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Overseas candidates hoping to do their bit

  • We speak to foreign residents on the eastern Costa del Sol and Axarquía who are hoping to gain seats on their local councils in Sunday's local elections

In this second instalment, Jennie Rhodes and Gabriela Berner speak to some of the foreign residents standing for election on the in the Axarquía and on the eastern Costa del Sol.

"Being number four shows a commitment to foreigners"

Ria O'Brien PSOE councillor, La Viñuela

Overseas candidates hoping to do their bit

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Ria O'Brien, 68, is originally from Tipperary in Ireland and has lived in Spain since 2005.

Ria is no stranger to politics and from a young age was actively involved in both local and politics in Ireland. She was asked by then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, to get involved as "they were trying to get more women involved, you know, women's lib and all that," explains Ria.

She has been a PSOE councillor in La Viñuela since the 2015 elections , when the mayor, José Juan Jiménez López, invited her to stand. Ria sees her role, "not as a politician but as a community person who links the expat community and locals". As number four on the list, she is "confident" she'll be reelected and says of the mayor, "being number four shows a commitment to the foreign community". She speaks highly of Jiménez, who she says is a "great guy for the area".

"I have been involved in the foreigners' office for four years"

Chloe Gavin PSOE candidate, Periana

Chloe Gavin, 47, originally from London, has lived in Periana for 19 years. She is married to a Spaniard and has two sons. Workwise, Chloe does a lot of translating and interpreting as well as teaching and as she puts it, "mothering".

This is the first time she is standing in the local elections.

-Why did you get involved in the elections?

I have been involved in the village's foreigners' office for the last four years and I was approached by the mayor, Rafael Torrubia, (PSOE) to join his team. "My initial reaction was no, having never been particularly political, but having seen the shambles that is Westminster, I thought I can do better than that, so I reconsidered. On a local level I believe it's more about dealing with people than following a particular ideology.

-Why did you choose PSOE?

I didn't choose the party so much as the party chose me. I've known Rafael for 19 years - he's been mayor for the last four - and he's very open to new ideas and suggestions - hence asking a 'guiri' to be on his team.

-What will the party do for the community in general and in particular the foreign residents?

The programme includes all aspects of village life (infrastructure, social and public services, employment, culture, health, third age, environment). For the international community, we are hoping to provide more integration, helping with day-to-day aspects of village life for the linguistically challenged, as well boosting tourism.

-Are you likely to get a seat on the council?

It is unlikely as there are eight councillors presently and I'm number nine, although I was offered a higher number. Even if I'm not elected, the idea is to form a separate role for me.

-Are there many foreigners in the village and do they generally get involved in local politics and or vote in elections?

There are perhaps a couple of hundred on the 'padrón' but only around 50 who have given their intention to vote. Generally speaking the foreigners are a good source of new ideas when it comes to local politics even if they're not directly involved.

"I'm on the list purely to support the mayor"

Chris Cluderay Ciudadanos candidate, Alcaucín

Chris Cluderay, 69, is originally from Yorkshire and has lived in Alcaucín for 25 years where he is a retired language teacher.

He was never involved in politics back at home, but first appeared on current mayor, Belgian Mario Blancke's Ciudadanos list in the 2015 elections.

He didn't win a seat then and says he's unlikely to this time round either but is keen to support Blancke, who he considers "the best mayor by far" the village has had in his time there and has "a proven track record".

"We need an influx of young people to do things in the village"

Liz Keag Por Mi Pueblo candidate, Cómpeta

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Liz Keag, 64, has lived in Cómpeta permanently for 25 years where she is an estate agent. She was born in Northern Ireland and also lived in Scotland and the Isle of Man before coming to Spain.

This is the first time that Liz has got involved in politics and is passionate about Cómpeta and about the party. "I love the village very much," she enthuses. However, the self-confessed "sales person" says that like much of rural Spain, Cómpeta is losing its young people. "We need an influx of young people here to do things."

Liz says she's really pleased that most of the Por Mi Pueblo team are "young and vibrant" and firmly believes that because of that they can improve things. "The village is great but of course there are things that can be improved," she recognises.

Liz is number eight on her list, but that does not stop her from thinking she could win a seat on the council. "I'm a sales person and if you want to sell something you have to believe in it," she concludes.

"I need to stand up for something I believe in"

Ann & Simon Hewitt PP candidates, Arenas

Ann and Simon Hewitt have lived in Arenas for 13 years. They say they are among the very few foreigners who actually live in the village itself as most have houses in the surrounding countryside which belongs to the village. They had never been involved in politics back home and this is the first time Ann is getting involved in Spain.

Overseas candidates hoping to do their bit

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For Simon, it's the second time he has been on the Partido Popular's list, having stood, but not won a seat, in 2015. Ann is number five and Simon number six on the party's list and while they don't think they will get elected as Arenas only has six councillors, they want to support the village's PP candidate, Manuel Ríos, who they believe was unfairly "ousted" after a vote of no confidence in 2016. "There are lots of foreigners living in the campo and Manuel is hoping to count on their vote," says Ann. She says the main reason she is standing is, "I need to stand up for something I believe in."

"I want to support the mayor who has done so much"

Elizabeth Morrison & Paul Knight Izquierda Unida, Sedella

Paul Knight, 66, is already a councillor in the village of Sedella and has been since the 2015 elections when current mayor, Francisco (Paco) Abolafio, invited him to put his name forward. Paul's originally from Stoke-on-Trent but has lived in the village for 17 years. He says, "I joined Paco because of the mess Sedella was in. He's a village person and the changes to Sedella are incredible."

