Surprised Spaniards face choice: Ballot box or the beach
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Surprised Spaniards face choice: Ballot box or the beach

Jun 23, 2023

[1/5]People enjoy the weather on a beach in Malaga, Spain, April 30, 2022. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo

MADRID, May 30 (Reuters) - A Spanish talk show host's gesture of disbelief, with eyes rolled and arms thrown high, upon hearing Monday's announcement of a snap general election at the height of the summer holiday season has gone viral in Spain.

The reaction of Angels Barcelo to the July 23 election date "represents us all," Cadena SER radio station said under the video posted on its website, triggering caustic user comments about likely low turnout or pitying those who will have to work.

Indeed, Spain has never before held national elections in July, when schools are closed for the summer and families flee the sweltering heat of big cities such as Madrid or Seville for the beach.

The election means tens of thousands of people will have to work at polling stations and post offices, which might clash with holiday plans and cause logistical problems.

Political analysts, tourism officials and trade unionists consulted by Reuters expected little impact on travel, but instead a fall in voter turnout and a rise in mail-in ballots - adding to concerns about alleged voter fraud in last Sunday's regional elections.

"People are not cancelling their holidays to stay and vote, but many will opt for postal voting," said political scientist Pablo Simon of Madrid's Carlos III University.

He added that lower turnouts generally favour political parties enjoying good momentum.

"Right now the good momentum is on the side of the People's Party," Simon said, referring to Spain's mainstream conservatives, "but things could change".

A PP source said the election date "when half of Spain will be on holiday" had caused surprise and concern within the party, which hopes to oust Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in the election.

"Sanchez wants people to choose between ballot boxes and holidays, we want them to pick either Sanchez or Spain," PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo said on Tuesday.

Inigo Vicente, a leader at one of Spain's largest trade unions, Comisiones Obreras, said workers usually plan their holidays well in advance and are unlikely to change their plans.

He expected a rise in mail-in ballots to increase the workload of post office workers.

For the regional elections, the state postal service prepared a logistics operation involving 12,000 employees to tackle ballots from about a million citizens, less than one in 10 of all ballots.

The post office does not yet have a plan for the national vote, a spokesperson said.

Voters also have to plan mail-in voting in advance, having to apply for that option at least two weeks beforehand.

It is also unclear what some of the half a million people who will be summoned to work at polling stations on July 23 can do if they have travel plans and need to justify their absence.

The law only allows absence for "family events of particular importance", illness or similar. Offenders risk fines of up to 5,000 euros and even prison sentences.

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Corina is a Madrid-based business reporter focusing on coverage of retail, infrastructure and tourism including some of Spain's biggest companies like Inditex and Ferrovial. She was previously a senior correspondent in Venezuela, where she reported the Chavez and later Maduro government's efforts to retain power and the effects on the economy.Contact: +690725854