A very international election

A very international election
  • This Sunday's council elections has seen parties across the political spectrum fielding expat candidates. We spoke to a broad selection of them ahead of the big vote

Spain goes to the polls again this Sunday, 26 May, for the second time in under a month. With the general election out of the way, this time it is a triple vote in some areas of the country for new councillors, new regional parliaments and Euro MPs.

Some 67,000 council seats in all 8,131 town halls are up for reelection and in Malaga province, including the Costa del Sol, voters will be choosing councillors in the 103 local municipalities plus their Euro MPs.

While only Spanish passport holders can vote in Spain in national and regional elections, many people of other nationalities living in the country can vote in the municipal elections, providing they were registered on the electoral roll.

There are municipal voting rights agreements for all EU countries, as well as for Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, Trinidad and Tobago, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay and Peru.

Foreign voters

Candidates to be mayor have been courting the vote of foreign residents as usual, especially in areas with a large proportion of expatriates. Official data shows that 40,000 foreign nationals on the Costa and in Malaga province have registered to vote on Sunday.

Among the larger local town halls where the foreign-resident vote is likely to be decisive in choosing who the mayor and councillors will be are Mijas, where 36 per cent of the local population is not Spanish and the current Ciudadanos mayor rules with a minority of councillors; Marbella, with 26 per cent international residents and a PP mayor ruling in coalition; and Nerja with 29 per cent international residents, where the PSOE leads a left-wing coalition.

Expat candidates

International candidates from the qualifying countries can also stand in the municipal election. When towns and villages from Estepona to Nerja published their local election lists, foreign names stood out across all of the political parties, from the left-wing Izquierda Unida, to the far-right Vox, and in around 30 of the province's municipalities.

Thanks to a bilateral agreement signed by the UK and Spanish governments allowing both Brits to vote and stand in local elections in Spain and Spaniards to do likewise if they are resident in the UK (regardless of the outcome of Brexit) many UK residents on the Costa del Sol are taking advantage of this right. They are joining a number of other foreign residents who want to be more involved in their local community.

In some cases foreign residents were approached by their local mayors and in others, there was a feeling that the non-Spanish communities didn't have any kind of representation or voice within their town halls. Some have previous political experience, while this is the first time for others, and dealing with Brexit locally is inevitably an issue for many.

We spoke to a number of hopefuls ahead of the vote to discuss their hopes and ambitions.

In the first instalment, Tony Bryant, Jennie Rhodes, Georgie Kenny and Rachel Haynes spoke to some of the foreign residents standing for election on the western Costa del Sol.

The second takes a look at those in the Axarquía and eastern Costa with Jennie Rhodes and Gabriela Berner.