The PP has an absolute majority in the Senate with only 1.6 points of advantage over the PSOE

A squalid advantage of 1.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
26 August 2023 Saturday 10:36
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The PP has an absolute majority in the Senate with only 1.6 points of advantage over the PSOE

A squalid advantage of 1.6% over the PSOE, slightly less than a third of the votes and an overwhelming victory in electorally conquered hectares, 371,584, 73% of the territory, granted an overwhelming absolute majority to the PP in the Senate. Its 120 seats over the 208 directly elected by citizens account for 58% of the total and 48 seats ahead of the PSOE. Thus, the 1.6% distance in votes was converted to 23% when translated into seats.

Such disproportion can be interpreted as a natural effect of the majority system in the Senate. However, what political science calls the “conservative bias of the system”, the elegant and somewhat opaque way of describing an electoral game board leaning to the right, weighs much more heavily than that of Congress already does.

The expression of the "vote of the hectares" made a fortune in the transition to criticize the fixed two seats that were granted to each province in Congress, regardless of its population. It is the reason why the suffrage of a person from Madrid and a Barcelona is worth four times less than that of a person from Teruel and a person from Soria. As Madrid has 37 deputies, Barcelona 32, Teruel 3 and Soria 2, it is hyperbole, but in the Senate it becomes absolute truth.

Apart from the special status of the islands and of Ceuta and Melilla, each province has 4 senators. The vote of a person from Soriano is worth 76 times more than that of a person from Madrid, and Barcelona and Madrid have a representation 85% lower than their corresponding population in the Upper House. The community with the most senators is Castilla y León. There the PP took 2% of the total Spanish vote and 13% of the seats in the Senate.

However, there are plenty of examples of countries with federal structures in which the chamber of territorial representation is configured under conditions of equality between the states, such as Brazil or the United States, although they are being partially renewed. But Spain is not a federal state, but, in the words of Manuel Fraga, a "composite state", which in any case does not have the old-fashioned provinces as its territorial base but rather the autonomies. These, in addition, choose that fifth part of senators that corresponds to them in a proportional way, against the provincial majority criterion.

"The Senate is the chamber of territorial representation", according to article 69.1 of the Constitution. However, a debate on, for example, water policies in which the territories defended their positions would be unthinkable. It is a bis Congress, empty of content, except for approving the intervention of an autonomous government such as that of the Generalitat through article 155 of the Constitution. Among its real functions are to finance the parties and appraise their old glories in the Supreme Court.

This rigged territorial distribution of seats overlaps with the sociology of a rural Spain atavistically oriented to the right. From there arises that conservative advantage that Alberto Penadés, professor of Sociology at the University of Salamanca, and his colleague Ignacio Urquizu, from the Complutense, found when studying the 2004 elections.

The Senate system is majority, with limited voting and open lists. The four candidates with the most votes per province are elected, although the voter can only choose three, in order to leave space for the minority, and can mix candidates from various parties. This model leads Interior, in charge of the recount, not to provide total data from the scrutiny, while in his database he offers a chaotic list.

But since voters are used to voting for the Senate as a block, the votes for the three candidates of a party, often the same as in Congress, can be calculated, as Penadés and Urkizu maintain, attributing to each party those of its candidate with the most supported in each province. Thus, they showed that in 2004 the PP surpassed the Socialists by 9 seats with 7 points and 1.8 million fewer votes. In 2008 it happened again: the PSOE won by some 900,000 votes, with 13 fewer senators.

This phenomenon, which "is not consistent with the majority principle of representation" according to political scientists, contributed to the 1.6-point advantage of 23-J, somewhat higher than that of Congress, the PP gained overwhelming dominance . This is the sixth absolute majority of the PP, two of them achieved with very low percentages of votes, in 2015 and 2016, according to the results of Congress, as happened with the PSOE in April 2019, when it took advantage of the atomization far right.

The electoral system does not always favor the PP, but, designed by the conservative UCD, it is tailor-made.