SPAIN’S National Police force has made nine arrests as investigations continue into alleged voter fraud in the North African city of Melilla ahead of this Sunday’s local and regional elections. 

Among those detained is a member of the current government in Melilla, Mohamed Ahmed Al Lal, who is number three on the candidate list for his party Coalition for Melilla (CpM).

Last week it emerged that a court in Melilla was investigating an alleged ring of 30 to 50 people who were buying up postal votes for €100 each, as well as assaulting postal workers who were trying to deliver these votes to people who had not got involved in the scheme. 

Investigators told Spanish media outlets that they believed 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. 

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.

Among the sites searched as part of the police operation on Tuesday was the data and press centre for CPM, one of the parties standing in the local elections in the city at Sunday’s polls and one of the parties that currently runs the local government, along with the Socialist Party. 

A total of 10 sites were searched as part of the investigation this week, with six arrests made on Tuesday and a further three on Monday, news agency Europa Press reported. 

A total of 11,700 requests have been made for a postal vote for this year’s elections, compared to 4,200 in 2019.

There are around 61,000 registered voters in the exclave city, of whom around 33,000 usually cast votes.

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.

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