In this first instalment, Tony Bryant, Jennie Rhodes, Georgie Kenny and Rachel Haynes speak to some of the foreign residents standing for election on the western Costa del Sol.
"Being independent we can concentrate on the needs of our municipality"
Dean Tyler Shelton Councillor, Compromiso Manilva
Dean Tyler Shelton has lived in Spain since his parents decided to move here when Dean was 10 and has lived in Manilva for around 20 years. He was first elected onto Manilva council in 2015, with Izquierda Unida, becoming the town's first ever foreign councillor. However, he has recently changed to Compromiso Manilva, which is currently the governing party.
He says he believes Compromiso Manilva is "the best qualified with the most experience and best positioned political group in our municipality" and expects the party will be "the most voted list on 26 May".
Dean says he's committed to helping residents of Manilva "no matter what their nationality".
He adds, "Being independent we can concentrate on the needs of our municipality rather than towing the burden and big party political line as happens with some of the larger parties such as PSOE or PP."
"I am excited to help the young people get their ideas heard"
Michael DruryImpulsa Ciudad, Marbella
In 1979 Michael Drury moved to Spain. Since then he has set up Angela's School in Marbella, where he and his wife teach non-English students, in order to equip them for integration into the international school system.
Drury explains that it is down to his interactions with young people, both Spanish and international, in education that pushed him to support the new group Impulsa Ciudad. He believes that because the movement is new, they have fresh ideas with no obligations to other political motives.
The preservation of the environment is a major policy for Impulsa Ciudad, says Drury. He believes that educating the local children on the natural beauty of Marbella will allow the conservation of the town's environment to extend well into the future.
According to Drury, Impulsa Ciudad is also working to integrate foreigners further into Spanish society. The candidate explains that the "old" Marbella is no longer what people are looking for, but now are rather more interested in a "healthier place to live". He wants to push for more facilities which promote healthy living to attract tourists and internationals. "It is important to get foreigners involved," he explained. Having recently completed his CCSE test, which is part of the process for obtaining Spanish nationality, Drury learned a lot about the Spanish electoral system. He believes that the reason more foreigners are not voting is because they have a lack of interest, and are "tired of politics".
"As a foreigner here, I don't believe I have the right to change Mijas, but I do believe we can improve on it"
Anne HernándezCandidate Movimiento Vecinal Mijeño (MVM), Mijas
Former university lecturer Anne Hernández was born in Hertfordshire and she has lived in Spain for 34 years, although this is the first time she has ventured into politics. President of Brexpats in Spain, a platform that defends the rights of British citizens, Anne was approached to stand as a councillor for the new Mijas action group, MVM, one of the first non-political groups to be allowed to stand for elections in local government.
Anne, number seven of the list of candidates, says that she chose the party because it is not "politically biased". She claims she will concentrate on animal welfare, the environment and Brexit. "I want to deal with Brexit. The Spanish realise that it is going to adversely affect them, so they want us to all pull together in support of every member of the community.
"As a foreigner here, I don't believe I have the right to change Mijas, but I do believe we can improve on it."
"The huge expat population hasn't had a voice"
Darren Sands Candidate PP, Marbella
Darren Sands, 52, is originally from Leeds, UK, and arrived in Spain in 1998, moving to Marbella in 2006. For the last eight years this real estate developer has been president of the El Rosario community of property owners and as a result has been involved in meetings with the town hall over the problems that his and dozens of other 'urbanisations' in Marbella suffer, especially wastewater drainage and the blocking of licences.
When the current Partido Popular mayor, Ángeles Muñoz, asked Sands to join the party's list as an independent candidate in the upcoming council elections he agreed.
Sands believes continuity and stability is important on the political side and says that's not going to happen if there is another coalition government as there was after the elections four years ago.
"I think the best option is [the PP local government] we have right now," he said, adding that, although at number 23 of the list it is highly unlikely that he will win a seat on the council, he hopes to "help out as a bridge between foreigners and the town hall".
"We've got a huge expat population that really hasn't had any representation, hasn't had a voice, explained Sands. "I intend to be there to help to be that voice for the urbanisations."
