Thursday, May 19, 2011

Not Just A Single Issue: Local elections

(My apologies if the following is seemingly only directed at a Mallorcan audience.)

Will you be voting? If yes, it's probably because you are interested and know what and for whom you will be voting. But you might also vote according to how it was and is in Britain. Traditionally Conservative, and you go PP; traditionally Labour, and you opt for PSOE. As for the other parties, well what are they about anyway?

Much has been made in the lead-up to the elections, except by the Spanish media of course, about issues as they affect the foreign community (and for our purposes, this means Brits) and the need for this community to vote as a way of registering an interest that would demand a vote in national elections.

I simply don't get it. Yes, I understand full well the arguments about you pays your taxes, you should have your vote, and I understand the ruling (by Britain) which ultimately excludes British nationals in Mallorca from voting in British elections. But a national election is, and should be, for citizens of a specific country. It is an expression of nationhood and is for its citizens, not for others; the Single Market agreement in 1992 made it clear enough where the lines were drawn in respect of voting rights.

Then you have these so-called issues. The residence certificate, in other words. Again, I don't get it. Yes, it's an inconvenience, but there is more than a smattering of double standards about the demand for getting the card back. The brouhaha regarding the British ID card, whipped up not by the left but by the libertarian right, and especially David Davis, was perfectly legitimate in the objections raised. The British card did not have anything like overwhelming public support, so why should it be different here?

As an issue, for the local elections, it is a non-issue. For any party, i.e. the PP, to make it one by suggesting they will somehow bring pressure to bear for a change is cynical opportunism; the PP are playing to a British audience they suspect, rightly probably, will support them anyway.

On both these matters, national voting and the residence card, turn it around. Uppity Spaniards in Britain demanding the vote in a British national election and suggesting that they will vote locally for a party which might grant them the wish for an ID card. How would you react? The card issue, in the great scheme of things here in Mallorca, is an irrelevance. A single issue for a minority; the age-old tyranny of democracy.

Setting aside these matters, though, should you be interested enough to vote? That's up to you. There are those who are interested, and I am one of them, but my interest is more in a role as an observer of the social phenomenon of Mallorca's politics, of its more than occasional battiness, of the enduring strength of networks, tribalism and communities in influencing voter support. It is, if you like, the culture that interests, as much as if not more than the issues and whether so-or-so politician has been caught with his fingers in the till.

Will I vote? Probably. If, that is, I can be bothered to drive the ten kilometres and back to Muro town in order to do so. Who will I vote for? I really don't know. In the town, I could vote for the current mayor and for maintaining Grupotel's hold on the town hall, or maybe I'll vote for Entesa, purely because they've hung a poster up on the lamppost outside.

It is what happens in Palma and in the Consulat de Mar, though, that will hold the greatest interest. The PP and José Bauzá should walk the regional election. If they don't, something very odd will have happened; perhaps because the British had seen through their promises.

Bauzá may prove to be any good as president, but it is not the economy, employment, tourism, transport, health and all the rest that concern me about Bauzá; it is the social and cultural aspect. He has already proven himself capable of being divisive within his own party, and it is the wider divisions that he might cause which worry me.

Mallorcans aren't a naturally radical people. They are conservative. There is a reassurance in this, in that it would prevail over what could be unleashed, namely a rejection of Bauzá's anti-Catalanism in favour of a growth in radicalism and even extremism. But there again, it might not.

Any comments to please.

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