A view of a Postal Office branch being guarded by police officers in Melilla, Spain, 18 May 2023. EFE/ Paqui Sánchez

Spain rocked by vote-buying scheme ahead of local elections

Madrid/Melilla, May 24 (EFE).- An alleged postal vote-buying scheme has clouded the last days of campaigning for local elections in Spain.

So far authorities have arrested seven in the Andalusian town of Mojacar and 10 in the north African enclave of Melilla over alleged electoral fraud in the May 28 regional elections.

Sources working on the investigation told Efe on Thursday that the scheme in Mojacar, in the province of Almeria, allegedly offered prospective voters, many of them foreign citizens from impoverished backgrounds, between 100 and 250 euros to vote for the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE).

A view of the Town Hall in Mojácar, Almería, Spain, 24 May 2023. EFE / Carlos Barba

Some of those arrested were allegedly trading the votes outside the Mojacar Post Office branch where they approached foreigners they thought could be convinced to sell their vote.

Commissions were also offered to people who drew more prospective voters into the scheme, the source added.

Police launched an investigation into postal votes in Melilla, when over 21% of voters registered by mail in the exclave, seven times higher than the national average and double that of the previous elections in the autonomous city in 2019.

According to official data, by 22 May, of the 11,707 mail-in votes requested in Melilla, only 1,302 had gone to the post office to hand the ballots in.

On May 17, Spain’s electoral commission changed the rules for postal voting in Melilla to require voters to show ID when submitting their ballot.

There have also been reports of postal workers in Melilla being attacked as they were distributing ballots in the city, prompting authorities to deploy police escorts for postal workers.

Both PSOE and opposition conservative People’s Party (PP) have been implicated in the allegations.

Millions have been called to the ballot for Sunday’s local elections to choose all of Spain’s municipal councilors and 1,038 seats across 38 provincial governments.EFE