With new election looming, parties mull reducing campaign costs

Acting justice minister wants to slash their duration so as not to “torment” citizens further

Acting justice minister Rafael Catalá speaking in Madrid on Monday.
Acting justice minister Rafael Catalá speaking in Madrid on Monday.Javier Lizón (EFE)

The failure of political negotiations following the inconclusive election of December 20 is making it increasingly likely that voters will have to cast their ballots again in June.

This possibility is bringing back the debate over campaign costs, and prompting suggestions that their duration should be reduced as well.

On Monday, acting justice minister Rafael Catalá stated that cutting back campaign times would be “good news” as it would mean “not tormenting citizens with two weeks of rallies.”

I am absolutely willing for the PP and PSOE to spend half of half of what they currently spend

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera

Although this would require tweaking electoral laws, Spain’s political parties generally share the view that campaigns should be more austere. As such, Catalá said it would not be so difficult to reach consensus on this issue, although no changes could be effected in time for June.

The last election came with a tab of €130 million, and that was without counting each party’s campaign.

Spain’s electoral legislation states that campaigns last 15 days. The state puts up part of the money, offering €21,167.64 for every seat gained in Congress or the Senate; €0.81 for every vote obtained by every congressional candidate who secured a seat and €0.32 in the case of the Senate. The state also helps pay for political mail, as long as enough votes were received to create a group in parliament.

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The loss of votes at the last election meant a considerable loss of revenue for Spain’s two largest parties, the Socialists (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP), which together gave up five million votes.

The PP spent around €12 million on the campaign. The party leader in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, Borja Semper, feels there should be no new campaign at all if new elections are held in June. The Galician premier, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, expressed support for “a shorter campaign.”

In any event, the conservatives are already in the middle of something that looks very much like a campaign. Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is using party events to announce measures he plans to introduce to “upgrade” their December program – such as making the workday end at 6pm.

The Socialists spent close to €9 million on the campaign, most of which was spent on political direct mail. Party sources said they will not be sending anything else through the mail if there is a new vote in June. “Citizens must not pay for the irresponsibility of those who prevented a government from being formed,” said the party’s congressional spokesman, Antonio Hernando.

Podemos spent €3.6 million on the December campaign, exceeding its own target of €2.2 million. If a new election is held, the anti-austerity party will again resort to micro-credits to fund its campaign run.

Meanwhile, Ciudadanos criticizes all the talk about new campaigning when there is still time to avoid a new election. Party leader Albert Rivera says that “I am absolutely willing for the PP and PSOE to spend half of half of what they currently spend.”

The United Left group (IU) spent €2.5 million on the last race, most of which went into political mail. This money has been lost, as IU did not earn enough seats to form a group in parliament and was not eligible for state subsidies. Campaign manager Clara Alonso said that reducing campaign expenses is “not a bad proposal” because “at a time of cuts, this is no time for lavish electoral expenses.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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