Spain is in the midst of an election year, with the elections in the autonomous region of Andalucía, on March 22nd, being the first of several exciting days at the polls. The Andalucian elections, basically a choice between four contenders (plus three tiddlers) who will inevitably need to pact in some way following the results, are seen for the PP as an evaluation of the Government in Madrid, as a test for arrogant newcomer Podemos, as an introduction to the new centre-right Ciudadanos and as a probable platform for the Andalucian leader of the PSOE (and unelected President of the Junta de Andalucía) to catapult herself later to the national leadership. Keep an eye on Susana Díaz.
The dust from this will have hardly began to settle, with the important interruptions of Easter and the Feria de Sevilla to distract the negotiators for the future Andalucian coalition (or, wait, will the PP support the PSOE in a quiet deal, allowing Susanita her Moment of Glory in exchange for PSOE support in Madrid against the longhairs?). A few weeks later, along come the local elections.
It might be thought odd that the President of the Junta de Andalucía would have sprung the region into elections in March when the municipal ones are in May, causing all those invigilators to lose two entire Sundays rather than one, but she is an adept manipulator and her party is worried that the bright and shiny new Podemos crowd could have made too much of an impact.
The local elections - where foreign residents who ask nicely are allowed to vote (there's a special opportunity, by the way, to get on the register between April 7th and 13th - check in your town hall), are on May 24th. You vote for a closed list, an unmarked paper - 'una papeleta' - placed lovingly in an envelope at the polling station. Some local parties in municipalities with lots of foreigners may have, as cannon-fodder, a Briton or a German somewhere down the list. He won't get in, and the party will carry on ignoring the guiri population. Of course, in local politics, there are strange and exotic parties vying for our attention. Most of them will be the normal local-fellow-wants-to-rezone-his-land candidates, or the racist it-all-belongs-to-us candidates, but there may be a few independent groups with foreigners high on the list or even candidates prepared to work for integration and multiculturalism. Don't be confused by the siglas, the party name or ideology. There are (or should be) only local issues at hand.
Besides Andalucía, Catalonia and the Basque Country, other regions of Spain rather sensibly have their autonomous elections at the same time as the municipal ones. More posters of smiling candidates stuck to walls, doors and shop windows. Play your cards right and they'll give you a free lighter or a pen, too.
Catalonia has its regional elections on September 27th, where the heady issue of independence will once again be discussed (not only in Barcelona, either).
Then, sometime in late 2015, comes the Big One: national elections. Currently, those four parties, PP, Podemos, PSOE and Ciudadanos are neck-and-neck, with only four points between them according to the polls. More coalitions? It looks like it.