Half a dozen people stand outside the PSOE office in Chueca when it is starting to rain lightly. Would they all be standing in line to cast their vote for the primaries? THAT would be news. But no, they just stand outside chatting because inside the chairman of the voting committee has made it very clear that silence needs to be observed during the primaries of the PSOE in preparation of the local elections in 2011. This is serious business.
When I arrive the narrow street is being blocked by a small car. An elderly couple gets out, assisted by some party members. If you have trouble getting to the polling station on your own account, you can call in assistance and you will be picked up by a (red – of course) car. The ritual repeats itself a few times in the hours I am there. Every vote counts in preparation for the important elections for next year and for the attempt to change the current and traditional PP rule for both mayor and president of the Comunidad.
My friend – a fanatic volunteer and passionate PSOE member, monitoring the primaries on behalf of candidate Tómas Gómez – takes me to the bar next door and presents me to some of his colleagues. Why Tomás? Because he is a guy who actively consults neighborhoods and people (he was the highly successful mayor of Parla in the past), acts upon those outcomes and is not afraid not to follow official party lines. Trinidad Gómes –now the minister for health- on the other hand, IS the party. She says what PSOE says. Oh, and did we mention that Tomás was born in The Netherlands? I am not sure if this makes the man particularly suitable for the job, but it is nice to know anyway.
It becomes clear that the political part of these primaries takes place in the bar next door and on the street, not in the actual polling station. Slowly the bar becomes packed with older socialist party legends, middle aged members with wild hair and need of a gin tonic at 17:00, a whole array of gay supporters and us. There is only one topic: Tomás or Trini? It will be a very close call, listening to these people.
Madrid only has 18.000 registered members, but this seemingly internal party matter is broadly represented in the national press. This is not just the decision on a candidate for local elections, but also a reflection of party organization – so far the PSOE has managed to handle this in a very clean way-, on the overall strategy that will be taken for the future –Tomás’ insurgence in barrios or Trinidad’s more traditional style- on a possible end to a long PP reign: with just a bit of luck, the omnipresent Esperanza Aguirre will have to apply for a different job. The voters are in the spotlight on this grey and rainy Sunday, despite being so few. With the help of the socialist taxi, 75% of members will eventually make the trip to the ballot box.
A few hours later everything is over: the polling station I visited has chosen for Tomás but it was a close finish: 52,15% against 47,84% for Trini. Overall results are similar: 51,66% against 47%. Next appointment: May 2011.
In May 2011 elections will be held for the city and the Comunidad de Madrid. How can you cast your vote next May? If you are a citizen of the EU and you live in Madrid, make sure you are correctly registered in the central register (Padron Municipal de Habitantes). It is not difficult, but do it as soon as you can. Around the end of October or during November you will then receive a notification by mail that will inform you of the upcoming elections and asks if you want to participate. Sign the piece of paper and return it by mail. In the beginning of May, you will then receive your ballot, again by mail. On the day of the elections, go to your corresponding polling station and cast your vote.