Written by Scarlett Murray,
10th May 2023

Thinking of getting involved in Spanish politics? A British man is set to make history as the first Brit to stand as a candidate for councillor in the Basque Country. Plus, our writer in Spain, Sally, shares why it so important that British residents take advantage of the fact that they can vote in local elections.  

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A British man is making history by standing in Basque Country elections

Oñati university, old-fashioned building facade.

The university of Oñati building, one of the oldest university buildings on the Iberian peninsula.

Richard Lewington, 41, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex is making political history. He is going to be the first Briton to stand as a candidate for councillor in the municipal elections in Oñati, Guipuzoka, Basque Country. Lewington will be standing for the centre-right People’s Party (PP). The People’s Party have not been successful in Oñati but Lewington is determined to make an impression. He told the Times, “I believe in our values.” Lewington is a former nurse who left the UK in 2007 for a new life. Today, he is a representative of the Conservatives Abroad in Madrid and can often be found at Conservative party confrences.

Lewington does not speak Euskera, the language used by the majority of Oñati’s 12,000 inhabitants. Still, he hopes to bring the locals on side with some Basque nationalism, a drive to tidy up the town, and making Oñati a UNSECO heritage site. Asked if the PP failing would put an end to his political ambitions, Lewington said, “I cannot comment. For now, I am focused on Oñati.”

This month’s elections, which are to be held in municipalities across Spain, are going to be an indicator for what might happen in December’s general elections. As it stands, nationally, Spain’s two main parties are neck and neck, with PP enjoying a small advantage.

Why standing for a political seat could be idea:

While it may not be your goal to bring a British brand of Conservative to the Basque Country, there is definitely something to be said for Lewington’s attitude. Getting involved in politics, whether it be a seat or a smaller role in your community, is a great way to integrate yourself in Spain. Plus, you can perfect your Spanish language skills and make friends.

It is an opportunity to find out what really matters to the locals in your area – be they local Spanish people or expats like yourself. This is exactly what makes owning a home in Spain different to just visiting the same hotel there year after year. You can become fully immersed in the place and the culture.

Moreover, as an “outsider” – whether you have lived in Spain for a year or ten – you can offer a fresh perspective to Spanish politics. If you have retired to Spain, and want to do something that feels important and worthwhile, it could be fun to throw yourself in. Plus, if you live in an area with a high number of expats, they will appreciate someone who understands their unique experience. And it is a means to “give back” to the country that has welcomed you with open arms and made you feel at home.

Spain’s British residents can vote in local elections

Female Hand Lowers Ballot In Ballot Box On Light Suntan Peach Background

British residents can have their say in Spain.

Even post-Brexit, British residents in Spain still have the right to vote in local elections and to choose their councillors and mayors. The local elections this year will take place on 28 May.

It is unfortunately too late to register to vote now, the deadline was back in January. But for future local elections you will need to go to your local town and ask to be registered on the electoral list.

Your local council will affect everything in your municipality and daily life, so it’s really worth learning about the different political parties and what they plan to do for your community. Read the pamphlets pushed into your letterbox, even if you can’t vote this time. Knowing about local politics can help you integrate and make decisions that will inevitably affect you.

Settling in to your new life

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