Win win. No other message is heard in electoral campaigns. Win to govern, win to carry out the program. But in Spain, winning does not always mean governing. For that you have to have a sufficient majority tied, which can give the ballot box…, or the pacts. Citizens vote this Sunday for a mayor for their city, but nothing guarantees that the winner will take the municipal staff within three weeks, when the town councils are constituted, on June 17. This happened in 2019, in cities like Madrid or Barcelona, ​​where José Luis Martínez-Almeida (PP) or Ada Colau (Barcelona en Comú) govern without having won, thanks to post-electoral agreements. It is the essence of politics. Knowing how to negotiate allows you to win without having won, as many politicians well know. And also the mayors. Although in his case, as will be seen, there is a provision in the electoral law for the government with the most votes, without an absolute majority and without agreements.

What determines that a candidate ends up being the mayor? This Sunday there are votes in 8,131 municipalities in Spain. As established by the Organic Law of the General Electoral Regime (Loreg), within a period of twenty days, with the results that come out of the polls, the municipalities will be constituted. It will be on Saturday June 17. Each town hall has a certain number of councillors, which varies depending on the population. A municipality that has up to 100 residents corresponds to three councilors; if it has 101 to 250 residents, 5 councilors; from 251 to 1,000, 7 correspond to it, and so on, until reaching large cities: with more than 50,000 residents and up to 100,000, 25 councilors correspond. From 100,001 residents onwards, one more councilor is added for every 100,000 residents or fraction, and if the result is even, one more is added.

With the results of Sunday, the minutes of the councilor of the municipality will be distributed applying the d’Hondt law. On June 17, constituent plenary sessions will be held in all town halls. The new councilors will be the ones who will elect the mayor, in a vote in which whoever obtains the absolute majority will win. This is how, for example, the mayor of Valladolid won, in 2019, the socialist Óscar Puente, thanks to a post-electoral agreement that provided him with the necessary support.

The law provides that only candidates who have headed their list may run for mayor. On June 17, the parties will have had three weeks from May 28 to negotiate and reach agreements. If they have not succeeded, the candidate from the most voted list in the municipality will be elected mayor. This is how the mayor of Seville achieved, in 2019, the socialist Juan Espadas, who was invested only with the support of the 13 PSOE councilors, as his was the list with the most votes. If the mayor’s office decides on the list with the most votes and there is a tie of votes in two candidacies -something that can happen in small municipalities-, the law establishes that it be chosen by lottery.

For municipalities with fewer than 100 inhabitants, the electoral law provides for an exception. They are governed by open councils, a traditional form of direct democracy, in which residents elect the mayor by majority vote. All the voters form the assembly that is in charge of the local administration.

At the municipal level there are also other smaller local entities that do not function like the town halls. This is the case of villages, districts, parishes or hamlets. These entities cannot be separated from the municipality to which they belong, but they function as independent public legal persons. They are organized through a “directly elected executive body” and a neighborhood council, as established by the Law Regulating the Bases of the Local Regime. This one-person body can be a local mayor or president. They can also follow the open council system.

Once the town councils are constituted, it will remain pending to constitute the provincial councils. They are also municipal bodies, but indirectly elected, and their scope is the province. There is no specific ballot box to choose their representatives, but they are determined by the results of the parties in the town halls.

The number of deputies also depends on the population, and the distribution is made according to the results of the candidacies, not in the entire province but in the judicial districts –a minor territorial unit-. The minimum is 25 deputies -for provinces with less than 500,000 inhabitants- and the maximum is 51. The acts of deputy are assigned by the d’Hondt law. The uniprovincial autonomous communities assume the powers of the provincial councils.

And it does not stay there. Municipal elections give a lot of themselves. In addition to the town halls -and later the councils-, other local corporations will be renewed at the polls on Sunday. They are the three provincial councils of the Basque Country, the seven island councils of the Canary Islands and the three island councils of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza). All of them are directly elected, that is, they have their own ballot box – separate from the one that collects the vote for the town councils. The assemblies of Ceuta and Melilla will also be renewed, which due to their status as autonomous cities have functions of the municipalities.

Due to the political power they have, the budget they manage and their historical roots, the provincial councils are one of the main institutions of the Basque Country. They are bodies of direct election. On May 28, voters in Euskadi will deposit two envelopes, in different ballot boxes: one for the city council and another for the provincial council of their territory, be it Álava, Vizcaya or Guipúzcoa. Each province has a legislative assembly -with 51 junteros each- and a government with broad powers, including the collection of direct and indirect taxes. The junteros are chosen by applying the d’Hondt law to the electoral results. These assemblies vote on the budget and elect the government –the Provincial Council- of each one of the provinces. The Provincial Council is headed by the deputy general, accompanied by a team of deputies and deputies, who distribute the portfolios. The budget of the Provincial Council of Vizcaya for this 2023 amounts to 9,808 million euros: the departments will have 1,540 million and 7,790 million will be used to finance other institutions (Basque Government, town halls, General Meetings and the State Quota).

In the Canary Islands, the seven island councils will also be elected in a separate ballot box, one per island, an institution that is more than a century old. The election system is similar to that of the town halls except for one detail: the head of the list of the most voted candidacy automatically becomes the president of the island corporation. In his case, it is the voters who decide, as detailed by Loreg. The members of the council, who are called councillors, are distributed through the d’Hont system, with an access barrier of 5% of the votes. The councils have more powers than a provincial council, since they operate as true island governments, with broad powers. The two with the largest budget are the one in Tenerife, which is around one million euros, and the one in Gran Canaria, with 850,000 euros.

The equivalent in the Balearic Islands are the island councils, in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, which are the governing body of each island and must have a plenary session, a president and an executive or government council. Each of the councils will be made up of the councilors elected in their constituency, in a separate ballot box and assigning the seats by the d’Hondt law.