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April 22, 2015
April 22, 2015

Spain: The latest governmental manoeuvre will leave thousands without voting on the May 24 elections

Translator: Susana García
Source: La Marea Granate  Category: Letters from home
This article is also available in: eles
Spain: The latest governmental manoeuvre will leave thousands without voting on the May 24 elections

Queue at the Spanish Consulate in London, Saturday 18th of April, Source: MareaGranate

Any self-respecting democracy celebrates and fosters the participation of its citizens in the election. Yet, this seems not to be the case of our country, where the systematic violation of the right to vote from abroad is growing worse as the electoral calendar moves forward.

As we have already explained before, in order to exercise our right to vote, Spanish emigrants need to be registered at the Consulate well in advance so as to be included in the electoral census (four or five months depending on the elections call). However, the electoral census of the absent residents for the May 24 elections was closed on December 31, 2014 without previous notification by the administrations. Not only was it not reported, but, to the contrary, in the weeks previous to that closing date we were told by the consulates that the census would not be closed.

Taking into account the premature and without notice closing of the CERA´s census, we were left with scarce options if we were to vote: either to register as temporary residents or to claim in person at the Consulates to be included in the absent residents census. However, these two kinds of vote have very different consequences: the first allows for the preservation of the health care coverage in Spain as well as of the right to vote in local elections; the second, to the contrary, impedes the participation in the local elections and opens the door to an eventual removal from the Spanish heath care system.

Since the latest elections in Andalucía, the consulates are refusing to register many people as temporary residents. The Royal Decree 3425/2000, Article 5.3, establishes that those registered as temporary residents “will be unsubscribed when there is indisputable evidence that they have abandoned the consulate demarcation or after a year from their registration application. Should they have settled within the consulate demarcation after a year, they should request their registration as residents”.

Even though the law does not establish any temporary resident registration criteria (a part from taking up the residency in the country for a year), during April at Marea Granate, we received numerous cases of people to whom registration as temporary residents had been denied, even though they had been living abroad for less than a year. Among these cases is Sara, emigrant in London; she was requested to sign an affidavit declaring that she had been in the country for less than a year. Given that she had arrived a little over a year ago, the consulate gave her no other choice but a permanent resident registration, with all the consequences implied, such as not being able to vote for her local council in Spain. Another example is Álvaro in Brazil: he was denied registration as a temporary resident because he had been in the country more than 6 months despite studying. Also, all those registered as temporary residents in the past are prevented from registering as such, regardless if it was 5 or 10 years ago, if they had gone back to Spain or if their previous country of residence was different. None of these criteria is provisioned in the law that regulates the registration as a temporary resident.

All this chain of irregularities can only be explained thanks to the information received by Marea Granate through Consulate employees. These have received instructions by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deny registration as temporary resident to all “people from whom there are indisputable evidences (…) that they have been settled for a long in the consulate’s demarcation”, or to those who had registered as temporary residents in the past ¿What is the purpose of these guidelines that are so vague and divorced from what the law states?

The Government is completely aware that for many emigrants the only option they have in order to be able to vote is to register as temporary residents. The precariousness and uncertainty emigrations nowadays –“overseas mobility” according to the Government– hinders the permanent residency in most cases. Precarious job contracts, the comings and goings in search of a job…A person can be living in between Spain and other countries, without having to become a permanent resident en their country or the temporary host countries; this would result in their removal from the Spanish census, the inability to vote in the local elections or the threat of losing the health care coverage in Spain.

The law does not impede that a person register more than once in their life as a temporary resident, nor does it state that one has to be registered as permanent resident if one has been living abroad for less than a year. But they know that the process of reclaiming is nonexistent and that a lawsuit is a long and costly process.

This new manoeuvre of the Government to restrict overseas voting means that many of us have no other alternative than to fly to Spain to vote in the coming elections, which is something impossible for the great majority. It seems that the devastating consequences of the introduction of the plead vote is not punishment enough. Added difficulties in registering as temporary resident are now added to the non arrival of ballots, disinformation and wrong information by the administrations and difficulties when it comes to registering due to distance and opening hours and the difficulties to register at Consulates. It has become something like the squaring of the circle in order to prevent votes against those responsible of the policies that have led hundreds of thousands of people to move from this country.

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