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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Local Elections and the British Resident
Saturday, October 1, 2022 @ 10:34 AM

There has now been a pronunciamento on the subject of the vote for British residents in Spain for the municipal elections.

One of the many joys of the Brexit meant that the British residents in the EU lost a number of privileges, without apparently gaining anything much in return. One loss was The Vote in the European elections (not that any MEP ever spoke for the foreign residents), and another was our switch from ‘ciudadanos comunitarios’ to ‘residentes extranjeros’ with our snappy new TIE card. Those without them only being allowed in the Schengen Area for ninety out of 180 days, regardless of property-ownership. Indeed, we TIE-owners can stay in Spain, but we can’t spend more than 90/180 days elsewhere in the EU either.

We became, with Brexit, something less.

The municipal elections have always been of more interest than any other one – since one vote has little sway in a national or regional poll, but in a municipality with mere thousands (or maybe just hundreds) of voters, your word counts for something.  

Despite the ruling from the European Court of Justice following a case in France, it appears that the Spanish/British bilateral agreement on (at least) local voting rights remains firm, if with a few extra formalities to undergo.

These include having to prove you have been a resident in Spain for more than three years (alas, your TIE card makes no mention of your antiquity) and to claim your right to vote (for next May 28th local elections) sometime over the Christmas season. The Election Board (INE) should be mailing out a card soon to the British residents showing our seniority - a proof we will need to show when we register at the town hall.

As to whether one can still join a local party-list as a Brit – a British resident who is also currently a councillor says that ‘yes, we can. Unlike other non-EU nationals, a Brit can still be placed on a voting-list’.

The Spanish/British bilateral accord on voting rights post Brexit from January 2019 is here.

For other nationalities, resident in Spain, there are three alternatives.

-EU citizens can vote in European and local elections, and stand as candidates.

-Certain other nationalities can vote in local elections. The countries with an agreement with Spain (together with the UK) are Bolivia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Korea, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and (for some reason) Trinidad & Tobago.

-Nationals from anywhere else can’t vote (such as… Moroccans, Brazilians, Argentinians, Venezuelans or Canadians…).

In a municipality, it is clear that everyone over 18 should have the vote, as a town hall must represent all of its citizens, not just the ones with the right paperwork. Otherwise, which bit of land will get re-zoned, or who will receive preference in some local project or engagement?

(We are reminded that many Spanish voters, resident elsewhere, opt to maintain their name on the local padrón and vote in consequence).

In our experience, not many British residents voted in earlier elections, and the likelihood is that, with these fresh impediments, even fewer will bother this time.

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