Monday, May 09, 2011

Poster Boys: Local elections

Mallorcans have a thing about posters. They are more than mere means of communication. They are their own events. Come a fiesta and the grand launch of the poster is made. It gets star billing in advance of the fiesta programme being published and can appear to be more important than the programme or indeed the fiesta itself. Such prominence can occasionally backfire, like it did in Palma when it was discovered that the poster design for this year's San Sebastian fiesta had been ripped off.

As much as posters keep the legions of Mallorca's graphic designers in gainful or plagiaristic employment, so they also keep the machines of the island's printers whirring away. Try getting anything printed when it's election time, and you may be unlucky to have chosen one of the print firms that has been given the parties' poster and publicity gigs. Back of the queue you go.

The election posters suddenly appeared. One day there were none; the next day you couldn't move for them. At just past twelve on Thursday night, the posters miraculously emerged. There they were. On lamp-posts and stuck into grassy roundabouts. They'd been watering and fertilising the seeds of politicians and so up sprouted all manner of election candidate flora: a PP plant or a socialist on a stick.

Taking to the road on Friday, one was confronted by repeated visions of José Bauzá and Maria Salom. The Partido Popular had commandeered every available surface and non-surface. A vast banner hung outside the Playa de Muro municipal building. "Vota!"

At the witching-hour of the day of the start of the official election campaign, the broomsticks were out, plastering the posters onto billboards. It's bad enough that the face of Count Dracula Bauzá is leering at us. Mistake Salom's name for Salem and you have both a vampire and a witch. The Balearic Government and the Council of Mallorca will soon be the bailiwicks of the underworld, and the electorate will be hauled, kicking and screaming, to a "Wicker Man".

One thing you can say about Bauzá though is that he is, even before he becomes president, acquiring a healthy number of nicknames. He is "yuppie", according to one newspaper. The way he's going on, he will out-nickname the also-known-as champion, i.e. Zapatero.

But back to posters. It was the prevalence of them outside the municipal building that made me wonder. Muro is sort of PP, in that its mayor is part of some local PP progeny, but who gets to decide which posters and banners go where? No one, it would seem.

A friendly PSOE socialist acquaintance of mine in Alcúdia - and there is such a thing - has a restaurant. Why, I asked, was there a PP poster outside his gaff? He muttered something about removing it in the dead of night and then let on what happens. It's all a bit of a party. Any old excuse, I suppose. The politicos' armies of supporters are on the starting-grid, waiting for the clock to turn midnight and off they go. It's like the doors of Harrods being flung open to the nutters who camp outside in readiness for the start of the sale. First ones to the optimum spots get the prize.

It is true that the poster run when the starter's pistol is fired on the election campaign is a bit of a "fiesta". In both Inca and Manacor, for instance, the tradition of hanging the posters is taken seriously enough for mayoral incumbents to be out on the streets with their glue or hammers.

It seems like a recipe for chaos though. Are there squabbling sets of supporters, fighting over specific lamp-posts as though they were trying to grab some knockdown-price knickers from another sales-goer?

Chaos or not, the PP managed to nab some of the best specks, the posters shouting out "canvi". Vote for change. How original. Not at all of course. It was, for example, a John Kerry slogan for the 2004 American presidential election. How ironic though that Bauzá's PP should use the Catalan "canvi" when it seems intent on change that will see the language downgraded.

But vote for change it is, which just goes to prove, as with the San Sebastian poster, that slogans as well as designs can be ripped off. And you wonder how many of the posters are ripped down. Outside one restaurant they may well be.

Any comments to please.

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