Saturday, November 16, 2013

The 2015 Regional Election Has Just Begun

Let joy be confined. José Ramón Bauzá has announced that he will run for president of the Balearics again in 2015; Aina Calvo has announced that she will seek the presidential candidacy for PSOE in the Balearics. Neither announcement is much of a surprise, and neither will have the electorate salivating at the prospect.

Both Bauzá and Calvo would have to go through the hurdles of being selected by their respective parties, and of the two, Bauzá has probably got the clearest run. He has caused some surprise in making his announcement when he has, but it certainly wasn't unexpected. Indeed, the timing may have been determined by the fact that he has been off on a jolly to California with the Crown Prince, thus demonstrating how presidential he is; a Mallorca president on the world stage, even if the stage is only tiny.

True to form, the announcement made and the support has been voiced. But how genuine is the support? And indeed, might Bauzá's ambitions yet be scuppered if the courts find that his business interests made his position incompatible? This uncertainty will probably be removed. One says probably, but one can never be sure. Nevertheless, it would come as a surprise if the courts ruled that he would have to stand down.

Setting this to one side, what about the support from the Partido Popular rank and file? The last time there was a party congress and a vote for leader, Bauzá scooped up 94.5% of the vote, the sort of percentage normally reserved for dear and glorious leaders in parts of the world with a warped notion of electoral democracy and fairness. There again, as there was no one standing against him, there was little point in the rank and file voting en masse in favour of A.B. Stencion, and this was a vote only a year into Bauzá's presidency. Things have changed a bit since then.

The president of the PP in the Balearics (a different position to that of president of the regional government) has reminded the world of Bauzá's achievement in gaining a 94.5% vote in 2012, but what does this president, Jeroni Salom, really think, do you suppose, because at the end of September it was clear that he didn't think a great deal of Bauzá and the regional government's handling of the crisis in the islands' education system.

Ahead of the Palma demonstration against the government's introduction of TIL trilingual teaching, Salom admitted that many who would be demonstrating had good reason to do so. He agreed that it was lamentable that Bauzá was apparently closeted away in a bunker and wasn't fronting up over the whole TIL mess. He believed that Bauzá and the government had made a strategic error where TIL was concerned. It was hardly a statement of overwhelming support.

Salom knows, as do many in the PP, that TIL and the government's whole line on Catalan is what could cause them immense damage at the next election. The party might hope that it will all have been forgotten by then, but that is very doubtful. Schisms have appeared in Mallorcan society in general and within the PP. Bauzá has even been seen as something of a liability. Yet, the ability for parts of the party to act with self-interest should not be underestimated. A meeting of PP mayors gave Bauzá its support over TIL, but certain mayors now find themselves threatened for taking a line not endorsed by town halls. Biel Serra in Sa Pobla, who didn't attend the meeting and so therefore didn't vote against, is one. He faces a motion of censure.

Whether anyone will emerge to challenge Bauzá remains to be seen. It is hard to see who this challenger might be. There are no obvious candidates, except perhaps the other Salom, Maria, the current president of the Council of Mallorca. Meantime, for PSOE there will probably be no shortage of likely lads and lasses who fancy having a pop at being president. Francina Armengol, a former president of the Council of Mallorca, would appear to be in pole position, and she may end up in an all-female head to head with Aina Calvo, the former mayor of Palma who was given a drubbing at the last election. Both of them are losers in the past, and for PSOE in the Balearics its biggest challenge lies not so much with who leads it as making itself relevant, as it has spent the past two years or more looking anything but relevant.

The painful truth for both the PP and PSOE is that they are riven by factions. The PP is trying hard not to admit that it is, but Salom's attack on Bauzá at the end of September highlighted this division. The elections may be some eighteen months away but the intervening months are going to be about other elections: those for leaders. The hustings are open.

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