Elizabeth Morrison, 70, has been coming to her second home in Sedella since 1986 from her home in Scotland and she says that she feels like a local when she is here.

Morrison is a 'Suplente', or substitute, on the Izquierda Unida list, so is unlikely to be elected as a councillor. However, she says she felt "honoured" when Abolafio asked her to be on his list. "I was really chuffed," says Elizabeth, who adds that the mayor "does a lot for the village and for foreign residents". She goes on to say, "He's very kind and you can always go to him if you have a problem."

"Ciudadanos with Mario as mayor is best placed over the other parties"

Eunice Bowles Roberts & Charlotte Van Mele Ciudadanos, Alcaucín

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Eunice Bowles Roberts is Alcaucín mayor Mario Blancke's campaign manager for the elections as well as being on his Ciudadanos list. Originally from Preston in Lancashire, Eunice, 76, has lived in Alcaucín for 17 years.

She was involved in politics in the UK, which she explains gave her the skills she is using to help Mario. Although she has helped the mayor before, this year is the first time she's standing herself. "Ciudadanos with Mario as mayor is best placed by far over all the other parties because Mario is incorruptible," she says.

Belgian resident, Charlotte Van Mele, 28, is also on the Ciudadanos list in Alcaucín. She says she got involved as she has, "always had an interest in politics" as she studied Social and Political Sciences. "When Mario asked me to participate I was immediately interested," she says.

"Our foreign residents have my number"

Katie Hallybone Deputy mayor and PSOE candidate, Macharaviaya

Katie Hallybone has been a councillor in the village of Macharaviaya for 12 years and will be standing again, in what will be her fourth elections.

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Katie, 36, came to Spain with her family when she was just 10 years old and has made a life for herself in the village. She has worked as a local tour guide and managed the Gálvez museum for over a decade and was approached by the mayor, Antonio Campos Garín, to stand as a councillor in 2007, which is when she won her first seat.

Katie says of her decision to align herself with the PSOE, "The village needed to carry on with the new socialist party that had got in just four years before, after having in power the PP for the last 24 years."

Hallybone, a seasoned councillor and deputy mayor, says that this year the PSOE party promises to get public transport to the village. She also says that the local primary school needs a canteen and they need to increase the number of days that a doctor comes to the village.

For the international community, a priority for the party is to continue with Spanish classes and as the only English-speaking councillor, Katie says that she is already the "link" for foreign residents, "all of whom have my phone number," she explains.

Overseas candidates hoping to do their bit

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Approximately 10 per cent of Macharaviaya's 500 residents are foreign, of which the town hall says around half are actively involved in local politics and likely to vote on Sunday. On winning the elections, Hallybone says, "We are confident that we will be able to carry on working for Macharaviaya."

"You have to be inside the institutions to change them"

Cyrielle Ludovique Le Coadou Candidate Vox, Nerja

Cyrielle Ludovique Le Coadou, 34, has spent 17 years living in Nerja. She was born in Bondy, near Paris but moved to Bayonne as a child before coming to Spain and Nerja, where she has done a number of different jobs over the years but is now a stay-at-home mum.

This is the first time that Le Coadou has got involved in politics and is number five on the Vox list in Nerja. She says it's the party she "identifies most with" as it defends her "ideas and principles". The French resident decided to get involved in local politics because she wants to "change things". She adds, "Complaining from my sofa allows me to let off steam, but it doesn't change what's around me. You have to be inside the institutions to change them."

"The PP leader wants to get foreigners more integrated"

Rebecca Lock-Dyde.

Rebecca Lock-Dyde. / SUR

Rebecca Lock-Dyde and Sarah RobinsonPP candidates, Frigiliana

Long-term Frigiliana residents, Rebecca Lock-Dyde and Sarah Robinson, are both standing for election with the village's PP party. While neither are guaranteed to get a seat on the council, they want to continue to be involved and be a link for foreign residents. For Rebecca it's the second time she's been on the party's list while this is Sarah's first time. "If we get an absolute majority I would get a seat," says Rebecca. Currently Frigiliana is governed by the opposition PSOE party but has PP councillors too.

Rebecca, 40, has lived in Frigiliana for 24 years and is a business owner. She's originally from Jersey and before moving to Spain permanently she used to visit her grandparents who lived in the village. She says her "ideas and beliefs are conservative".

Sarah, 56, is originally from Cambridgeshire and has been in Frigiliana for 21 years. Like Rebecca, she is also self-employed and says that while she wasn't actively involved in politics back home, she has "always had strong convictions and always voted".

Sarah Robinson.

Sarah Robinson. / SUR

Both Sarah and Rebecca think Frigiliana's PP leader, José Antonio González Conejero, who is an existing opposition councillor, is the "best prepared person for the role of mayor" and that he is clear about the need to get foreigners "more integrated".

"No mayor has made the sewage plant a priority"

Helmut WienerAdelante Nerja Maro

Helmut Wiener, 56, an advertising copywriter from Dornbirn in Austria, was a leader of the youth movement of the late seventies and witnessed the birth of the Greens. When he and his family came to Nerja in 2008, he realised very quickly that something urgently needed to be done for the environment in the area. Therefore he joined the recently-founded Los Verdes (The Greens).

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For Helmut, the wastewater treatment plant is the top priority for the town. "Until now, none of our mayors has really made this a priority. In addition, the project has suffered because there are different political parties ruling the town, region and country and they like to make life difficult for their political opponents. But thanks to our efforts in mobilising the community, we got the works to resume."

The commissioning of the sewage plant is the most important short-term goal of the election platform Adelante Nerja-Maro, which is made up of Greens, Podemos and IU.

Wiener is also very worried about illegal landfills, mass tourism and beaches.