The electoral system--with the exception of the Senate, which uses a majority system--is set forth in the electoral law of 1977, updated in 1985, which is based on the d'Hondt system of proportional representation. A party must obtain a minimum of 3 percent of the vote in order to qualify for parliamentary representation. Each province is to have a minimum of two seats in the Congress of Deputies, plus one additional seat for every 144,500 inhabitants or fraction over 70,000 inhabitants. Each province is allotted four seats in the Senate, regardless of population.
This system tends to overrepresent the more traditional, rural, and thinly populated parts of Spain and to favor the larger parties, which also benefit from the system of postelectoral subsidies. Under this arrangement, the state allocates funds to the party of each elected candidate. Parties are also given smaller sums for each vote received by their candidates, provided that at least one candidate is elected. One of the effects of this system is that parties able to demonstrate probable electoral success are able to obtain loans to finance their campaigns based on their expected subsidies.
The electoral law guarantees universal, free, and direct suffrage and stipulates that voting shall be by secret ballot. It permits postal balloting for those away from their areas of registration. Voting is done by party list. Only the names of an individual party and its leader appear on ballots, with the exception of those of the Senate, for which a multiparty list is used, and voters choose any three candidates. Elections are held every four years, although an early dissolution of the Cortes will mean early elections for this body. Elections in the autonomous communities--except those in the "historic regions" of Galicia, Catalonia (Spanish, Cataluna; Catalan, Catalunya), the Basque Country (Spanish, Pais Vasco; Basque, Euskadi), and Andalusia (Spanish, Andalucia), which received their autonomy earlier than the other thirteen communities--are held simultaneously.
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