MADRID (AP) — Spain’s north African exclave of Melilla has been rocked by an alleged mail-in vote-buying scheme just days before the city goes to the polls in nationwide local elections.
Mohamed Ahmed Al-lal, an official of the city’s government, was fired by its top municipal authority on Wednesday, a day after he publicly acknowledged that he was among 10 people who had been arrested by police for their alleged involvement in an attempt to tamper with Sunday’s election.
The police crackdown comes after authorities became concerned when 20% of Melilla’s voting population requested to vote by mail. That is far above the 2% national average and the 6% requested by the population of Ceuta, its sister north African exclave, according to the Spanish government’s representative in Melilla.
Spain’s National Police detained three people on Monday and another seven people on Tuesday.
Prior to the arrests, Spain’s national election board issued an order that people voting by mail for Melilla must present the ballot in person at a post office and show a national identity card.
Some 55,000 voters will be called to the polls in Melilla during the elections, which will involve every town hall in Spain and several regions.
Ahmed is a member of the Coalition for Melilla party, which is only present in the city. He denied any wrongdoing and called his arrest politically motivated to hurt his party.
City boss Eduardo de Castro, an independent in charge of a three-part coalition with Coalition for Melilla and the Socialist Party, said he was “worried” by the alleged vote tampering.
“I will fire any member of my government if the law requires it,” he wrote on Twitter after dismissing Ahmed.
Melilla and Ceuta, which are carved out of the Moroccan coast, have been part of Spanish territory for hundreds of years.
The Associated Press