El Turno Pacifico alternated Conservative and Liberal rule of Spain during the Bourbon restoration. There were elections, but the practice of encasillado ensured "the outcome of elections was broadly decided in advance" (ibid.). How was this done in practice?

This is partly a question of how they fixed the results, but also of why the system was stable. Any number of nations have rigged elections, but usually it's to maintain the status quo, not to deliberately surrender power. So it couldn't have been as simple as, "we have these election laws, which those in power might edit if they feel like exacting a tighter grip on power".

How did the pact between the two major parties, and Alfonso XII and later Alfonso XIII, ensure this would work, all while giving citizens the impression of fair elections? (I add that last part because turnout was decent, suggesting people thought their votes mattered as much as in a fair election.)

  • I was just investigating this myself, and found you'd asked about the topic! Very nice to see this question!
    – gktscrk
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


Here are a couple of descriptions from academic sources. To put it very simply, it all boils down to a classic case of corruption and patronage. It's not necessarily the case that the system gave "citizens the impression of fair elections", but it gave enough people enough of what they wanted.

From Michael G. Burros (1982) "The Spanish Jury: 1888-1923":

During the Turno pacifico [sic], the Minister of Gobernación, whose functions were similar to the present U.S. Secretary of the Interior, held extensive negotiations with all power groups in the country. These discussions produced lists of candidates approved for election. Known as the encasillado, each list was sent to the provincial governors, all of whom were appointees of the Minister of Gobernación. The governors then took whatever steps were necessary to ensure that the local party leaders elected the encasillado candidate.

This structure depended upon the local boss, or cacique, for its existence. The cacique served to bridge the gap between his locality and the central government, as a party or government functionary, he maintained powers chiefly because citizen apathy resulted in low voter turnout. In order to deliver votes the cacique gave favors to his followers.The type of favor which the cacique delivered was often illegal; running the gamut from embezzlement to bribery. At other times the cacique asked government officials in the capital, Madrid, to suspend decisions harmful to his partisans. This system required the central government to ignore local corruption, which in most provinces took the form of patronage. In short, caciquismo was similar to the political machines which operated in the United States. (pp. 181-182)

Grau et al. (2010) "The political economy of infrastructure construction: The Spanish Parliamentary Roads (1880-1914)" provides more detail on all of the above. Just to quote one particularly relevant bit:

The specific promises and favours that might win local electoral support were particularly diverse. The most frequent were perhaps individual benefits, including exemption from military service, personal interventions in the judicial system, job offers, etc. But, as discussed above, indivisible favours such as dams, roads, railways or civil buildings (schools, markets, etc.) were also very important. (p. 10)

If you read Spanish, it may be worth following through the footnotes in both of these sources for further detail.

  • In the reading you did for this answer, did you highlight any opinions by the two leading el turno candidates for prime minister as to how well the system was working? It seems unbelievable now that they thought this could function... It's probably better posted as a separate question however.
    – gktscrk
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 14:03

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