The Electoral Board agrees with RTVE to organize one of the two electoral debates in Castilla y León | Spain

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The PP candidate for the presidency of the Junta de Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, in a pre-election act of his party this Tuesday in Becerril de Campos (Palencia).
The PP candidate for the presidency of the Junta de Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, in a pre-election act of his party this Tuesday in Becerril de Campos (Palencia).Almudena Alvarez (EFE)

The management of the two mandatory debates included in the electoral law of Castilla y León has dominated the media debate in the community in recent weeks. A first agreement of the organizing committee of these meetings between political candidates established that the organization of both would be carried out by regional television, a private entity with funding from the Board, and ignored a proposal for Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) to organize one from them. The electoral campaign begins at 00.00 hours this coming Friday and the elections will be held on February 13.

But the public entity appealed and the Electoral Board of Castilla y León has now established that RTVE take charge of one of the debates. The Association of Journalists of the community, which also filed an appeal for not having been included in the forum of media representatives that agreed to assign both debates to the regional channel, has achieved the annulment of the agreements resulting from that meeting. This Tuesday the members of the debate commission will meet to evaluate whether to accept or appeal this pronouncement.

The public corporation had insisted that RTVE can give it greater diffusion and visibility than the reach of the regional platform. The journalist Xabier Fortes, who had been suggested as moderator of the meeting between politicians, criticized in a forum in EL PAÍS that the management committee excluded RTVE, arguing that the content should be broadcast by Castilian-Leonese media. The reporter highlighted that the community has nine information units, one for each province, and is therefore the territory with the most deployment. “Furthermore, the fact that a debate was offered on TVE would not prevent, as in Catalonia, another from being broadcast on the regional channel or by the regional newspapers”, explained Fortes, a Galician, who disapproved of not being considered as a possible moderator “because to be from outside”, as he stated in his article, when the origin of a journalist, he understands, does not have to influence the development of a regional debate.

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The president of the Association of Journalists of the community, Pedro Lechuga, indicates that a “human error”, as they were informed, caused them to be excluded from the conclave that agreed to manage the debates. The journalist appreciates the decision of the Electoral Board in favor of “informative plurality” and considers that the intervention of two television networks “can enhance visibility.” “After the elections, it may be time to turn the commission around and move forward so that there are no conflicts of interest,” comments Lechuga. The debates do not yet have a fixed date, time or place.

The commission for the debates in Castilla y León is made up, according to the regulations, by a representative of the association of journalists and spokespersons of the provincial or regional newspapers of the community with a regional section, as well as national newspapers with a section on the territory. The same criterion is marked with radios, information agencies or televisions. One of the keys that influenced the decision to grant the two debates to the regional channel is that two large companies own several media outlets with independent votes, hence their representatives could unite and defend the interests of their company. This is the case of the two entities that manage Radio Televisión Castilla y León: Promecal, owned by the builder Antonio Méndez Pozo; and Edigrup, from the Uribarri family. Méndez Pozo was sentenced in 1994 for urban corruption and the builder José Luis Ulibarri is also involved in the Gürtel plot, which judges whether the PP profited from urban irregularities.

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The regulations indicate that only the candidates of the parties with their own group can debate in the Cortes. This time only the president of Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (PP, 29 prosecutors), the leader of the opposition, Luis Tudanca (PSOE, 35) and the former vice president, Francisco Igea (Ciudadanos, 11), who supported Mañueco until he broke the coalition on December 20. In 2019 Pablo Fernández also participated as the voice of Podemos, which occupied 10 seats, but after those elections it fell to two. The Electoral Board has rejected Vox’s request, with only one prosecutor in the chamber, to be included in these political meetings. This party has asked the Supreme Court for very precautionary measures to be able to take part despite the fact that the legislation of Castilla y León states that only candidates from the forces with their own group can appear, that is, with at least five seats.

Igea and Tudanca have recently proposed that a meeting be held between all the parties with a presence in the Chamber (PSOE, PP, Cs, United We Can, Union of the Leonese People, Por Ávila and Vox). The group of voters Soria ¡Ya!, which concurs through that province, and the platforms of the Empty Spain, which do so through Burgos, Palencia, Salamanca and Valladolid, have also requested to participate in these possible debates.

The Electoral Board states that if any of the candidates could not attend for health reasons related to the coronavirus, they can intervene telematically.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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