By Humphrey Carter
THERE are an estimated 30'000 British residents in the Balearics and all those eligible to vote in the forthcoming general election in the UK are being urged to do so.

The newly established Electoral Commission and the British government is, for the first time, making sure Britons living in Spain “don't lose their right to vote”. Yesterday, the British Consul-General Mike Banham explained that this new campaign is not only aimed at encouraging people to exercise their right to vote in the general election, but also the referendum on the EU Constitution Britain will be holding next year.

The British Embassy's Susana López, who accompanied Banham at yesterday's press briefing, said that the campaign is targeting Spain in particular because “in one way or other,” 25 percent of the British population are in Spain, either living here permanently, temporarily or on holiday. While difficult to accurately put a figure on the number of Britons living in Spain, the Embassy estimates it to be half a million with between 30'000 and 40'000 in the Balearics. However, of the half a million, only those who have been registered to vote in the UK within the past 15 years can apply to be an overseas voter. That applies for both the general election and the EU referendum.

In reality, the number of British residents in the Balearics who do exercise their right to vote in the general election is a minority, either because they are not eligible to vote or voter apathy. There is a growing section of the British community which believes as they live and pay taxes in Spain they should be able to vote in the Spanish general elections - and a sizeable part of the community will be unable to take part in the EU referendum.

With no right to vote in the Spanish general election, snubbed from the Spanish EU referendum and not eligible to vote in the British EU referendum, hundreds of thousands of British residents, many working, in Spain have been left no voice on the future of their adopted country or the European Union.

Those who are eligible to vote in the general election, expected to be called for May 5, hence this week's launch of the “vote” campaign, have until March 11 to make sure they are on an electoral register.

THE Chairman of Conservatives Abroad in Majorca, Peter Newey, has been helping people register as overseas voters since October and says he is prepared to help anyone who wishes to do so, whichever party they intend to vote for. “Personally, I don't care who they vote for as long as those eligible to vote exercise their right to vote,” he said.
Newey believes it is vital that people do not waste their right to vote, even if they do live in Spain. “Today, more and more young people are coming to live and work in Spain, but it does not mean they will be living here forever. At some point, many may return to the UK and therefore should continue to vote to try and make sure, when they do return, they are entitled to a pension and health care, for example. “What is more, many of us have the rest of our families living in the UK so we can cast a vote in their best interests also,” he added.

However, he admitted that the ideal situation, as we are all European citizens, is that those living, working and paying taxes here, should have a choice of either voting in the Spanish or in British general elections. “For many Britons, Spain is now home,” he said.


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