every vote counts
On May 27th, municipal elections will be held for alcaldes (mayors) and regidors (councillors) in all the ajuntaments (town halls) in Spain. Thanks to reciprocal agreements, EU and Norwegian citizens are allowed to vote in these elections, so Barcelona residents from those countries wanting to have a voice in the running of the city have a chance to be heard.
In the last municipal elections, there was no outright winner (likely to be the case again this time), with the two main parties, Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) and Convergencia i Unió (CiU) losing seats, and smaller parties (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV)) benefiting. The result was a continuation of the left-wing coalition between the PSC, ERC and ICV. But PSC had the greatest number of seats, so its candidate (and the incumbent), Joan Clos, remained on the job as mayor. When he was chosen by Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to be Minister of Industry last September, the role of alcalde was handed to Socialist Jordi Hereu. These elections then will not only be an opportunity for voters to pass judgement on the past four years, but also to actually vote (or not) for Hereu.
One thing worrying all the parties is that there could be a significant level of abstention, as seen in the historically low turnout in the 2006 Catalan parliamentary elections. Already one legal change may make some electors feel better represented: in March this year, the Spanish government passed a law setting minimum gender numbers for parties standing in municipalities of more than 5,000 inhabitants. In practical terms this means, amongst other things, that there can be no more than 60 percent of either gender standing for any party.
Jordi Hereu—Partit Socialist Catalunya (left-wing).
Background: This year is Hereu’s 10th in local politics; he’s been councillor for the districts of Les Corts and Sant Andreu. Part of Catalan President José Montilla’s PSC clique.
Record: Anti-system groups have criticised Hereu in his role as head of the Guàrdia Urbana unit that deals with squatters (okupes). However, Hereu received plaudits for achieving peaceful festes in Gràcia in 2006, after two years of trouble.
Manifesto: Hereu has talked about three themes: security, social cohesion, and public services with sustainable urban growth, saying his electoral programme “is based on the realism of the new challenges that cities have to face”. The PSC electoral program talks about strengthening the metropolitan area of Barcelona, creating a single local organisation to manage the services of all the towns there.
Xavier Trias—Convergencia i Unió (centre-right).
Background: Trias joined Convergencia Democràtica de Catalunya in 1979 (party that forms half the CiU federation), but continued working as a paediatrician until 1981 when he entered the Generalitat’s Health department. This is the second time he’s stood for mayor.
Record: In opposition for the past eight years, Trias has kept himself at the forefront of Barcelona’s municipal politics. However, the loss of a CiU seat in 2003 rather than the hoped-for gains was a blow he won’t want to repeat.
Manifesto: His slogan is Un canvi de debò (A real change), and Trias is promoting popular issues, such as 15,000 new homes to rent in 10 years. Forty percent of those standing with him for CiU are younger than 35. Proposed changing law so voters directly elect neighbourhood representatives, rather than for a party that decides where its councillors go.
Jordi Portabella—Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya
Background: A biology graduate, Portabella has been a member of ERC since 1987 and in the town council as the party’s main representative since 1999.
Record: Currently the second deputy mayor, he’s had responsibility for the city’s markets and tourism initiatives, as well as being president of the zoo.
Manifesto: Like others in his party, Portabella is happy to speak for himself and not just tow the official line. He recently proposed a single metro network for the city and outlying areas, combining the existing, varied services into one.
Imma Mayol—Iniciative per Catalunya Verds
Background: Originally from Palma de Mallorca, Mayol was a member of the Catalan Parliament between 1992 and 1999. Married to Joan Saura, leader of ICV in Parliament and current Catalan Interior Minister.
Record: As third deputy mayor, Mayol has focused on green and social issues, with responsibilities including the environment, public health, and parks. Mayol declared herself ‘anti-system’ in January this year and in favour of decriminalising squatting to control it instead through civil law.
Manifesto: Three principal priorities—social inclusion, ecology and citizen participation. Climate change is an important theme for the party. Mayol has said she thinks doubling ICV’s seats (currently five) is possible.
Alberto Fernández—Partido Popular (right-wing)
Background: Barcelona born and bred. Joined PP in his late teens, and worked his way up the ranks.
Record: Stuck to traditional right-wing issues, such as immigration.
Manifesto: Fernandez has highlighted the issues of law and order, security and squatters, matters that he says the Socialist-led council has let fall by the wayside.
These are the main candidates, but a variety of other parties also will be putting forward candidates. Of these, the one with the best chance of getting council seats is Ciutadans-Ciudadanos. This is a very young party, which came from nowhere in the last Generalitat elections to win three seats, and they will be hoping to repeat that success now. The head of their short list (five candidates) is Esperanza García, a 32-year-old lawyer who was only chosen to stand in mid-March and has no political experience. In terms of policies, Ciutadans has made bilingualism its main hook.
HOW TO VOTE
• If you are empadronat (registered at a town hall), you should be on the electoral register. It is now too late to be added, as registration closed on March 31st.
• You will be sent a voting card (targeta censal), with the address of your polling station (col·legi electoral) and the table (mesa) there where you cast your vote. If away on May 27th, apply for a postal vote (vot per correu) form from the post office (until May 17th, send by May 20th).
• Take original photo ID with you when you go to vote.
• At the polling station, there will be a table with a pile of papers for each party, with the list of candidates standing in Barcelona. Voters here don’t vote for a specific candidate—the mayor and councillors are chosen in order according to where they are on the list: if a party gets enough votes for four seats, the top four people on the list will take them; the first person on the list of the winning party will become mayor. New equality legislation means of the first five candidates, three must be women.
• Select a paper for the party you wish to vote for, put it in an envelope provided and take it to the table indicated on your voting card.
• Before election day, the parties may send you an envelope and their list, which you can use to vote with and take prepared to the polling-station.
• Election day: May 27th. Voting hours: 9am-8pm