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Local Elections in Spain

By Mr Grumpy - Thu 19th May 2011

Unless you have been living in a cave for the last few weeks, nobody can fail to be aware of the fact that this coming weekend is election weekend.

Every four years all of the Town Halls in Spain (about 8'300 of them) and 13 of the 17 Regions vote for a change in Government. The other 4 regions elect their governments on a totally separate electoral calendar and, it goes without saying, Catalonia and the Basque country are included here. Heaven forbid they would toe the line and do anything in sync with the rest of the country.

To further complicate matters the National elections, which are also held in a four year cycle, are held the year following the local elections - IE the next general / national election will be held in May of 2012.

Unlike the UK, there are three tiers of government - Local; Regional and National - and if you are fortunate enough to live in a Town where all three forms of government follow the same party you often find that things get done with fewer obstacles being encountered. If just one of the three governments is different to the others you can guarantee that whenever anything needs to be done, then there will be a problem somewhere along the lines.

The other thing to note is that electioneering is not permitted before a certain number of days before the election, which most parties and candidates abide by. But as soon as the permitted date comes, the floodgates open and every opportunity to kiss a passing baby is jumped on by every politician. There are rallies and fiestas and drinks evenings etc... all to sway opinion and court votes. This morning I saw two representatives from one party driving a Seat Ibiza around the village playing some random music that wouldn't have been out of place in an Ice-cream van at a deafening level, with just 2 posters in the back window. I'm guessing that it could count as 'campaigning' ?.

Following the earthquake in Lorca last week it was heartening to hear how the Town's major parties agreed to suspend electioneering until things could return to normal, only for the opposition party to use the opportunity to stir up unrest in the temporary accommodation camps by openly criticising the local governments attempts at providing for the homeless (How does a local government even attempt to formulate a plan for coping with an earthquake of a 5.2 magnitude and an evacuation of 20'000 residents anyway ? - Isn't that totally unprecedented ?). But I suppose it goes to prove that even in times of tragedy the old adage that "All is fair in Politics" rings true. (Is it me or did I just make that one up ?)

My Local village has an electoral role of approx 750 people, of which over 65% are Non-Spanish and, given that there are problems concerning the legality of over 65% of the houses in the village, the major issue for us is centred around a Non-Spanish Majority being concerned over just one such issue - with seemingly every other issue being pushed to one side.

The issue is being fought on the 'Plan General' - basically the plan to legalise all of the houses, in a manner which complies with the law and keeps the regional government happy, but has, to date, taken a full 2 administrations to achieve, whereas other Town Halls locally have achieved acceptance of their general plan in 18 months.

The Problem > Do you keep on granting 'extra time' to one administration in the hope that they are close to arriving at a favourable result, OR after 8 years pass the baton on to another team to have a go at putting things right (The team who were largely responsible for creating the mess three administrations ago). Is it even reasonable to hold the opposition to account for the problems after a total change of personnel, or will they always be tainted by association with the guilty corrupt few from 8 years ago ?

In short, in a two-horsed race, it comes down to choosing between a (previously) 'corrupt party' or a party that has achieved nothing at all in 8 years.

And as I feel strongly about not fighting for the right to vote only to waste it by abstaining, I find myself being drawn to voting in favour of 'corruption'. At least that way things get done.

Comment on this Blog

It is a horrific situation. I´ve always said I don´t understand Spanish politics but what I really mean is that I can´t face having to read up on it. I mean, what for? To arrive at the very clear conclusions you have shown here? How depressing. It is all a bit "Icecream Wars" isn´t it'
Mo - Sun, 6th Nov 2011
Under what circumstances (if any) can Citizen of the UK vote in the Spanish NATIONAL elections ?
Mark Jackson - Sat, 17th Sep 2011
With 12.5 Million abstained / void votes and 23 Million votes finally cast, a 33% non-vote seems to me to sum up the overall apathy of the country with regards to the political system and polital parties as a whole. I applaud those who work as Independant candidates on a local level, but remain cynical of all national political parties.
Simple Simon - Sun, 29th May 2011
Jill : A good point, and I look forward to a time when an election can be fought on less emotive issues like public spending etc...
Mr Grumpy - Mon, 23rd May 2011
Do you think that it is not fair to call a party corrupt who, at one of their earliest election platforms, promised to 'legalise' only the houses of people who were not participating in the court case? Do you think it is fair to make promises about providing services which they cannot deliver inside the legal process? And yes, Penny, the work you have all done in Parcent has been an inspiration to us all. Disappointed? Yes Defeated? NO! Nearly half the electorate voted for us and we owe it to them to fight on in opposition.
Jill Morrison - Mon, 23rd May 2011
Jill: firstly, as a mere voter and not a politician (independant or otherwise) my blog was written out of exasperation - a Mayor who made promises 4 years ago that have been unfulfilled, either shows a lack of integrity in making promises he could not keep OR a lack of understanding that he was not in a postion to make such promises in the first place. However, I fully accept that the existence of such independant candidates will change things for the better, which is what swayed my vote in the end. I hoped that a further term may have brought the GP to a smooth conclusion. It's a shame that the high percentage of abstainers could not have been avoided.
Mr Grumpy - Mon, 23rd May 2011
I wonder if I can get my boss to pay the expenses for my Duck House, erm, I mean second home...
Dan Brammall - Mon, 23rd May 2011
As part of the pacto civil (8 on the list) I am of course disapponted, to say the least, that we did not achieve what we set out to achieve. I wish I had seen your blog before the election, because it is now too late to set the record straight. We - and you who put them in - will now have to live with the consequences. I did not (and nor did my fellow Northern Europeans) join forces lightly with the PSOE. We did an educated examination of their history in office and had extensive talks with both parties before committing. What we have discovered is that everything they have told us, and the electorate is true. They have worked tirelessly for us throughout the 8 years in office and now of course their hard work will be wasted. Do you think PP will accept the Plan Previo in existence? Of course not because it is not in the best interests of the builders and developers to do that. Will they be able to fulfil their pre election promises - I would like to think so but I know that they cannot
Jill Morrison - Mon, 23rd May 2011
A fair point ! - I am not in favour of corruption, just not willing to listen to the rhetoric of a Town Hall who does nothing at all in 8 years, but justifies their attempts at being re-elected by branding the opposition as being 'corrupt'. The so-called 'corrupt party' was an administration of 8 years ago, and I for one am happy to accept that times, parties, policies and people change - even if others are not.
Mr Grumpy - Thu, 19th May 2011
It's irresponsible to even pretend to be in favour of political corruption, at a time when thousands of Spaniards of all political parties are protesting in Madrid, and genuine candidates are being intimidated and pushed out of office by their corrupt counterparts. If you really value your vote, take time to find out WHY your town hall has been unable to finalise its General Plan. In the village where I live we have had to form a multi-party coalition (with Brits, Spaniards, PP, PSOE and other political persuasions joining forces) to ensure that all residents are fully informed and that no one party pushes its agenda to line their own pockets. Our town hall has clawed back out of debt, reintroduced question time at town hall meetings, and offered to publically debate with the opposition to scotch their rumours and restore faith in the political process. A corrupt politician will work in their individual interests, using tax payers money - and how can you complain if you voted them in?
Penny Lapenna - Thu, 19th May 2011

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