When in Valencia, vote as the Valencians do

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(This post is also available to read in Dutch.)

Faithful readers will no doubt recall the cliffhanger that we ended on a few weeks back: what would be the outcome of the local and regional elections and who would get to shape Valencia’s educational system, social housing and urban planning for the next five years? The people have spoken, and the results in Valencia (and a number of other regions) have added an unexpected twist to the national political narrative, too. Before we delve into that, let me share my Voting Experience, which took place at my local library on Calle de la Reina – our neighbourhood’s designated polling station.

Typically, this place is a favourite hangout spot for local grandmothers who gather to exchange gossip under the excuse of browsing through antiquated novels. (If you’re looking for somewhere exciting to go, this isn’t the right place. However, I should mention the infamous December 2022 Incident, when the police intervened after a man attempted to stab two young students with a pen because they had “given him a dirty look,” as per the police report.)

As I dropped by just after the polling stations opened at 9 am, the entrance was already abuzz with activity. A small crowd of older gentlemen were engaged in conversation with the local police officer stationed in front of the large wooden entrance door. On a large table, stacks of empty envelopes, next to neatly organised piles of papers, each bearing the logo and a list of names belonging to the different political parties. I’d been forewarned about this peculiar setup. The intriguing thing about the Spanish electoral procedure is that many people don’t mind casting their votes in public. Everyone is able to observe how one selects a paper with their preferred party’s logo, folds it in half and places it in an envelope before submitting their vote into the plastic ballot box. For more privacy-minded voters like myself, two makeshift voting booths had been set up in the library, equipped with a piece of cloth intended to serve as a privacy screen. As I was struggling to close the curtains, the rails rattled, attracting everyone’s attention even more – HEY, LOOK AT THIS BLOND IMMIGRANT TRYING TO CONCEAL HIS VOTE!

Mercado Central, Valencia

Eventually, my modest role in the democratic process failed to prevent the formation of a coalition between the conservative PP and the far-right Vox. I was not the only one disheartened by the results, although I wouldn’t exactly classify myself as a supporter of the sometimes petty regionalist, unprogressively progressive rhetoric that the fragmented left bloc often presents. Twelve per cent of the vote seemed a bit excessive for Vox, the party headed by Carlos Flores – the same man who was sentenced to a year in prison back in 2002 for what a fellow party member euphemistically referred to as “a difficult divorce.” (Fortunately, the judges had chosen to qualify the offence as what it was: sexist violence. Who said that legalese should be difficult?)

Women need not fear, though: according to the recent provisional government agreement presented by the PP and Vox, it appears that Vox’s leading role will go to Vicente Barrera, a former bullfighter. The Generalitat’s city palace is soon to experience a breath of fresh air as the country’s newfound favourite torero waves his iconic red cloth about the place. If the coalition’s 50-point plan is anything to go by, we can expect even more cruise ships and the much-needed addition of parking space for diesel vehicles in the historical town centre.

The electoral results were a cue for the leftist PSOE’s PM, Pedro Sánchez, to take an opportunistic gamble and call an early election. Spaniards are grumbling at the thought of their annual holidays being disrupted, as they are now invited to go to the polls on July 23. The PP has already announced that it won’t be holding its main election rally at the Valencia bullfighting arena this time around – officially due to the excessive summer heat. As a foreigner, I lack the right to vote at the national level, so I’ll have to wait and see. Regardless of the outcome, I hope we can collectively regain our mojo and seize the opportunities that lie ahead, fueled by a renewable energy transition and a flexible, well-educated generation that is more #opentowork than ever before.