Posters on lampposts, information tents, leaflets, rallies…. it is all part of the election campaign. Parties seem to be spending money lavishly. However, the Spanish electoral system sets limits that in theory cannot be exceeded.
The maximum expenditure that political parties can incur in the campaign for municipal elections is set by the Organic Law on the General Electoral System (LOREG) and is constrained by the number of inhabitants of each municipality in which the party stands.
Each party can spend a maximum of €0.11 per citizen registered in the municipality. This means that, in a municipality with 5,000 inhabitants, each candidate standing for election can spend a maximum of €550. On top of this amount, and for each province where the party is active in at least 50% of municipalities, there will be another €150,301 for election costs. This is an amount from the province, which can supplement the budget for events, posters and leaflets across the region. Furthermore, the law also puts a limit on outdoor advertising spend. These cannot exceed 20% of the total allowed for the entire campaign.
The control and audit of these expenditures is the responsibility of the Spanish Court of Auditors, which analyses the parties’ finances on a bill-by-bill and account-by-account basis in every electoral process leading up to the elections.
After the elections, the parties are obliged to submit their accounts to the Court of Auditors. The Auditors check not only their expenditure but, above all, their income. This can come from public or private sources, always within certain maximum limits.
If, during the audit, the body finds irregularities or breaches of established limits on election income and expenditure, it may propose that the election subsidies to which the party concerned is entitled not be granted or be reduced. Besides reducing subsidies, it can even initiate sanction procedures and impose penalties.
For example, fines range from €5,000 for the smallest offences to €50,000 for very serious offences, for parties that have exceeded the legal limit on election spending by at least 10%.
Read more about Spain’s municipal elections on 28 May.