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The Senate (Spanish: Senado) is the upper house of the Cortes Generales, which along with the Congress of Deputies—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the Kingdom of Spain. The Senate meets in the Palace of the Senate in Madrid.

Senate of Spain

Senado de España
13th Senate of Spain
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Founded1834 (disband 1923–1977)
1977 (reinstituted)
Leadership
First Vice President
Cristina Narbona (PSOE)
since 21 May 2019
Second Vice President
Pío García-Escudero (PP)
since 21 May 2019
Majority leader
Ander Gil (PSOE)
since 21 May 2019
Minority leader
Ignacio Cosidó (PP)
since 21 May 2019
Structure
Seats266
SpainSenateDiagram2019.svg
Political groups
Government (141)

Opposition (125)

Elections
Limited voting
Meeting place
Senado - sala de plenos.jpg
Palacio del Senado
Centro, Madrid
Kingdom of Spain
Website
www.senado.es

The composition of the Senate is established in Part III of the Spanish Constitution. The Senate is composed of senators, each of whom represents a province, an autonomous city or an autonomous community. Each mainland province, regardless of its population size, is equally represented by four senators; in the insular provinces, the big islands are represented by three senators and the minor islands are represented by a single senator. Likewise, the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla elected two senators each. With this complex system, the citizens elect 208 senators, but the regional legislatures also desigantes their own representatives, one senator for each autonomous community and another by every million of population, designating a total of 58 senators.

The Spanish Senate is constitutionally described as a territorial chamber and its powers are pretty the same to the Congress of Deputies, although because of its role as a territorial chamber has extraordinary powers such as authorising the Government of the Nation to apply direct rule on a region or to dissolve city councils. The presiding officer of the Senate is the President of the Senate, who is elected by the members thereof.

Contents

HistoryEdit

The Senate was first established under the Royal Statute of 1834 approved by Queen Regent Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies under the denomination of House of Peers but it did not last long and in 1837, under the Constitution of that year, the upper house adquired the denomination of Senate.

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 elected senators. This house, along with the Congress of Deputies, was suppressed after the coup of General Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1923.

Only after the Spanish transition to democracy in 1977 was it reestablished.

OrganizationEdit

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.

Elections to the SenateEdit

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 house only, under Section 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 limited voting and appointment from regional legislatures.

Directly elected membersEdit

Most members of the senate (currently 208 of 266) 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)—Mallorca, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife—are assigned three seats each, and the smaller islands—Menorca, 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 its 6.5 million people, and Soria, with 90,000 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 could not choose the order of its candidates on the ballot paper; candidates were sorted alphabetically by surname. When a party did not get 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 did not vote for three candidates of the same party (panachage).

Regional legislatures-appointed membersEdit

Section 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 Section 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 distribution after the 2015 election was:

Autonomous Community Population (2017) Senators Senator/pop.-ratio Distribution
Andalusia 8,403,350 9 933,706
1 3 2 2 1
Aragon 1,315,713 2 657,857
1 1
Asturias 1,030,055 2 515,028
1 1
Balearic Islands 1,160,591 2 580,296
1 1
Basque Country 2,168,254 3 722,751
1 1 1
Canary Islands 2,164,344 3 721,488
1 1 1
Cantabria 581,109 1 581,109
1
Castile and León 2,423,875 3 807,958
1 2
Castilla-La Mancha 2,034,801 3 678,267
1 1 1
Catalonia 7,453,957 8 931,745
1 2 1 2 2
Extremadura 1,072,884 2 536,442
1 1
Galicia 2,703,662 3 901,221
1 2
La Rioja 312,423 1 312,423
1
Madrid 6,506,437 7 929,491
1 2 1 3
Murcia 1,474,071 2 737,036
1 1
Navarre 641,345 1 641,345
1
Valencian Community 4,932,302 6 822,050
1 1 1 1 2
Total 46,549,045 58 802,570 Source: [1]

CompositionEdit

RoleEdit

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 the 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. The Senate is solely responsible for disciplining regional presidents (Section 155 of the Spanish Constitution). Only the Senate can suspend local governments (Local Regime Framework Act, Section 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. On Friday, October 26, 2017, the Senate voted 214 to 47 to invoke Section 155 of the Spanish Constitution over the region of Catalonia. This decision gave to prime minister Mariano Rajoy the power to remove the regional government and to dissolve the regional legislature, and rule directly from Madrid.

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 Senate of SpainEdit

This is a list of the Presidents of the Senate since the recovery of the upper house in 1977. To see previous presidents, look the full list of presidents of the Senate.

Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office Tenure
(Years and days)
Party Legislature Monarch
(Reign)
Ref.
  Antonio Fontán
President of the Senate
(1923–2010)
13 July 1977

2 January 1979
1 year, 173 days Union of the
Democratic Centre
Constituent
(1977)
Juan Carlos I
 
(1975–2014)
  Cecilio Valverde
President of the Senate
(1927–2001)
27 April 1979

31 August 1982
3 years, 126 days Union of the
Democratic Centre
I
(1979)
  José Federico de Carvajal
President of the Senate
(1930–2015)
18 November 1982

2 September 1989
6 years, 349 days Spanish Socialist
Workers' Party
II
(1982)
III
(1986)
  Juan José Laborda
President of the Senate
(born 1947)
21 November 1989

9 January 1996
6 years, 49 days Spanish Socialist
Workers' Party
IV
(1989)
V
(1993)
  Juan Ignacio Barrero
President of the Senate
(born 1943)
27 March 1996

8 February 1999
2 years, 318 days People's Party VI
(1996)
  Esperanza Aguirre
Countess consort of Murillo

President of the Senate
(born 1952)
8 February 1999

21 October 2002
3 years, 255 days People's Party
VII
(2000)
  Juan José Lucas
President of the Senate
(born 1944)
22 October 2002

20 January 2004
1 year, 90 days People's Party
  Javier Rojo
President of the Senate
(born 1949)
2 April 2004

27 September 2011
7 years, 178 days Spanish Socialist
Workers' Party
VIII
(2004)
IX
(2008)
  Pío García-Escudero
4th Count of Badarán

President of the Senate
(born 1952)
13 December 2011

20 May 2019
7 years, 158 days People's Party X
(2011)
Felipe VI
 
(2014–present)
XI
(2015)
XII
(2016)
  Manuel Cruz
President of the Senate
(born 1951)
21 May 2019

Incumbent
34 days Spanish Socialist
Workers' Party
XIII
(2019)
Manuel CruzPío García-EscuderoFrancisco Javier Rojo GarcíaJuan José Lucas GiménezEsperanza Aguirre Gil de BiedmaJuan Ignacio Barrero ValverdeJuan José Laborda MartínJosé Federico de Carvajal PérezCecilio Valverde MazuelasAntonio Fontán 

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit