By Humphrey Carter


THE prospect of local elections in May, in which European Union residents and certain other non-EU nationals, are entitled to vote, has not got the foreign community too excited.

Yesterday, the Spanish electoral commission released the first set of figures indicating how many foreigners entitled to vote have actually expressed their intention to go to the polls and the figures are either on par with or lower, in some cases, than at the 2007 elections.

Here in the Balearics, only a total of 24'500 of the region's 242'256 registered foreign residents (54 percent of which are EU citizens) have so far signed up to vote and that figure not only includes the European Union residents but also New Zealanders, Norwegians, Bolivians, Colombians, Chileans, Ecuadorians, Paraguayans, Peruvians and Icelanders.

What the electoral commission has been unable to provide so far is a break down of EU and non-EU voters because, EU residents who are already registered with their town hall, have until April 11 to express their wish to vote at the local elections while the deadline for non-EU citizens closed last week.

At a national level, 504'853 foreign residents are entitled to vote and the majority of those are European Union citizens.
But despite over 750'000 letters having been sent out to all those entitled to register to vote, by September last year (the latest count), only 95'418 new foreign residents had registered with their town hall according to the latest electoral commission registry.

In fact, only 14 percent of the non EU citizens entitled to vote have expressed their intention to use it. According to the latest figures, the largest foreign vote is going to come from the British community with a total of 91'948 British residents registered to vote across the country.

Then come the Romanians which are going to account for 81'496 votes and the Germans with just 43'780 votes so far.
34 '488 Italians have registered to vote along with 29'498 French residents, 18'107 Portuguese, 15'788 Bulgarians and 13'196 Dutch.
Political sources in the Balearics told the Bulletin at the last local election, that just less than 8'000 European Union residents voted, so the parties are eager to see how the latest figures eventually break down and how many EU residents are going to vote.

In the meantime, it does appear that the political parties, in particular the Partido Popular, are drawing up plans to target foreign votes, primarily by informing them that, those registered with their town hall, still have to register to vote. They are going to be meeting to discuss their foreign voter strategy today.

At the local municipal elections foreign voters can only vote to elect their local mayor, they are not permitted to cast their vote in the regional Presidential elections, never mind the general elections.

The region with the largest foreign electorate is Alicante where 84'117 foreign residents have so far registered to vote, followed by Madrid with 70'073, Barcelona, 46'169 and Malaga 42'066. So, for the moment, the Balearics is lagging way behind.