A COURT in the North African city of Melilla has opened an investigation into possible voter fraud ahead of the local and regional elections that will be held across Spain on May 28.
Sources from the probe told radio network Cadena SER that there is evidence that a gang of 30 to 50 people were operating in a ‘mafia structure’ that was buying postal votes for €100 and that was also using ‘coercion and intimidation’ to influence the polls in Melilla.
The scheme is possible because while voters need to present their identity cards when receiving their vote from the postman, they can then delegate the casting of their vote to a third party. That person can legally arrive with bundles of votes at the post office without having to present any kind of ID.
Investigators believe that the gang was using the unemployed and drug addicts to get hold of these votes from often young and vulnerable relatives, which were then being offered in packs of 100 to the highest bidder.
According to Cadena SER, there are suspicions that the Coalicion Por Melilla party (Melilla Coalition) is benefitting from the scheme, but that other parties could also be involved.
The gang is also suspected to have assaulted six postal workers who were trying to deliver postal votes to people who had not got involved in the scheme.
In Spain, postal votes account for about 2% of the total, but in Melilla that number is currently as high as 20%.
There are around 61,000 registered voters in the exclave city, of whom around 33,000 usually cast votes. The figures suggest that as many as 11,000 votes will be cast on May 28 by mail according to Spanish daily El Pais.
Due to the suspicions of fraud, the electoral board has taken the unprecedented step of requiring voters to show their identity cards when delivering their votes to a post office.
The current Melilla government is run by Coalicion por Melilla and the Socialist Party. The mayor is Eduardo de Castro, who is an independent after having been expelled by the centre-right group Ciudadanos (Citizens) after it emerged that he was involved in a court case for alleged malfeasance.
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