Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has announced a new scheme that will allow over-65s to go to the cinema every Tuesday for just €2 (£1.76) two weeks before the country heads to the polls for crucial regional and municipal elections.
The subsidy, announced during a campaign event in the central region of Castilla-La Mancha, comes a year after Sánchez’s minority coalition government introduced a youth culture voucher scheme that gives Spaniards turning 18 €400 to spend on books, records, digital subscriptions, festivals, concerts, plays, exhibitions and films.
Speaking in the town of Puertollano on Sunday, Socialist party leader Sánchez said the initiative was part of his government’s efforts to promote culture and make it more accessible – especially after the “very difficult” years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Culture needs to be a political commitment for each and every one of the regions, for every town and, of course, for the Spanish government,” he said.
“And that’s why I’d like to tell you here today that at the next cabinet meeting on Tuesday we’re going to take a new social step, which will allow those over 65 to go to the cinema every Tuesday and to pay only €2.
“Every Tuesday, the over-65s will be able to go to the cinema and pay €2 to enjoy Spanish and international films.”
According to the online newspaper elDiario.es, the new subsidised cinema scheme is expected to cost about €10m and benefit 9.5 million people.
Tensions are already rising ahead of the polls on 28 May – polls that will allow the opposition conservative People’s party (PP) to gauge its strength ahead of the general election due to be held in December.
The PP, which is ahead of the Socialists in the national polls, has repeatedly accused Sánchez’s governing alliance of being irresponsible and overly reliant on the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties on which it relies for support in congress.
The government’s dealings with EH Bildu – a pro-independence Basque nationalist party – have been scrutinised and criticised over recent days after Bildu announced it was fielding 44 people convicted of belonging to the disbanded Basque terrorist group Eta as candidates in this month’s elections.
Among them are seven people jailed for murder during Eta’s five-decade-long terror campaign, which claimed 829 lives.
While Sánchez has criticised Bildu’s decision to put forward the candidates, saying that although “it may be legal, it obviously isn’t decent and deserves the strongest condemnation”, his opponents have been blunt.
“Friends, we need to recover the power of the majorities so that we don’t have to humiliate ourselves as Spaniards by relying on the power of Bildu,” the PP’s leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, told a rally in Zaragoza on Sunday.
“Bildu does not represent us. Its candidates do not represent the dignity, the decency and the honesty of the Spanish people.”
Feijóo, whose party cut deals with the far-right Vox party to help it govern three regions – and which could come to rely on Vox’s support to form a government if it fails to win an absolute majority in December’s general election – also called for a return to calm and reason in Spanish politics.
“Who’s going to pay for Sánchez’s swindle when he leaves government?” asked the PP leader. “All of us. All of us.”