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On May 22, Spain will go to the polls again – this time for the municipal elections. Many foreign residents have the right to vote ….but how many can/will use their rights.

Keith Nicol explains:

Alicante leads the way for foreign voters

Eduardo Dolón , leader of the PP in Torrevieja

MADRID, BARCELONA and the Balearics all lag behind Alicante when it comes to the number of International voters for the May 22 municipal elections. With 77,476 International voters on the electorate, Alicante Province has more than 20,000 wishing to hit the ballot box this year than second placed Madrid with only 52,682, Barcelona are third with 32,466 and the Balearics a distant forth at 20,907! Of those wishing to vote in Alicante’s municipal elections, the major two groups are the British (40%) and Germans (22%) who along with other EU residents account for 73,700 voters with an additional 3,706 made up from other countries who have reciprocal arrangements with Spain.

The data was collected through the Electoral Register of Foreign Residents in Spain (CERE), who account for a total of 465,661 foreign residents in the entire Spanish state, who wish to cast their vote. Of the 77,476 that are concentrated in the province of Alicante, Torrevieja, with 121 nations registered on the Padron, leads the way with 6,536 resident aliens on the electoral role.

For those that love their facts and figures, more information can be found by visiting http://www.ine.es. It makes for interesting reading to know that in terms of EU residents, some of the more popular Alicante towns might have fewer or more than expected, such as Algorfa (674), Alicante (2,317), Almoradi (253), Altea (1,662), Benidorm (2,743), Benijófar (799), Benissa (2,162), Bigastro (186), Calpe (4,323), Castalla (527), Catral (389), Cox (18), Crevillent (261), Daya Neuva (240), Denia (2,482), Dolores (204), Elche (1,520), Guardamar (1,051), Javea (4,153), La Nucia (3,238), Orihuela (4,538), Redovan (28), Rojales (3,030), San Fulgencio (3,212), San Miguel (1,152), Santa Pola (1,741), Sax (87), Teulada (3,772), Pilar de la Horadada (1,635), Los Montesinos (1,535) and Torrevieja (6,361).

But the surprise package must be Torrevieja. Virtually ignored by the National Government over the last four years, a case in point is the fact that they reneged on their promises to build the city a National Police Station, leaving the city as the only municipality in Spain with more than 100,000 residents without a National Police station! A thorn in Zapatero’s side, the City of Salt has the third most EU voters in Spain coming behind only Madrid (19,627) and Barcelona (16,557) while the also-rans include Marbella (5,068), Valencia (4,488), Palma (4,058), Sevilla (1,198), Mazarron (2,887) plus the entire province of Granada has even less than Torrevieja with 6,439 voters and Spain’s former capital Valladolid, a paltry 816!

Such data may send a few alarm bells ringing with local political parties as in certain municipalities such as San Fulgencio, San Miguel, Oriheula Costa, Rojales and Torrevieja, the International community could be the deciding factor when it comes to election day. Somewhat surprising then is the difference in numbers published by CERE as opposed to official numbers on the Padron! In the case of Torrevieja, January 2011 figures of 103,540 registered residents are made up of 52.76% citizens of foreign origin (54,624 inhabitants), while 47.24% (48,916 people) are Spanish. In Torrevieja, 13,044 International residents come from the United Kingdom followed by Germany (3,964 ), Russia (3,461), Morocco (3,052), Sweden (2,957), Romania (2,451), Bulgaria (2,353), Norway (2,284), Ukraine (2,149), Colombia (1,691), Belgium (1,475), Finland (1,301 ), Ecuador (1,146), Italy (1,142), Ireland (1,001), China (814), Brazil (735), Argentina (722), Lithuania (699), Portugal (624), Poland (624) and France (565 ).

Thus, the anomaly would be that although there are over 25,000 International residents in Torrevieja only around 25% have registered to vote! It remains to be seen if this year’s winning parties will embrace the International community more than they have over the past four years. Certainly, in the case of Orihuela Costa and Torrevieja, both PP candidates for Mayor, Mónica Lorente and Eduardo Dolón respectively have publicly stated that if returned to power, that more support will be given to the International community over the next term.

Both Dolón and Lorente have held focus group meetings with members of the International Community, from all walks of life from business people, to parents and the retired, and have taken note of many of their concerns, issues and grievances along with suggestions and ideas for improving living conditions, amenities, security, entertainment, health and culture along the coast. Dolón especially admits that mistakes were made over the last term but at 35-years old, with 16 years of political experience and eight years in local government overseeing the cultural department, he envisions a bright future for Torrevieja by working more closely with the International Community than the city has ever before. If Torrevieja was to push for 80% of their registered citizens to avail themselves of their voting rights, the city would even surpass Barcelona and Madrid as the single most important place in Spain for EU voters rights! If even all of the British and German’s wished to vote, Torrevieja would then surpass Barcelona!

2011 will also see a new Spanish Census performed after the elections. During this present term in power, Zapatero’s Central Coalition Government also changed the rules regarding Padron registration, making all foreign residents who would like to have their name on the Padron, have a need to become residents first. They also did away with the International Residents Card and replaced it with an A4 sheet of paper, which is now not accepted by police, shopkeepers or even Padron officials, as it is devoid of any photograph! Many of these new laws have made it more difficult for International residents to put their name on the Padron, which in turn seems to have impacted the number of International residents who wish to make their voice heard in their local community through casting their vote. Confusion over final registration days to make sure one was on the electoral role also has proved to be a negative factor.

With only a few days to go before the May 22 election, all political parties are busy discussing their manifestos, deciding on their lists of candidates and preparing their action plans for their election campaigns. Just how some of the parties will reach out to the International community remains to be seen. Certainly, if promises made are not kept, some of them can probably say goodbye to their political futures as new contenders are starting to sit up and take notice of the growing importance of the International community throughout Spain.

© Keith Nicol 2010

Email Keith Nicol for further information.

In the meantime the PP in Torrevieja have launched a new international website for Torrevieja