Spain election: Postal service gets more time for mail votes

MADRID (Reuters) -Spain’s electoral commission on Thursday granted the postal service a half-day extension to the deadline for mail voting ahead of a national election on Sunday, with a record number of people casting ballots by post and a union representative warning Spaniards tend to “leave everything to the last minute”.

Correos, as the state-run service is called, asked for the deadline to be extended to 2 p.m. on Friday, from 10 p.m. on Thursday, for voters to hand over their ballots in post offices.

The electoral commission, in granting the extension, stressed that Correos had to ensure the completed ballots, including from people voting from somewhere other than their home, were returned to the polling stations where voters were registered by the close of polls on Sunday.

It followed some delays in sending out ballots to voters who registered to vote by post, particularly for those who changed the address where they wanted to receive them, the company said in a statement.

A record 2.5 million Spaniards have requested to vote by post after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called a surprise election for July 23, when many people had already booked summer holidays.

Zaida Llano, union leader for the postal service, said post offices in holiday hotspots were coming under pressure.

“We Spaniards tend to leave everything to the last minute,” Llano said. “There are queues in some tourist areas and fewer people in the centres of the big cities.”

The postal service says the 20,000 extra staff it hired to cope with the additional workload was enough but People’s Party candidate Alberto Nunez Feijoo suggested some postal voters might be prevented from casting their ballots due to delays.

Final opinion polls indicate a tight race, with Feijoo almost certainly winning most seats but needing to unite with far-right Vox to achieve a majority.

The average of all surveys released on Monday showed PP and Vox getting 140 and 36 seats respectively – exactly the number needed for a majority in the 350-seat parliament.


Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attempted to make up for a debate with Feijoo that he was perceived to have lost in another debate late on Wednesday with Vox’s Santiago Abascal and coalition partner Yolanda Diaz of the far-left platform Sumar.

Feijoo, who declined to participate, said on Wednesday he had reduced his campaign activities after hurting his back, for which he was taking medication.

Sanchez and Diaz, who touted their coalition government’s track record during their four-year term, teamed up to denounce Abascal’s platform.

The main beneficiary was probably Diaz who is looking to leapfrog Abascal’s Vox into third place, said Pablo Simon, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid.

Spain’s electoral system means that in many smaller districts, third spot is crucial because the fourth-placed party generally fails to be allocated seats.

“Although the debates only move 2% of the vote, they are still campaign milestones and they have a big audience,” Simon said. “This may have mobilised the left a bit and will have helped Diaz more than Abascal.”

Sanchez said on Thursday that the election is an opportunity for Spaniards to show the far-right’s rise in Europe can be halted.

“If we can show we can stop the advance of a hard right, which is the PP, or a far right, which is the Vox party, this will be a source of inspiration for all progressives in Europe and the world,” Sanchez said in an interview on La Sexta.

(Reporting by Corina Pons, Belen Carreño and Emma Pinedo; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Aislinn Laing and Alex Richardson)