Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Election Fever

It's election time in Spain. On 22 May we have the local and regional elections. The campaign period proper started as Thursday became Friday this week. At a national level the current government is in the hands of the Socialists but their popularity is at rock bottom because of the present economic situation and the scandalously high unemployment figures.

The local councils are enormously important in Spain. In Pinoso there are 13 councillors elected through a proportional representation system. You vote not for a candidate but for a party. The party puts forward a list of candidates with the names at the top of the list being the first elected and so on. At a national level this means there are never surprise defeats for the big names. There is never the need for by elections either as if anyone drops away during their period of office there are always "spare" candidates waiting in the wings.

There are lots of quite small but influential political parties at a national level based on geography or historic nationality so the Catalans, the Navarrese, the Basques, Galicians and the Canarians all play an important role when either of the two largest parties, the Socialist Workers Party (more New Labour than the name suggests) or the Popular Party (read Conservatives) do not have a clear majority. In some areas the big parties campaign under a regional name. There are a couple of other national paries though they currently have fewer "MPs" than the regional parties.

In Pinoso the two big national parties are represented but the Socialists have just two councillors and the real race is between the national PP and a local group called UCL. The UCL recognised the possible importance of the British vote after the last elections and has had an Spanish speaking English chap working on its behalf as a sort of go between since that time. The PP also recruited a British woman to do something similar as the elections approached.

The PP, the Conservatives, won a narrow majority at the last elections over the local party UCL (Unión Centro Liberal) and after the elections those two parties formed a coalition. Apart from the Socialists mentioned above we also have present councillors and candidates from a breakaway socialist party (PSD or Social Democrats) and what I think is a part of a one time left leaning Valencian Nationalist party (BLOC)

I always enjoy election campaigns but it looks unlikely that I'll be able to get along to many of the rallies and meetings for one reason or another. Actually I'm a bit miffed that I won't be able to vote at the regional level. For some reason the EU legislation gives me local, national and European votes in Spain or in the UK but nothing at the regional level in either.

In our region, Valencia, the PP, the Conservative Partido Popular, has a clear majority but the current Valencian President and lots of his chums are embroiled in a political corruption scandal. So far the politicians have managed to keep out of court but the circumstantial evidence seems very strong. It would have been nice to be able to express my view through the ballot box. Interestingly in the two conversations that I've had today with other Britons about the elections their main concern has been about corruption too.

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