"No other team has the experience to move Mijas forward"
Bill Anderson PP candidate, Mijas
Edinburgh-born Bill Anderson says he is honoured to be presented as number seven on the candidate list of the Partido Popular in Mijas: only the second time in 40 years that a foreigner has been in this position.
The 61-year-old university lecturer and novelist, who has lived in Mijas since 2002, spent many years working as a policy advisor to the UK and then the Scottish governments, and to several local authorities, but he claims "this was enough to persuade me not to dip my toes further into the political arena". Since then, he has always tried to avoid politics, but after becoming unhappy about the management of Mijas over the last four years, he decided to do something or "suffer in silence".
He has now been working with the Partido Popular (PP) for over two years and is convinced that there is no other team with the "experience, vision and imagination to move Mijas forward and deal with the complex problems of such a large municipality".
"My years in Mijas under the Nozal government (2011-2015) were, in my opinion, the golden years for Mijas. Nozal was determined to include someone from the international community on his team and brought me in two and a half years ago. Much of what the international community needs is the same as the Spanish community: security, clean streets, reduced bureaucracy, community policing, a specialist unit for animal welfare, and a solution to the services to the urbanisations."
There are over 120 nationalities in Mijas and Anderson's vision is to make life in Spain less complicated for the expat community and to make them feel more involved, despite possible language difficulties. He feels there are many reasons why foreigners don't vote, but believes that we could soon see a change in this.
"I don't think that there is a single reason why many foreigners don't vote. Some say they never voted in their home country, so why do it here? Some even feel that they are living in Spain and the Spanish voters should decide. I think, however, that with being more aware of the role they can play, this may be changing."
"To ensure the future of the planet, we have to act now"
Safia Aita Candidate Impulsa Ciudad, Marbella
Parisian Safia Aita has lived in Marbella for past three years, after working for 11 years as a consultant at KPMG. She now dedicates her time to teaching French and doing her best to help the environment.
Her devotion to our planet is one of the main reasons why Safia chose to work with Impulsa Ciudad. She believes that politics should not put off what needs doing today; the planet will not wait for us to catch up. "We have to act now," she says.
Aita explains that being a foreigner in Spain can be difficult, and more to help integration needs to be done. She says that Impulsa Ciudad is looking towards ways of getting internationals more involved with the local community, including voting in local elections.
"Every town hall should support the environment"
Sandra Sprawson Candidate Impulsa Ciudad, Marbella
Originally from London, Sandra Sprawson, 72, moved to Spain in 1980 from Saudi Arabia and opened her own business in San Pedro 25 years ago. She has voted in Spain for the past five years but this is the first time she has got involved as a candidate.
Sandra explains that she is eager to get involved with any movement that is working towards a more sustainable future. "If every town hall got involved with the environment, all the little initiatives would add up to make a difference," she says.
She is standing for Impulsa Ciudad and supports the movement's educational policies, but is also passionate about getting foreigners involved. "In many ways, we don't integrate ourselves."
"Coín must regain its historical identity and value its scenic treasures"
Ralf Pirzl Ciudadanos candidate, Coín
Ralf Pirzl, a Berlin-born telecommunications entrepreneur with Austrian parents, says he had never intended to go into politics. But when, under his presidency, the once heavily-indebted ‘urbanisation’ where he lives with his wife and daughter became one of the liveliest and most prosperous in the whole area, he was asked to use his leadership qualities for the benefit of his adopted town of Coín.
He agreed and was elected as councillor for the UPyD (Union, Progress and Democracy). Now, four years later, following an agreement between his party and Ciudadanos, he is the leading candidate for the latter for the 26 May elections.
“Coín has lost its historical identity. In the old town, the jewel in its crown, much more could be done. The traffic is chaotic, it is difficult to navigate around the centre, we don’t even have a foreigners’ department and the tourist office is an absolute mess,” he says.
Pirzl argues that the area’s natural beauty spots should be much more accessible and valued “because they belong to everyone in Coín”.
“I feel very much one of [the locals],” he adds, “and I’ve learned that they are much more open than four years ago. But would they choose a foreigner as their mayor?”
Despite his enthusiasm, he has his doubts. But he is ready to take on the challenge nonetheless.