Of the 350 seats in the Carrera de San Jerónimo Council, only 130 are awarded proportionally, according to the will expressed in the ballot boxes and according to the criteria laid down in the Constitution, which contains other provisions that impede fidelity, more or less, between votes and seats. This is a very large number of congressional districts for the youngest congressional district in over 150 years and the largest value for the rural ballot, as each county has at least two representatives. The distortion is amplified when seats are distributed according to the D’Hondt rule, the most disproportionate of all proportional formulas according to the State Council. Mismatches rise dramatically when there is little to distribute, as in 29 out of 52 constituencies.
If the Spaniards were asked to define the electoral system in one word, they would respond with a thunderous D’Hondt. But it would be more appropriate to answer Godzilla, the monster with the “size doesn’t matter” motto. In elections for the House of Representatives it is so important that it stipulates everything, together with the provincial map of 1833, from the days of the donkey, rigged in 1977 at the expense of the big cities, and by using this method of allocating seats to the parties most hostile to minorities, namely Dundt’s.
Since the end of the twentieth century, there has been a consensus in political science that in general elections there is not one electoral system, but three. It is sandwiched between two large families of this mechanism that funnels votes into positions of political representation. In the most classic, the majority, whatever is at stake, or almost everything, is taken by the winner, or by the greatest of powers. The priority is governance, as in the UK and France.
According to the Spanish tradition, it would be more correct to call the current electoral criterion the Suarez law.
The proportional system gives priority to parliamentary representation, so that society reflects, as in the case of the Netherlands and Denmark, the two western European countries closest to this ideal.
A somewhat less accurate, but more widely respected version in votes, is the one in the Spanish proportional subsystem, similar to Finland’s. It is applied in the seven provinces that have at least ten seats. In Madrid and Barcelona, with more than 30, the deviations are smaller. If d’Hondt’s rule is replaced by those more favorable to minorities, Hare and Sainte-Laguë, often only one vice turns. Even in Barcelona in 2011, there was no difference in the way it was used. It would have turned into the same thing.
On June 15, 1977, the opposite situation occurred in the province of Syria. With 59% of the vote, the CDU won 100% of the deputies, three out of three. He also achieved plenary sessions in 1977 and 1979 in Avila, the birthplace of Adolfo Suarez, although there he scored at least 64%. In Syria, if one of the other more common proportional formulas, Hare, St. Lago and also a drop, more useful to the forces of the majority, had been applied, the Socialist Socialist Party would have a deputy. With D’Hondt, it stayed at zero.
The Spanish electoral system is like Godzilla, because size matters so much that it surrounds everything
This case from Syria provides the most extreme example of the advantages of large parties in a majoritarian sub-system. In these constituencies of five or fewer MPs, disproportion to the atmosphere of the United Kingdom, the majority model par excellence, has been recorded since 1977. Only since 2015, in specific situations such as those of the CDS in Avila de Suarez in the 1980s and where nationalism was established, has there been room for more than two parties.
Between these two opposite poles is the intermediate sub-system, the system of the sixteen districts that elect between six and nine deputies. Its distortion is high, especially in those with fewer seats, but not as much as in the majority model. The deviation between the percentages of votes and seats won by the parties is similar to that found in the Spanish system as a whole and the system most similar to it, the Portuguese one, especially in recent times.
Godzilla decides the paths of the Spanish electoral system and the exact path is determined by D’Hondt. Calculating this method is simple. The votes of the parties above 3% in the constituency are taken and divided by the number of deputies concerned. For example, in Cuenca, which has three, it is performed by one, two and three. The highest stakes have become seats in Congress, as they did in November 2019 with the first two seats from PSOE and the first from PP. Vox is excluded by 18%.
The Congress is elected by three systems, one Finnish, one Portuguese, and the third by British influences
There was a tradition in Spain to give the electoral law the title of the head of government, such as the title of Sagasta of 1890 and the title of Mora of 1907. The law of 1977 should be known as the Law of Suarez. The jumpsuit was tailored with the opposition’s approval. The RCD was chasing an absolute majority of only 37% with their opinion polls, pressuring their rural strongholds by giving them more seats than they were entitled to and using the majority system to harvest MPs en masse, while mitigating its urban weakness with proportional distribution, which did not harm it. It was perfect. But UCD failed, with 34%.
Successive victors were the beneficiaries of the system in which they continued with the consent of the nationalists who were not punished. The problem was severe punishment of the small Spanish parties, while the guarantee of governance and the presence of the main social currents were praised. Since 2015, governance has been complex and imbalances persist. Don’t say D’Hondt’s Law, say Suárez’s Law.