarded as leading to an increase in González's credibility and political stand as well as to a favorable dynamic of growing popular support for the PSOE.[1][3][9][10]

Legal provisionsEdit

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 required for motions of no confidence to be proposed by at least one-tenth of the Congress of Deputies—35 out of 350. Following the German model, votes of no confidence in Spain were constructive, so the motion was required to include an alternative candidate for prime minister.[3][11] For a motion of no confidence to be successful, it had to be passed by an absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies. A minimum period of five days from the motion's registration (dubbed as "cooling period") was required to pass before it could come up for a vote, but no maximum was established. Other parties were entitled to submit alternative motions within the first two days from the registration.[12][13]

1. The Congress of Deputies may challenge Government policy by passing a motion of censure by an absolute majority of its members.
2. The motion of censure must be proposed by at least one tenth of the Deputies, including a candidate for the office of President of the Government.
3. The motion of censure may not be voted on until five days after it has been submitted. During the first two days of this period, alternative motions may be submitted.
4. If the motion of censure is not passed by the Congress, its signatories may not submit another during the same session.

— Article 113 of the Spanish Constitution[14]

Concurrently, the Prime Minister was barred from dissolving the Cortes Generales and calling a general election while a motion of no confidence was pending. If the motion was successful, the incumbent prime minister and their government were required to submit their resignation to the Monarch, while the candidate proposed in the motion was automatically considered to have the confidence of the Congress of Deputies and immediately appointed as prime minister. If unsuccessful, the signatories of the motion were barred from submitting another during the same session.[13][14]

Opinion pollsEdit

Opinion on the motion of no confidence
Polling firm/Commissioner Fieldwork date Sample size Support Reject Neither  ?
CIS[15] 30 May 1980 1,188 26.0 28.0 30.0 16.0


Motion of no confidence
Felipe González (PSOE)
Ballot → 30 May 1980
Required majority → 176 out of 350  N
152 / 350
  • UCD (166)
166 / 350
21 / 350
11 / 350


  1. ^ a b "Así fueron las cuestiones de confianza y mociones de censura de la Democracia". El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid. EFE. 25 May 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  2. ^ Martínez Concejo, Ana (13 June 2017). "Las otras mociones de censura de la democracia española" (in Spanish). Madrid: Cadena SER. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Vírgala Foruria, Eduardo (1 April 1988). "La moción de censura de marzo de 1987: segunda práctica aplicativa del artículo 113 de la Constitución". Revista de las Cortes Generales (in Spanish) (13): 159–177. doi:10.33426/rcg/1988/13/324. ISSN 0213-0130. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Felipe González sorprendió a la Cámara con el anuncio de un voto de censura". El País (in Spanish). 22 May 1980. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  5. ^ De la Cuadra, Bonifacio (22 May 1980). "El voto de censura al Gobierno presentado por los socialistas dio un vuelco al debate politico". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  6. ^ Prieto, Joaquín (23 May 1980). "La dirección del PSOE se propone obtener una "censura moral" del Gobierno Suárez". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Texto de la moción de censura del PSOE". El País (in Spanish). 22 May 1980. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  8. ^ De la Cuadra, Bonifacio (31 May 1980). "El Gobierno Suárez no contó con el apoyo de ninguna minoría parlamentaria". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  9. ^ Maravall, José María (1984). La política de la transición (in Spanish). Taurus. p. 187. ISBN 978-8-4306-1247-5.
  10. ^ Julve, Rafa (13 June 2017). "Así contó la prensa las mociones de censura a Adolfo Suárez y Felipe González". El Periódico de Catalunya (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  11. ^ Torres Muro, Ignacio (9 October 2017). "La moción de censura constructiva. Una respuesta alemana, y española, a la inestabilidad gubernamental". Foro: Revista de ciencias jurídicas y sociales, Nueva época (in Spanish). 20 (1): 279–292. doi:10.5209/FORO.57537. ISSN 1698-5583. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  12. ^ Santaolalla López, Fernando; Galindo Elola-Olaso, Fernando; Miranda, Luis Manuel (2018). "Constitución española, Sinopsis artículo 113". Congress of Deputies (in Spanish). Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  13. ^ a b "El voto de censura, según la Constitución". El País (in Spanish). 22 May 1980. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  14. ^ a b "The Spanish Constitution" (PDF). Official Gazette of the State. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  15. ^ "Moción de censura al Presidente del gobierno D. Adolfo Suárez (Estudio nº 1.231. Mayo 1980)" (PDF). CIS (in Spanish). 30 May 1980.
  16. ^ Lozano, Carles. "Congreso de los Diputados: Votaciones más importantes". Electoral History (in Spanish). Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  17. ^ Lozano, Carles. "Presidentes del Gobierno: Votaciones de investidura, mociones de confianza, mociones de censura, aprobación de la Constitución". Electoral History (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 August 2020.