What’s going on at the town hall

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January 18

Not so long ago, the Spanish senate voted in favour of a bilateral agreement with the UK that will give British residents in Spain and Spanish residents in the UK the right to vote in post-Brexit local elections in the country they live in; the deal received overwhelming support.

The bilateral agreement will guarantee that Brits who are official residents in Spain and Spaniards with ‘settled status’ in the UK can continue to vote in local elections after December 31st 2020. At the time there were 37 locally elected British town and city councillors in Spain, mostly in the Valencia region and Andalucía, the two Spanish regions with the highest number of British residents.

The negotiations ensured that the roughly 300,000+ Brits officially residing in Spain can keep these two rights and will be able place their ballots – or stand – in Spain’s next local elections. The deal is a reciprocal agreement which was treated as an international treaty that was ratified by both Spain and Britain’s parliaments.

Spain’s local elections determine which councillors are chosen in the country’s 8,116 municipalities and what seats political parties hold in the 38 provincial councils. The municipal elections are usually held simultaneously with regional elections in most of Spain’s autonomous communities.

Over the last few months though, PIOC (the Party for the Independence of Orihuela Costa) has been receiving many complaints from residents who have gone to the town hall to exercise their right to be on the voting register; below are four of the excuses that were given as to why they were not allowed:

1 – You didn’t make an appointment, we will get back to you (in fact they did have an appointment, and nobody did ever get back).

2 – You need to go to the Suma office

3 – Sorry we don’t know how to put you on the register

4 – Because of Brexit you are not allowed to be on the register

These are just four of the typical excuses that was given, which leaves these questions that need answering:

1 – Do the employees inside the town hall need retraining?

2 – Did they decide upon themselves not to be cooperative and make it awkward for residents?

3 – Have they been given instructions from the council 34km away in Orihuela not to cooperate? This would be breaking the reciprocal agreement between the UK and Spain.

But, to be eligible to vote in the 2023 elections you have to have been on the padrón for a minimum of three years. If you have been for less than three years, you can’t vote till the following elections, which are in 2027, but if you have for three years or longer you are entitled to vote in the next elections, which are scheduled for Sunday, May 28, 2023.

Peter Houghton

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