19 May, 2023 @ 18:45
2 mins read

ELECTION SPECIAL: Numbers of British voters in Spain’s local elections plunge

Free transport offered to elderly and disabled voters on May 28 in Spain's Costa Blanca and Valencia areas
Cordon Press image

A GIANT two thirds of British voters have been eliminated from the electoral roll for the forthcoming May elections.

A staggering 61,500 expats have lost the right to vote in the May 28 council elections.

The 63% drop comes with a large percentage of British residents failing to re-register their right to vote by the January deadline.

Figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE) show the giant fall in non-Spanish participation with councils putting it down to lower British registrations.

The number of British expats registered to vote in the last local elections in 2019 (97,585) has now dropped to just 36,543 residents, the official stats reveal. 

The alarming drop of 61,042 people has come about as a consequence of Brexit with British residents now having to separately register to vote every four years, as well as joining the padron.

They are no longer automatically included on the roll.

Data shows that Brits represent just 8.8% of the foreigners registered to vote in Spain this year, a considerable decrease from 21% in 2019. 

Just 10,713 British expats are registered to vote in Andalucia with half of them living in Malaga province. Just 11,340 British expats are registered to vote in Alicante, 1,266 in Valencia province, 2,116 in Murcia and 1,622 in the Balearics.

This is a ‘system failure’, according to expat councillor Scott Marshall, in Benahavis.

Scott Marshall Driving
Scott Marshall

The Councillor of Tourism blamed it on unnecessary paperwork and a failure to better explain the new rules.

“Because of bureaucracy, British residents have had to re-register again and many of them did not remember or realise on time,” he told the Olive Press. 

Mijas councillor Bill Anderson agreed with his fellow PP member. 

“The numbers don’t surprise me as many Brits got caught short with the registration process,” he told the Olive Press.

“We were not notified until the last minute and there was a lot of confusion,” he added.

Bill Anderson

However, the Scottish expat does not believe it’s the only reason for the low participation. “There is always a degree of apathy in the international community with regards to participating in local elections,” he continued.

“For example, only 8% of the foreigners registered to vote in the 2019 elections actually did so,” he explained. 

Meanwhile on the Costa Blanca it is a similar story.

Taking the town of San Fulgencio, as an example, in the 2019 municipal elections, 57% of the electorate was foreign, while this time the percentage has fallen to 38%, accounting for 1,728 non-Spaniards.

San Fulgencio councillor, Darren Parmenter, said: “Many people didn’t know what to do and this is despite us publicising registration information and Alicante Council holding meetings in the area explaining what to do.”

Darren Parmenter
Darren Parmenter

In other areas, there have been major falls with Algorfa now having foreign voters accounting for just 20% of the electorate; 19% in Rojales; 18% in Benijofar: and down to just 8% in Los Montesinos.

The mayor of San Miguel de Salinas, Juan de Dios Fresneda, has predicted problems on polling day with registered foreign voters now down to 11% in his municipality.

“We will see people turning out to polling stations that have voted for years who will discover for the first time that they are not on the register,” he warned the Olive Press.

He added that many British expats ‘are not very active politically’ and only go to the Town Hall to make a complaint if something affects their neighbourhood.

Despite the Olive Press and other media publicising on how to register to vote, it appears many people have missed out on a fundamental right to express their view on who should be running their local services.


Staff Reporter

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