Parties quarrel over ways to reduce cost of new election campaign

The last vote in December cost taxpayers €130 million due to subsidies for political mail and parliament seats

Spanish party representatives met on Thursday to try to find ways to reduce campaign spending.
Spanish party representatives met on Thursday to try to find ways to reduce campaign spending.ULY MARTÍN

Spain’s main parties have failed to reach consensus on how to reduce campaign costs for the new race opening up before them.

With a fresh election set for June 26 after politicians failed to build governing alliances following an inconclusive vote in December, Spanish taxpayers could be facing another €130 million tab in campaign spending.

Under Spanish legislation, the state puts up part of the money in the 15-day electoral campaign through subsidies for political mail and for every seat obtained in Congress and the Senate.

Party representatives have agreed to meet again next Wednesday in a bid to iron out their differences

Although politicians had been mulling the need to reduce these costs since April, a meeting held on Thursday only served to showcase the difference of opinion between the traditional parties and the newcomers to the political scene.

The Popular Party (PP) and Socialist Party (PSOE), which have taken turns in power for most of the last four decades, simply want all parties to slash 30% from the budgets they had for the December campaign. But this would still leave them in a position of financial superiority over their smaller rivals.

The emerging Podemos and Ciudadanos, on the contrary, want to reduce the absolute spending ceiling for any party, a measure that would even out the playing field and comparatively hurt the two big parties.

At the last election, the PP spent €12 million, the PSOE €9 million, Ciudadanos €4 million and Podemos €2.2 million.

There was also division on the issue of political mail: the Socialists want to reduce the state subsidies for this campaign expenditure, while the PP conservatives want to keep things the way they are. The other parties want to mail all material out in the same envelope, but the PP is calling this notion “illegal.” At the last election, political mailings cost the state nearly €50 million.

Party representatives have agreed to meet again next Wednesday in a bid to iron out their differences before the new campaign officially kicks off on June 10. Polls are predicting a similar outcome at the repeat election, which the PP confirming its first place yet falling short of the majority required to form a government.

This is the first time in Spanish democratic history that a general election has to be called anew, reflecting the new political fragmentation in a country where parties are unaccustomed to broad governing coalitions of the type seen elsewhere in Europe.

English version by Susana Urra.

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