One eye on Brussels,the other on Baghdad

26th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

On Sunday, Europe goes to the polls to choose a new EU Parliament. It may be the first real test of the new Socialist government. We examine the issues at the centre of the European parliament elections.

European Popular Party leader Jaime Mayor Oreja

Critics of the European Parliament claim that its elections are often simply an exercise in the protest voting against national governments.

Whether you agree or not, the elections on 13 June could provide a particularly poignant test of this maxim.

Many in Spain believe these elections, coming so swiftly after the shock victory of the Socialists on 14 March, will be the government's first real test.

The extraordinary circumstances of Jose Lluis Rodriguez Zapatero's victory nearly three months ago were widely thought to be the result of the way the former government acted after the Madrid bombings.

Now, commentators say, Spaniards may have a clearer head and can judge the Socialists properly.

But it will not simply be Spaniards who make a decision.

There are at least 125,642 expats from European Union countries living in Spain, according the National Statistics Institute.

At least half  - around 65,000 - are known to have registered to vote in the election. This figure may be higher.

The deadline to register to vote if you are a foreigner in Spain was 3 May.

*quote1*But it seems enough have signed up to cast their votes to make the expat vote count in Spain.

Many are agreed the one issue which will dominate the fight between Socialists and the conservative Popular Party will be Iraq.

The government will use the hugely-popular withdrawal of Spanish troops as its trump card; playing up Europe's role in resolving the situation.

So far, this seems to be paying off - polls have predicted the Socialists will romp to a comfortable victory on the back of its decision to pull out the troops.

The government started talking up the elections before the official campaign start date of 27 May.

PSOE leader Jose Borrell said: "It is impossible to talk of the political future of Europe without talking of Iraq."

The PP, in contrast, concentrates on Spain's role within Europe.

Gerardo Galeote, a PP candidate, said: "We do not forget the interests of Spain. To hand over power, as the Socialists do, we think stupid."

But the general election will loom large in many voters' minds.

European PSOE leader Jose Borrell

Ana Portalo, of Epoca, a Spanish political magazine, said: "What they think is certain is that 13 June, after the count of new Euro MPs, is going to be the post-mortem on the general elections of 14 March."   

This time, Spaniards will have had time to think; in contrast to the dramatic events of March.

Jose Lluis Sanchis, a political consultant, said: "These elections represent normality after the extraordinarily delicate circumstances of the last election."

The turn-out is not expected to be high – about 45 percent - which may not help the Socialists.

Sanchis believes a low turn-out will benefit the PP.

"If the turn-out is high, I think that the PSOE has big chances to win, after the victory in the general election," he said.

The two main players are both respected political figures in their own parties.

*quote2*Jaime Mayor Oreja, former Minister of the Interior in the last conservative Popular Party (PP) government, is a 53-year-old engineer.

From the Basque Country, Oreja has the advantage of being a PP ideologue and well-respected among rank-and-file.

Borrell, a 57-year-old professor of engineering from Lerida in Catalonia, is the leader of the Socialist group.

An experienced former minister in the previous Socialist government, he was forced to stand down as a prospective candidate for party leader after associates were involved in a corruption scandal. He was not implicated.

The two men have come face to face in increasingly bitter television debates which have failed to grip the nation - low viewing figures have proved this.

Apart from the main parties, nine smaller parties will stand in the elections.

How you can vote if you are an EU citizen living in Spain

The deadline for registering has come and gone. If you are an EU citizen living in Spain, you should have applied before May 3.

Non-Spanish citizens of the EU resident in Spain are automatically entered on the general Spanish electoral roll, since they are obliged to register for electoral purposes in the council area in which they live.

But to be entered on the special electoral roll for each election to the European Parliament, however, you must state that you wish to be so registered.

For each election to the European Parliament, the Office of the Electoral Roll (Officina de Censo) ends non-Spanish EU citizens a letter informing them of their right to vote and asking them basic personal details and if they want to vote.

If you have not registered to vote in time and want to appeal, contact your local council or the Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior).

Tel. 0034.1.537.15.57
Ministry of the Interior website:

June 2004

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Subject: Living in Spain

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