Spain prepares for chaotic elections – POLITICO



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MADRID — When Maripaz Pérez thinks about the upcoming national elections in Spain, she gets nervous.

Pérez, a resident of the city of Seville, isn’t worried about the closeness of the race or the policies the country’s next government might enact: the source of her anxiety is the actual date of the vote.

“Who on earth thinks of having a national election on July 23, a Sunday in the middle of summer, when almost everyone is out of town?” she complained. “How can they ask people to cut short their holidays and line up in scorching heat just to do their civic duty?”

From the time Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez dissolved parliament in May, there has been all sorts of speculation about how Spain’s summer elections might play out.

“We have never voted so late in the summer, when at least 10 million of Spain’s 37 million voters are on vacation,” said Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid. “It’s unclear how many voters will be away from their home towns, how many will be willing to return to vote, how many will vote by mail… It’s all a bit of a mystery.”

With Spaniards forced to interrupt their holidays to vote, Simón said it was possible for traffic jams to develop. Similar increases could take place at post offices, where a record 3 million voters are expected to vote by mail. Although the Postal Service hired 5,500 additional workers to staff its offices this month, some locations are still expected to be overwhelmed.

The center-right People’s Party, which leads in the polls as the official campaign season kicks off at midnight on Thursday, has sought to portray the timing of the election as an unfair move by Sánchez. Party leader Alberto Núñez-Feijóo accused the prime minister of forcing more prosperous, traditionally right-wing voters to “choose between the ballot box or their vacation”.

“Is the objective to reduce participation and make it difficult for citizens to vote?” he said.

Although May’s municipal elections were marred by scandals involving the purchase of mail-in ballots, overall confidence in the electoral system remains strong. Even the far-right Vox party, which has tried to cast doubt on the mail system, is now encouraging voters to make the most of the option.

The midsummer vote may also cause problems at polling stations, which in Spain are run by voters selected by a lottery system. Those selected in the draw face up to a year in prison if they refuse to remain in office for the 12 hours the polling stations are open.

But even with this threat looming over them, in almost every Spanish election, a few stations have opened late because the citizens tasked with overseeing them have failed to show up. With so many voters on vacation, this scenario is likely to become more common across the country.

While all polling stations will eventually open — authorities may recruit unsuspecting voters to direct them on the spot — a late start could delay the announcement of official results, which may only be relayed once all polling stations voting closed.


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Another factor that could complicate the voting process is scorching weather.

Last summer was the hottest on record in Spain, with July temperatures reaching levels not seen since 1961. The country is experiencing ‘abnormally high temperatures’ and Spain’s weather service predicts this month’s elections will coincide with an extreme heatwave that will bring average temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius in Madrid and even more intense conditions in cities like Cordoba, where temperatures reached 44C. last July.

Pollsters predict large numbers of voters will head to the polls early in the morning, before temperatures peak, and then again late in the day when things start to cool. These voting patterns could lead to early reports of high turnouts that could potentially deter less motivated voters from participating.

Given the unusual timing, who shows up to vote could play a big role in determining the outcome. “The problem with this election is that there are so many variables at play that the results are totally unpredictable,” said political scientist Simón.

Although early polls showed voters on the right to be the most motivated, the balance has shifted in recent weeks as voters on the left have grown alarmed at the prospect of the People’s Party governing with the support of Vox – a scenario that Núñez Feijóo openly considered. – and which is already happening in local and regional governments across Spain.

Schoolteacher Alicia Arroyo said the opportunity was a key motivator for her. “I’m really worried about a right-wing coalition,” she said. “Wherever they are, all Spaniards must participate… Especially all left-wing voters who generally stay at home.”

The center-right People’s Party, which leads in the polls as the official campaign season kicks off at midnight on Thursday, has sought to portray the timing of the election as an unfair maneuver by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez | Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images

The uncertainty is unlikely to end on election day. If the People’s Party works as planned, it will still have to reach a governance agreement with Vox and decide whether to accept members of the far-right party in the executive.

If Sánchez and the rest of the left exceeded expectations, the negotiations would be even more complex, as they would almost certainly need to secure the support of regional and nationalist forces.

In the best-case scenario, Spain won’t have a new government until mid-September: the country’s parliament is unlikely to be called back into session until August 17, and even if one bloc wins a clear victory over Otherwise, he will still have to go through an investiture procedure that involves visits to the king, meetings with partners, a debate and several votes in assembly – a complex process that takes several weeks.

If neither the left nor the right manage to garner enough support to seize power, Spain could face even a longer period of uncertainty, with the country in the hands of an interim Sánchez government until fall and voters called back to the polls early next year. .

“This election is taking place at a time of extreme polarization in Spain and that won’t go away once it’s over,” Simón said. “Everything can happen.



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