Casting your vote: it’s a simple process, isn’t it?
Our correspondent Brian Eldridge casts his own personal view over the recent elections.
Having survived the media coverage of the UK General Election with my sanity more or less intact, the result proved no great surprise to me.
I always find it strange how so much emphasis is placed on opinion polls, especially polls that show a third of the electorate undecided, but that’s over and done with, so let’s take a look instead at our own local elections.
I will concentrate on the election of Puerto’s mayor and council, the only one of the three different polls that I, as a foreigner, am eligible to vote in.
The campaign was a short one, just two weeks leading up to the vote on May 24th which wasn’t long for anyone to get the message across from those who had a lot to say.
I was looking forward to the faithful members of the various parties knocking on my door so in answer to their “Can we rely on your vote?” I could answer “No you can’t, go away”. But, of course that didn’t happen; things are run slightly different here. In fact, most of their energy appeared to be spent on a frantic race against all opposition to see who could get the most banners or posters on lampposts in the most prominent positions.
Coalición Canaria seemed to take the high ground; every which way you turned there was Sandra smiling down at you. Their posters higher up the poles than others too, a specific strategy, maybe, or perhaps just because they were the only party with access to a ladder, or maybe they were put out of reach in case any budding street artist was tempted to add facial hair.
So with the posters up it was the turn of the loudspeaker vans. Can you understand a word of what they say? I struggle with announcements in English! In Spanish, not a clue, I don’t understand a thing, no way Jose.
What about the party promises and pledges? There were a few, with ten parties putting up candidates, quite a lot to wade through? They ranged from “We are not going to do anything new or change anything” (probably the most honest and truthful) to a promise of “World peace and to save the ozone layer”, or at least, this is my interpretation of them. Most, of course, promised they would build the new port, the new bus station, sort out Playa Martiánez, the Taoro building, blah de blah de blah, yawn, boring, heard it all before.
That was it as far as canvassing and electioneering went. I was quite disap-pointed, but did I really expect anything different? Hang on though I nearly forgot to mention the arrival of the voting slips, the lists of candidates’ names, and envelopes, in three different colours, though as a foreigner, I was only interested in the white ones, not that that stopped the others arriving.
Every time you opened the letterbox there was another batch, duplicates, even triplicates, that is apart from and in addition to the ones which were actually addressed to me and came via the post office. I never saw them arrive, it must have been under the cover of darkness. It would have been far simpler to have put them straight into the recycling bins and saved us all the trouble.
It all stopped on the Friday night, before polling on the Sunday. No canvassing is allowed on the day before Election Day. A bit different from the UK, with only 24 hours to go, the battle buses would be out in force, with candidates doing last minute whistle-stop tours, shaking babies and kissing hands, or is that kissing babies and shaking hands, desperate to secure your vote.
But, wait a minute; elections in the UK are never at the weekend. I must admit voting on a Sunday is a bit of a novelty. I can understand the logic of it though, with most people not working on that day it should ensure a high turnout, if only it did. Never encroach on the weekend, it’s a golden rule.. Therefore Saturday was the official day of reflection, a day when you should spend some time weighing up the pros and cons, before finally making up your mind on who to vote for?
Polling day, doors open at 9 o’clock and I decided to vote early, to get it over and done with. No, I didn’t mean it like that, it sounds as if voting was a chore, but it wasn’t, I was keen to vote, my philosophy being, if you aren’t prepared to stand up and be counted you aren’t entitled to comment on either, the result or, the actions of the council over the next four years, which I most surely will.
I entered just after 9am, I wasn’t going to queue for doors open, I wasn’t that keen. So clutching my white envelope and my means of identity, which being a foreigner meant, passport and that stupid bit of green paper, I approached the right desk. Blast, there is already a queue; I was surprised but, it didn’t take long to realise why. Behind each desk there were two ‘officials’ and on either side of them sat the various witnesses from the parties, who each had their own lists. As each person presented their documents there was a confab and votes couldn’t be posted until every one of them had either ticked or crossed their relevant boxes.
Moving slowly forward, oh no, there is always one, the man who is in the wrong queue. Even after the officials had pointed this out and the witnesses had all stuck their oar in as well, he wasn’t having any of it. At this juncture I thought a bit of tutting was appropriate. Once again they explained it to him in plain (I nearly said English) and simple Spanish (if there is such a thing) and thankfully he finally got the message and wandered off muttering that he was right, it was everyone else in the wrong.
Only one in front of me, but this man has come unpre-pared. Why, he must have enough slips at home to wallpaper a room with them, yet he has arrived empty-handed. Now the whole queue, which is getting steadily longer behind me, has to wait while he goes into the booth and makes his selection.
How long can it take, to put three slips in three envelopes? I have sung three choruses of ‘Oh why are we waiting’ and he still hasn’t reappeared. Don’t worry I was singing to myself, wouldn’t want to upset the natives, it is good of them to let me vote, in one, if not all three of the today’s elections.
Still waiting, I glanced at the other tables to see if they were faring any better as I have a habit of being in the wrong queue, always drawing the short straw. They are taking photos next door, I feel a fb post coming on, ‘Hi to all my 5000+ friends this is me voting at 9.15’. No selfie stick though I am glad to see, perhaps they are banned, considered a dangerous weapon. Imagine the chaos it would cause if you poked an official in the eye while extending it. Assault with a selfie stick, it must be a crime, besides which, it would give the bored looking policeman at the door some-thing to do. He’s out and posted his votes, it’s me next.
They didn’t want my green bit of paper, to be honest I don’t think most people know what they represent, instead they scrutinized my passport, all of them. I know the photo does not do me justice, or look very much like me, it’s a passport photo, it is not supposed to, but I am sure I heard a snigger. And I know my name is not Rodriguez or Hernandez, but it is not that difficult, did it really need all of them to repeat it out loud a number of times before finding me on their lists.
Boxes ticked I could vote, but not before they all reminded me I could only vote locally. I know, I am a foreigner and as I only had the white envelope in my hand it should have been a bit of a clue.
Vote cast, now we had to wait for the result. To be honest, the result was almost a foregone conclusion: it was just the configuration of how many seats each party won. It was always going to be a coalition, proportional repre-sentation, vote for the party not an individual, may sound the fairest system, but it rarely produces an outright winner and it was never likely to in Puerto.
With 21 seats on the table, a party needs 11 for absolute rule, the final count produced 7 for PSOE, 7 for PP, 4 for CC and 3 for ACP.
Now we wait while the wrangling and wheeling and dealing goes on behind closed doors, but you don’t have to be a mathematician to realise which party holds the best bargaining chip.