Sunday, March 06, 2011

Out Of Proportion: A week in Mallorcan politics

Even by Mallorca's bizarre standards, last week was a decidedly odd one for the island's political classes. One party changes its name, one politico slams judges and prosecutors for getting above their station, and another defends the previously indefensible.

The Unió Mallorquina is dead. Long live the Convergència per les Illes Balears. How are we now supposed to anglicise the party? No more is it "unionist". Is it convergenist, whatever this might mean? The new party has swiftly adopted an abbreviation - CxI - which is even more obscure, except for an "x" marking the spot of where the old UM body is buried.

Ex-UM mayors and councillors have been similarly swift in discarding their past, rushing to converge on the Convergència, every good man and not so good man coming to the aid of the new party. As if anyone will buy it. They're dead men walking towards the cliff's edge of falling into oblivion, and the new party as a whole might yet tumble with them if a judge's demand for a 1.6 million euros bail, levelled against the UM, is upheld. What a political party is supposed to post bail for is beyond me. You can't exactly bang up a party as such. Or maybe you can. The alacrity with which the UM transmogrified into CxI might have been expedient in the hope that the UM would no longer be liable. For whatever it is supposed to be liable.

The judges and the prosecutors are having a jolly old time of it. The UM, even in death, is the gift that keeps on giving and keeps on allowing the legal system to throw out wild statements about bail amounts and demands for time in clink. While politicians, accused of getting up to their usual shenanigans, are unseemly, so also is the publicity blaring of the m'learned-friends institution. A million euros bail here, a twenty-year stretch there. Do I hear a million and a half or thirty years? It's the prosecutors' public auctions for guilt not yet proven. And the press, of course, love it. Where would it be in Mallorca without its outlandish headlines of how much and how long?

Into all this has emerged the odd figure of Ramón Socias. Odd, because he pops up now and then, disappears for a while and then re-appears, offering some grand insight into the less-than-healthy state of Balearics' political or social life. The central government's delegate for the islands, he's a bit like the Governor-General of Australia. You don't really know what the point of him is, but he's there, nevertheless.

Or perhaps he's like an honorary head of state, were the Balearics to be a state, which they most certainly are not, as José María Aznar would fervently insist. Though Francesc Antich is "president", in the same way that Zapatero is "president", neither can, in strict constitutional terms, be thus. You don't get presidents in monarchical democracies, which would mean that Socias is a sort of über-non-president.

Whatever Socias is, he gave the judges a ticking off for acting in a "disproportionate" fashion in hounding the poor former UM-ists who have allegedly been siphoning off Palma town hall moolah for some political advantage. Cue all manner of indignation. Unseemly the process of arrest and publicity may be, but there is also meant to be such a thing as the independence of the judiciary from the executive. Socias had a point, but whether he was wise to express it is another matter, and the head of the judges' deanery was one who did think it unwise. On balance though, Socias's intervention might yet be seen to be wise, if it cuts out what is the real disproportionality, namely the media-manipulated fandango of the prosecutors' song and dance.

While Socias, by implication, some might suggest, appeared to side with the allegedly corrupt, the Partido Popular's leader, José Ramón Bauzá, entered the fray to seemingly support former president Jaume Matas. He praised the investments of the ex-PP president and reckoned that court cases involving him were "for show". So, do we now have to believe that Mallorca is engaged in Stalinist-style show trials? Maybe we do. Bauzá's intervention was doubly peculiar, given the brownie points he has won for not allowing candidature of any politico implicated in corruption and his avowal of legal reform to tighten the noose around future corruption.

One might have thought it wiser for Bauzá to keep quiet where Matas was concerned, especially as Jaume has to try and scrape together the odd million or so in order to stay out of nick. Again. Another headlining bail demand, this time for his nights at the opera building that didn't get built. Disproportionate? All for show? Maybe Bauzá should have a word with Socias, and together they both keep mum. Or perhaps he should suggest that Matas changes his name.

Any comments to please.

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