On March 9th there is a General Election in Spain, the tenth election since the return of democracy at the end of the 1970s with the 1978 election.
Currently the Socialists (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, Socialist Spanish Workers Party), led by a chap called José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero - he's the one who looks like Mr Bean - and the Conservatives (Partido Popular, Popular Party) led by Mariano Rajoy - the beard - are the only parties in with a chance of outright victory though the Izquierda Unida (the United Left) headed up by Gaspar Llamazares have a good number of parliamentary seats at the moment and I think a recent poll had them picking up a couple of extra ones this time, though it could have been the other way around!
The PSOE is curently in power having pulled off a surprise victory four years ago in the wake of the Madrid train bombings. One of the Socialist election pledges had been to pull Spanish troops out of Irak and Al Qaeeda inspired bombings which killed 191 people in the heart of Madrid may have influenced the vote a little. At the moment the polls still have them out in front but only just and with a substantially decreased majority.
Anyway, it's just two weeks to go to polling day. There have been plenty of political rallies since the beginning of the new year but at midnight on Thursday/Friday the official campaign began. Up till then the parties hadn't been able to ask for votes, from midnight they could. A fine line but a line nonetheless, and one enshrined in the constitution. Two weeks of campaigning and then time to reflect before the vote with electioneering halted a couple of days before the ballot.
I was expecting to awake to see the streets today plastered with posters as that's exactly what happened in last May's local elections. But nothing. At least nothing in Pinoso. Maybe there's more out there in the real world.
We foreigners aren't allowed to vote and I'm not exactly sure how the system works but basically I think that each province returns a number of "MPs" to Parliament and each party presents a list of candidates with the same number of candidates. So if, for instance, there were four seats for Alicante province and the PP were to win 100% of the votes they would take all four seats. As it is a tad unlikely that anyone would win 100% of the vote the maths gets pretty complicated but basically it's proportional representation against a list. So the big parties put their big names at the top of the lists which means no upsets along George Brown, Michael Portillo lines in Spanish politics!
The PP has ben supported by the Catholic Church and it's campaign for family values (The Socialists legalised "gay marriage" during their term) and they're also banging on about immigrants having to learn Spanish and adopt Spanish "values" - a bit reminiscent of Norman Tebbit demanding that Pakistanis living in the UK should support the English Cricket Team. Quite a lot to the Right. The PSOE talks more of increasing minimum wages, social care, equality and of rights - generally Centre Left stuff.
I asked a couple of Brits what they thought about it all but they didn't know there was an election due.