Madrileños turned out to vote today, May 4, at regional elections that will have consequences on the national scale. There were a few special circumstances at play on Tuesday: the polls were taking place on a weekday, rather than the usual Sunday; the coronavirus pandemic is still not under control in the country; and just two years have passed since the last Madrid elections – the regional premier, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party, opted to call these elections early. Polling day has finally arrived after a bitterly contested campaign, where ideological slogans took precedence over any talk of policy. Here are a few of the most notable anecdotes that took place during election day.
Marcelo made it to London. The Real Madrid soccer player turned up at the scheduled time this morning to his local polling station, where he had been cited as a back-up voting official to man the polling station at the Liceo Europeo de La Moraleja, in the northern municipality of Alcobendas. The Brazilian left back was facing a tricky situation: if the person he was due to stand in for didn’t turn up, he would have been forced to stay and help with the election proceedings throughout the day and wouldn’t be able to travel with his team. In other words, he would have had to miss the Champions League second-leg semifinal game against Chelsea. When he arrived, Marcelo could see that the other official had not turned up. But, as Spanish TV channel La Sexta reported, an older lady – who was the second back-up – offered to replace him thus allowing Marcelo to travel with his team and make the key match.
Femen protest against Vox candidate. The National Police filed a report against five members of the feminist collective Femen, after they staged one of their trademark topless protests this morning when the Vox candidate for Madrid premier, Rocío Monasterio, turned up to vote at the San Agustín voting station. According to news agency EFE, police sources reported that the activists were identified and arrested by officers after they removed their tops and began to shout slogans such as “Not one more step for fascism,” and: “This is not patriotism, this is fascism.” Monasterio arrived at the polling station accompanied by her husband, Vox’s spokesperson in the Congress of Deputies, Iván Espinosa de los Monteros. The pair took the time to pick up the papers that the activists had thrown in protest. “The streets need to be clean and tidy,” said Monasterio. “They will not shut us up.” Vox’s campaign ahead of today’s elections has been controversial, in particular thanks to a xenophobic poster that made claims about the amount of money the state pays to maintain menas, the derogative Spanish acronmyn for unaccompanied underage migrants. Monasterio was also the protagonist of a chaotic radio debate during which she proffered insults to the other candidates and refused to back down on her claims that death threats received by Unidas Podemos candidate Pablo Iglesias had been invented for political gain.
The man with the “communism or freedom” shirt. One of the presidents of a polling station in the municipality of Las Rozas turned up this morning wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the campaign slogan of incumbent Madrid premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso: “Communism or freedom.” According to Spain’s electoral law, no official at a polling station is allowed to wear political slogans or symbols. The man refused to remove the item, however, prompting the rest of the presidents at the polling station to call the Electoral Board by phone, who sent two Civil Guard officers. The president then agreed to abide by the rules and there were no further incidents, according to a spokesperson from the central government delegation.
Long lines to vote. A higher turnout compared to the last polls, along with strict coronavirus measures, saw long lines outside many of the polling stations across the region. At the Punta Galea school in Las Rozas, for example, people had to wait for up to an hour before they could cast their ballots. While voting was due to end at 8pm, the regional government announced that anyone still waiting in line at that time would be permitted to vote.
A darker ballot. Users of social media were critical today of the fact that the voting slips for the conservative Popular Party were a darker color than the rest, making them stand out. Sources from the Electoral Board explained that the party itself noticed the difference in the sepia color used for the papers, and actually sent a request to make sure that they were acceptable. The board authorized their use. Sources from the PP insisted that the board allows “any sepia color” for the voting slips.
English version by Simon Hunter.