JUST happened to be in Madrid for the nationwide Spanish elections for local government. There was one street with some electoral advertising as we came in from the airport. It consisted of small flags on electric posts saying vote PSOE, the Socialist Party. Perhaps their headquarters were on that street and therefore an exception as I did not see any other election posters in public places. But I did see taxis carrying election posters on their doors with photos of the candidates, individual candidates. Also, in magazines and newspapers.
Along one street I saw one bus parked carrying the photo of the mayoralty candidate of one party. There were uniformed party workers around it but the bus was not using a public address system to blare out campaign messages. In other words, a minimum use of public space for election propaganda. Definitely, there were no signs on walls or trees or other public places.
On television and in the print media, it was another story. There were election ads though not an inundation of them. The government television did not seem to carry election ads.
If one were not reading the papers or watching television and a stranger or tourist like me, you would hardly know that an election was days away. I arrived Monday and the vote took place on Sunday. Not much in between to make one take notice. Early Sunday I was on my usual one hour pre-breakfast walk looking out for crowds in front of the polling places, mostly schools both public and private. I did not see any probably because the polling places opened at 8 am which is early but I was earlier.
Television election coverage was on with the Minister of Communications giving details of how polling was taking place all over Spain. Uneventful on the whole with one polling place reported to have opened half an hour late because of late arrival of the assigned poll officials which meant they would have to close half an hour beyond closing time to accommodate the voters listed. One polling place reported voting was over by 9:30am because it only had nine voters, eight of whom voted in person and one by mail. One incident was that of a woman detained by the police for refusing to do her duty as a poll official.
There was no avalanche of paper trash in any of the polling places or their surroundings. Actually, voters are advised by mail with a notice of which polling place they should vote in. This notice must be brought by the voter together with the national identity card to cast his vote. Since it is block voting, each party has the list of its candidates (a long list in Madrid and presumably elsewhere) for the voter to choose from on the election tables together with the envelope that comes with it. There were two lists for each party, one for councilors of Madrid, the city and the other for the assembly of the Mancommunidad or Greater Madrid like Metropolitan Manila.
The streets were not unusually busy and only the polling places had some parked cars. There were some pet dogs on a leash going to the polling places with their owners. Some had minor children with them. No one was distributing any election propaganda or sample ballots. Those came in the mail.
The polls closed at 8pm which is still daylight at this time of the year. There was talk of “mesas electronicas” which may have been counting machines but they were not seen on television. In fact, when 8 pm came the transparent ballot boxes were opened and the ballots were catalogued by party on the table and counted. There was no automated voting machines ala PCOS.
At 10 30pm television was showing trends from exit polls. By 2pm the trend was replaced by real voting results. By 2am the election returns from all over the country were virtually complete. I did not wait for 2 am. When I turned television at 9am there were talking heads analyzing the election results. The candidates had already declared victory or admitted defeat. No charges of cheating were aired. The election had taken place, the votes had been counted and the people had spoken. The majority party led in votes, but much less than the other time around so coalitions are expected. A trend for change was clear with emerging parties winning seats.
Leftists gained. Barcelona produced a new mayor, a woman. Women were very visible as candidates, party workers, voters. In Madrid, two women squared off for mayor.
Spain has 35 million voters about 50% of whom voted. Unlike our elections, only party workers who are paid as full time employees or volunteers who are not paid are the main players aside from the candidates themselves. It is hardly a livelihood even for media or printers or caterers or transportation facilities unlike with us where elections are a bonanza that occurs every three years.
Only one person was caught trying to vote twice by using someone else’s ID the second time. There was no violence, no show of arms, not even policemen providing security.
By Monday afternoon, the news was that Real Madrid, the football team, was dispensing with its Italian coach after a mediocre year for the team.
Soon a new set of local officials will take office as a matter of course.