Friday, September 29

The residents of the Canary Islands who cannot vote this Sunday: “It is another form of discrimination”

More than two million people live in Canary Islands, but not all will be able to go to the polls this Sunday. This May 28 75% of the population of the Islands will vote. In the remaining percentage there are thousands of residents who, although they reside legally in the Archipelago, are excluded from the electoral system. Sukeina Ndiaye is one of those faces. He is 61 years old and came to Tenerife from the Occidental Sahara in 1999. After 24 years, she has obtained Spanish nationality, but the slowness of the bureaucratic procedures has left her out of the regional elections: “It is another form of discrimination,” she asserts.

In these two decades he has tried to obtain his nationality of origin up to five times. This type of nationality is acquired by being the biological or adoptive child of a father or mother of Spanish nationality, regardless of place of birth. It is the case of Sukeina.

His mother, in addition, was an official of the Spanish State. There was only one judge in Navarra who agreed with her, but his proceedings were halted in Madrid because she had a Mauritanian passport. “It is that the Sahrawis have a passport from Mauritania, Algeria and, unfortunately, from Morocco. We cannot have a Saharawi passport because it is not a recognized State, ”he recalls.

Getting it this way was impossible, so he opted to apply for nationality by residence. “With this option I would have achieved it years ago, but I am stubborn. I wanted by all means to get it to be by origin and thus show that I am Saharawi and Spanish ”, she says. Although she was approved for nationality in February, it is not until June 8 that she has an appointment for the last phase of the process: the oath of the Constitution. “Then I have to go to the police station and make an appointment to give me the ID and passport.”

In order to vote, you will have to wait for the general election. “It’s hard. It is a right that we have and we want to take advantage of it. I would like to be able to change the situation and see who defends the rights of people, the right to housing, human rights”, he assures.

Even so, she feels privileged in the Canary Islands. “I am a visible face and I feel honored to contribute my bit in this community. I am outraged that we Sahrawis have to suffer so much for any procedure, when we were the 53rd province of Spain ”, she recalls.

In addition to being an Arabic and French interpreter for the NGO Accem, she chairs the Association for the Freedom of the Saharawi People, the Migrant Network, and represents Saharawi women in the Archipelago and African women. She is also a member of an equality council for victims of gender violence. “I’m at all the soirees,” she jokes.

For many foreigners residing in the Canary Islands, the only option to be able to vote is nationality. Abdel was born in Agadir and has lived in Lanzarote since 2003. His first regional elections were in 2015, when he finally obtained nationality. Until then he only had a residence card, a document that does not grant the right to active suffrage. The same thing happened to Claudia, born in Uruguay.

The case of citizens who are born within the European Union and live on the Islands is very different. In municipal elections they do have the right to vote. However, the process is different from those born in the Archipelago. In addition to being over 18 years of age and registered on the electoral roll, they had to request the vote at the Town Hall before January 30. In the case of Colombia and the United Kingdom, the period ended on January 15.

According to the data offered by the Government Delegation in the Canary Islands, this Sunday 1,778,285 people will be able to vote in the Parliament of the Canary Islands, an increase of 57,307 voters compared to the 2019 regional elections. In the councils, 1,616,173 citizens will be able to vote . 42,574 more than in the past elections. Finally, there will be 1,660,678 people who can vote in the town halls.

Gabriel Redinciuc is 26 years old and has lived in Lanzarote since he was eleven. Like his parents, he was born in Romania. Although because he was born in a European Union country he could have voted this May 28 in his municipality (Arrecife), he will not. The lack of information about the deadlines to request the vote made it late. “I had to go in the morning, during work hours and with an appointment,” he says.

Being able to participate only in the municipal and European elections has ended up moving him away from politics in other constituencies. “In Spain everything is so polarized that sometimes I even feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulders by not having to think about who to vote for. What does happen to me is that I am not so aware of the electoral programs of each party. Since I can’t be a part and I can’t participate in decision-making, why am I interested in knowing what each party offers? ”, He points out.