Today Spain’s holding a general election. In the red corner, we have Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leading the Socialist Party, and in the blue corner, we have Mariano Rajoy and the Popular Party. And in the other corners, we have a whole bunch of regional parties, the Greens, and the Falange (Facists).
Most residents with other EU nationalities can vote, but not the British (because the UK won’t let any foreign nationals vote.) So I haven’t taken as much interest as I would have done otherwise. But they put up extra billboards all over the place, with specific amounts of space allotted to each party. I believe the space allocated to each party depends on how many votes they got last time. We also get lots of loudspeaker vans going around saying “Vote for Us!” at annoyingly loud volumes. And each party organises its members in a car procession around the whole island, waving flags and honking horns. All of this is probably great for the party workers’ moral, but I can’t imagine it persuades anyone to vote for them. In fact, I used to say I was going to vote for whichever party produced the least noise pollution in my hearing. They also hold meetings (and would you believe the Spanish word is meetin) which often include free food and a local band, to increase the turnout. And this year, for the first time, they had a televised debate between Zapatero and Rajoy.
The thing is, all of this is comparatively cheap. People can present their arguments freely, but it’s a level playing field, without any great advantage to the richer parties. It also saves vast amounts of money, which presumably show up elsewhere in the economy, although goodness knows where.
And over 75% of Spanish voters turn out to vote. Of course this year is the 30th anniversary of the constitution. Plenty of people remember not being allowed to vote.