Controversial campaign posters create tension before Spanish elections

Controversial campaign posters create tension before Spanish elections |

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party PSOE has denounced before the Central Electoral Board electoral dynamic ads installed last Friday in Madrid’s “Sol” underground station, where Sánchez is depicted as a rich man travelling in his official jet while Madrid’s railway network collapses.

Frequent travellers and commuters were shocked to see dynamic ads in the Sol station, the main underground hub in the Spanish capital, with the slogan: “Mi Falcon (the official PM’s jet) tiene más frecuencias que tu Cercanías” (My private Falcon has more frequencies than your “Cercanías”: Madrid’s local train network), and a cartoon of Sánchez with sunglasses.

These dynamic posters, experts have stressed, are part of an electoral strategy that consists of directly attacking the opposing candidate rather than highlighting achievements, Spanish media reported.

However, there is no name on them. Spanish media have speculated over the weekend that centre-right – or even far-right formations – could be behind this very unusual campaign, only a few days before the regional and municipal election due on 28 May and ahead of the general election scheduled for Mid-December.

Left-wing Más Madrid speculated that the Madrid branch of the right-wing Popular Party (PP) could be behind the campaign, but no one has so far claimed responsibility.

The political controversy around the prime minister’s official jet – a Dassault Falcon 900 – is not new to the Spanish press, public opinion and the political arena. Centre-right Popular Party (PP/EPP), Spain’s main opposition force, has often used the argument to attack the prime minister.

The Spanish private TV station LaSexta tried to find out on Friday who was behind the campaign and who had hired the dynamic advertising, a system used by the French company JCDecaux to “optimise the targeting, relevance and delivery” of the message, according to its web page.

Although this kind of campaign is legal, and there is no regulation for this type of advertisement without a signature, PSOE has announced that it will appeal to the Central Electoral Board (JEC), according to socialist sources quoted by La Sexta.

Meanwhile, Metro de Madrid pointed out that the advertising is the responsibility of JCDecaux, and that, for contractual reasons, it will not reveal who paid for it.

The complaint will have little effect because the Spanish electoral law only mentions that rectifications and amendments can be asked if there are inaccurate or damaging facts on the electoral ads.

Toni Aira, professor of Political Communication at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), told La Sexta that this kind of campaign “is more successful in Anglo-Saxon countries, where the candidate is the message”. “We are coming to accept the idea that the brand that is most used up is that of the candidate and not that of the party”, Aira explained.

Spain will hold regional and municipal elections on 28 May, with a general election expected to take place in December, during the country’s final month of presidency of the EU Council.

(Fernando Heller |

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