Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Getting A Headache: Covering the election

It was almost wistful. But not that much. Passing the school where in May I had cast my vote in the municipal election, I pined, only momentarily, to be allowed to re-enter. As one of the great disenfranchised diaspora I could not. National elections are for nationals. I'm still minded to believe that this is actually how it should be, but one misses the thrills, such as they are, of the Spanish voting system and the confusion for those attending the "tables" when presented with a foreigner who has two Christian names and one surname. Several moments of amusement ensue.

The attendees of these tables are not volunteers. Long before the current days of citizens participating left, right and centre (though mainly left), they decided to make it like jury service. If you're unlucky enough to have your name picked out, then you have to go and do your citizen's duty. I'm unsure if this means if I, or many of those of you reading this, might one day suffer the same fate. Given that the vote is denied, it seems a tad preposterous to demand table attendance. A mate of mine in Barcelona has had to. I must ask him if this was for the general or other elections. Either way, he can only vote for Ada Colau (or not) and not for Artur Mas, so he was doing his duty for something which he can only partially participate in. There must surely be a message here somewhere for the participative new age, or are foreigners classed as citizens or not?

It would make life an awful lot simpler if everywhere in Spain was like Villarroya in La Rioja. There, they don't have to drag everything out for eleven hours before getting down to the results. As there are only six voters out of nine inhabitants of this municipality (one of whom must be the Partido Popular mayor), the polling station was opened and closed within a minute. How many citizens had been called on to attend the tables, one wonders. Presumably, the voters and the table attendants were one and the same.

This was one of the little anecdotes that made a long day vaguely bearable, another one having been the three voters who turned up early doors in Ibiza only to find that there were no table attendants, so they made themselves into attendants, which was very decent of them. True citizen spirit. And participative, to boot.

Spanish election day starts with a bang as the media troops around getting snaps of principal candidates and other political prominenti smiling and casting their votes. Or in the case of Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau not casting her vote, as she had forgotten her ID. Might the police have a word with her? Is it not obligatory to carry this at all times? There were also the traditional photos of nuns voting. Does the church issue its recommendations? Mariano it might be expected to be, but when there's a chap whose name translates as Churches, he must have been good for a few votes among the religious community.

The greatest media scrum was for Mr. Churches, Pablo Iglesias. He was positively beaming, having tweeted earlier that he hoped citizens had risen with a smile and were off to perform their duty for change. There was to be proof that they had, the Podemos Twitter account replete with the happy, smiling faces of those both old and young. The new age was here, and it was all over Twitter. Pablo had gone to the polling station with his chum Íñigo Errejón, a Podemos co-founder, who doesn't look old enough to vote. By about six years. He is actually 32, so fifteen years older than the boy in Badajoz who had turned up wanting to vote and was politely told that he would have to wait nine days until he was 18.

Once this early election euphoria died down, the day dragged on, lightened only by announcements as to turnout. Eventually, this was to be up. Which was reassuring for the advocates of citizen participation. When the end finally came, exit polls were saying what was to be confirmed. It was Podemos who had been the real winners in the head-to-head between the new boys and girls. The opinion polls had got that part wrong.

All that remained was for the leaders' rallying speeches, arranged in pecking order so that they didn't clash. Mariano had to wait till last, as befits the possibly outgoing premier. Not that Mariano's going anywhere. He plans on forming the next government, despite being deprived of a third of his Congress colleagues.

Having been chained to a computer for the whole day and some of the night, it all ended with a massive headache and neck ache. For Spain, the headache now begins. Not one of a hangover. One of who on earth can now govern.

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