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Parties fail to reach agreement to cut election campaign spending

Source: El Pais - Wed 11th May 2016
Parties fail to reach agreement to cut election campaign spending

Spain’s main parties have failed to reach a deal to reduce the more than €130 million that the new general election of June 26 will cost.

Irreconcilable differences between the traditional parties – the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists (PSOE) – and the emerging groups Podemos and Ciudadanos blocked all progress at a meeting held on Wednesday morning in Congress.

All party representatives made an outward pledge to seek austerity in this new election run, yet failed to sign any document with binding decisions.

As a result, any cutbacks to campaign spending will depend on unilateral decisions by each party.

Under Spanish legislation, the state puts up part of the money in the 15-day electoral campaign, through subsidies for political mail and for every seat obtained in Congress and the Senate. At the December 20 election, political mailings alone cost the state around €30 million.

The Socialists have announced that they are ready to slash 30% off their campaign budget – up to €7 million – and the PP conservatives are willing to do the same, representing savings of €3.6 million.

These two parties had originally wanted all political groups to subscribe to the 30% reduction, but the emerging parties noted that this would still leave them at a disadvantage. Instead, they proposed a ceiling of around €12 million on the absolute spending figure. The PSOE and PP refused, although the Socialists later said they would accept either option, as it came out to a similar amount.

The Socialists further accept having the state subsidy for political mailing reduced from €0.18 to €0.15, a proposal that Ciudadanos agrees on. The PP says it is willing to go under €0.18, but did not specify by how much.

Another stumbling block was the issue of whether to send out all political mail in one envelope, or separately. The two main parties want individual mailings, while all the other parties at the table supported a common envelope in order to slash the state’s expenditure on this item.

The lack of agreement over campaign spending mirrors the fruitless efforts at building governing alliances following the inconclusive general election of December 20. On May 3, following Spanish legislation, King Felipe VI announced the dissolution of parliament and called a fresh election for June 26. Polls suggest a similarly fragmented outcome that will force parties to seek governing deals.

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