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Mayors chosen by flipping a coin
By thinkSPAIN Team Tue, Jun 4, 2019
WHEN local elections lead to a draw and inconclusive results – as is often the case – highly-technical negotiations are usually necessary to work out which party or parties will govern and who will become mayor.
Or, in some town councils, they just flip a coin.
This was what happened in the Barcelona-province village of Santa Fe del Penedès yesterday (Monday) morning to decide whether one independent party, Alternativa per Santa Fe, or the other, Junts per Santa Fe, would take over running affairs for the next four years.
The former's leader Jordi Rius was mayor until the municipal elections on May 26, where he netted 124 votes – exactly the same number of ballot papers as Jordi Bosch, leader of the latter.
With a population of just 379 residents, this means each of the Jordis secured the backing of a third of the village – the other 131 either did not vote or were not eligible.
Seven council seats were up for grabs, and the Jordis were guaranteed three each after the voting stalemate, but to determine who would get a fourth and be in power meant they had to get the Electoral Board to give the casting vote.
A recount confirmed each had exactly 124 ballots, so the Board summoned Rius and Bosch to the local courtroom for the verdict.
Each called heads or tails, and the coin-flipping resulted in Jordi Bosch taking over from Rius as mayor.
Bosch said afterwards that the coin-tossing exercise had been 'the longest minute of his life', but that he is 'happy with the result' – which goes without saying.
However, he admits he would have preferred to call a second vote among the villagers so they could have broken the tie.
'Loser' Jordi Rius says he was 'very nervous' as the coin spun through the air, and has resigned himself to the fact that 'luck has decided'.
But his biggest concern now is that the village is 'divided' – a situation he says happened around 10 years ago.
Rius says he will now retire and not form part of Alternativa in opposition, although insists this has nothing to do with the outcome of the heads-or-tails moment.
He had taken the decision prior to the elections, he said – he was not planning on carrying on unless his party won, because he did not want to be mayor for more than two terms of office, although he had had to continue thus far because a key member of his team had 'some personal problems'.
It turns out that flipping a coin to decide who will be mayor is not unique to Santa Fe: the Electoral Board did exactly the same yesterday in neighbouring Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues, where the socialists – in power for the past 20 years – and the Catalunya Left Republicans (ERC) each gained exactly 267 ballots.
With each party having a mandate for leadership from 27% of the village's population of 989, they split six out of seven council seats evenly between them, with the seventh going to the CUP.
In this case, however, the toss-up happened before negotiations started in order to level the playing field – in the event the CUP opted not to support and join in coalition with either party, the one considered to be the most-voted would be the winner of the coin-flipping exercise.
ERC, led by another Jordi – this time, Ferrer – won the toss-up, but the casting vote will probably be made by the CUP when it decides which of the two to join forces with, meaning the outcome of throwing a coin may not necessarily determine who becomes mayor.
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