All the words you need to know to understand Spain’s general election

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All the words you need to know to understand Spain’s general election
Photo: AFP

Spain’s general election is 'al doblar de la esquina' (around the corner) as they will take place on Sunday November 10th. This is all the vocabulary you will need to understand it.


The Spanish general election is only a few days away and frankly, that's all that is going to be talked about over the weekend. The Local gives you the vocabulary you need to fully understand it. 

The parties

PSOE – Partido Socialista Obrero Español  (The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party)

Pedro Sánchez. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP

The PSOE, whose leader is Pedro Sánchez, is the main left-wing political party in Spain. Founded more than 150 years, ago, the PSOE has been in power longer than any other party. After Mariano Rajoy’s government was ousted in June 2018, Sánchez became Prime Minister. In March 2019 he called for a snap election, after his government’s fiscal plan was refused by Parliament.


PP – Partido Popular  (The People’s Party)

Pablo Casado. Photo: Gabriel Bouys / AFP

The PP often refered to as Los Populares is Spain’s liberal-conservative and Christian-democratic party. Rajoy, after 14 years of leading the PP, resigned after being ousted as PM by Sanchez and Pablo Casado was elected as his successor. In the last few years, the PP was in the news for its strong repression of Catalan independence movements and for its implication in financial scandals.


Photo: Oscar del Pozo / AFP

Vox is a populist, far-right party. Founded in 2013 by members of the PP, Vox made the headlines later last year when it gained 12 parliamentary seats in the Andalusia’s regional elections. Vox’s stance is anti-immigration, anti-abortion and strongly opposes same-sex marriages.

It is on the ultraderecha - extreme right- of the political spectrum and is growing in popularity with polls predicting that it could double its seats this time round.

You'll also here the words 'fascistas'  and 'franquistas' (fascists and Francoists)  bandied around when talking abou this party and its supporters. 


Pablo Iglesias. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP

Founded in 2014 by Pablo Iglesias, Podemos was born as a left-wing populist party out of the indignado movement, who sought to address inequality and unemployment, which skyrocketed after the 2008 crisis. 

Ciudadanos (Cs or Los naranjas)

Albert Rivera, Ciudadanos' leader. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP

Ciudadanos is a Spanish centre-right wing party. Strongly opposed to Catalonia’s independece, Ciudadanos, in the 2017 Catalan regional elections, gained 25 percent of votes, making it the largest political party in the Catalan parliament. Ciudadanos’ members are also called los naranjas (the orange ones) as orange is the party’s official colour, representing a positive and constructive party.

Mas Pais

This is the party set up Inigo Errejon, 35, after his rancourous political and personal split from Pablo Iglesias, who had both been part of Spain's anti-austerity "Indignados" movement and who jointly founded Podemos in January 2014.

The party whose name stands for "More for the Country" fared well in council and regional elctions in Madrid and has now gone nationwide where it will likely divide the far left vote. 

Campaña Electoral

The electoral campaign has been a short one this time and ends on Friday November 8th with the parties holding final rallies. The highlight was a televised debate which took place on Monday, known as "el debate".

Encuesta electoral

The encuestas electorales (opinion polls) are not allowed in the week running up to the vote. This rule was originally set out to protect smaller parties and coalitions and to avoid tactical voting.

Jornada de reflexión

The day of Reflection, set on Saturday November 9th, is a day when campaigning becomes prohibited. The reason behind it is to allow voters to have a day free of political campaigning to reflect and make a thoughtful choice.
However this year a massive day of demonstrations is planned for Catalonia.

On the day:

Photo: Jorge Guerrero / AFP

More than 36 million people are entitled to go to centros electorales (polling stations) with their tarjetas de votación (voting cards) on November 10th.


After the election:


The Moncloa Palace. Photo: Mariano Rajoy, Presidente del Gobierno de España / Flickr

After the general elections, the leader of the party able to form a government will be sworn in as Presidente - the role is like that of Prime Minister in the UK rather than President in the US:  The Presidente is a fixed term of four years before the next general election is called -unless of course a political crisis forces a vote of no confidence.  El Presidente resides at Moncloa Palace in Madrid, which is also the seat of the government and were weekly cabinet meetings are held. 


The people are voting for representatives for el Senado (the Senate) and el Congreso de los Diputados (the Parliament) collectively known as  Las Cortes Generales.

Escaños Parlamentarios 

There are 236 seats, or escaños parlamentarios, in the Spanish Senate and 133 seats are legally required to have an absolute majority. In the Congreso de los Diputados, the number of seats is 350 and 176 seats are required to have an mayoria absoluto - absolute majority.


In case of a Parlamento colgado, a hung Parliament where none of the party can reach an absolute majority.the parties will start talking about formar un pacto - forming a pact

This is when we start hearing a lot about a coalición de gobierno (a coalition) but will it be of the left, the right or even the centre? 

Prestar juramento

On the first day on the job, the leader of the winning party presta juramento (swears in) as the new Presidente del Gobierno.


Literally meaning hinge, the term bisagra is usually translated as kingmaker. According to multiple sources, Vox could take the role of kingmaker in the upcoming elections.

By Ilaria Grasso Macola / The Local 


Spain's General Election: What you need to know ahead of the vote




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