Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Need Not Cost: Balearics' parliamentary deputies

If a legal reform is drafted, under which the number of deputies to parliament are reduced by 16, who do you suppose would be most prominent in offering a reaction to such a draft? If you reckon that it would be spokespeople from various political parties, then you would be right. But you might not reckon on it being a spokesperson from one sector of the business community.

President Bauzá has put forward the draft to reduce the size of the Balearic parliament from 59 to 43 deputies. When this reduction was first being discussed in September last year, the cut was to have been 18 deputies. Two have, therefore, been spared. 16 from 59, or some 27%, might seem like a lot of deputies to get rid of, but the question is still the same now as it was back in September. Why does the parliament need 43 let alone 59 deputies? A second question also remains. How do they arrive at these numbers in the first place?

The answer to this second question has been offered by Paul Heywood, a professor of European politics. He has said that parliamentary representation in Spain and not just the Balearics is determined "without any guiding orientation". The number of deputies, therefore, are pretty much plucked out of the air. There is a bit more to it than that because there is a territorial-population relationship, but the guiding orientation is, nevertheless, somewhat woolly and indeed open to interpretation. What guiding orientation there is suggests - in general terms - that there should be one representative per 40,000 people. For the Balearics, there is currently one deputy for 19,000 people. Under the reform this would rise to 26,000 people, while the number of seats in parliament would become 24 for Mallorca (nine fewer), nine for both Menorca and Ibiza (respectively, down four and three), and one for Formentera (no change).

The government's justification for the reform is a cost one. It claims that the reduction would result in a saving of slightly more than eleven million euros during the period of a legislature. As such, the motivation for the reform is very much in line with government policy to cut the costs of public administration. But this cost saving is being seen as a smokescreen and as a diversion of attention from other matters. It is also being seen as a ploy to ensure that the Partido Popular always wins elections.

Electoral reform has a tendency to benefit governments which introduce it. Or at least this is how such reform is typically perceived and is certainly how it is being perceived in the Balearics by the other parties and by some analysts. The smaller parties stand to lose out under this reform. Democracy and true representation of the people are, therefore, undermined.

The chances of the draft reform actually becoming law are not as might be presumed. For a reform of this nature, having a parliamentary majority, which the PP has, is insufficient. A two-thirds vote in favour is required. The PP does not have enough deputies to carry this vote. As it is believed that smaller parties will suffer under the reform, it seems unlikely that they would back the government. PSOE, the main opposition, certainly won't be supporting Bauzá.

While it is easy for the opposition parties to toss around accusations of being undemocratic, they are not answering the question why the number is as it is. Or indeed as it would become. There are parts of Spain where the ratio of people to deputy is considerably higher than the 40,000 benchmark. In Andalusia, as an example, the ratio is one per 75,000.

The PP is playing to its audience by challenging the opposition to justify not diverting the 11 million from parliamentary cost to other causes, such as the health service, but in a way it doesn't need to. Does the electorate believe that it is necessary for there to be 59 deputies? Maybe it does believe so, but there is no truly convincing argument as to why.

Opposition parties being as opposition parties are, one would expect them to oppose the reform, but what of the support for the government? Who is the spokesperson from a sector of the business community who has voiced support? It is the president of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation. And what, pray, has this reform got to do with the hoteliers?

The federation's president, Aurelio Vázquez, says that the reduction would be in line with the hoteliers calls for rationalisation of public expenditure and that other political parties should support the government. The federation has every right to express its views, but is it really appropriate for it to be getting involved? There is a suspicion that it gets its way with PP legislation as it is, and by voicing support, it will only make opposition parties less inclined to back the government.

The reform seems reasonable enough, but a key justification is in danger of being lost in the argument. Need, and not cost or what the hoteliers might think. Why are so many deputies needed? They aren't.

Index for April 2014

Alcúdia's Mile - 4 April 2014
Alcúdia's port - 25 April 2014
All-inclusives and PSOE policy - 28 April 2014
Article salat at IB3 - 17 April 2014, 29 April 2014
Balearic parliamentary deputies reduction - 30 April 2014
Bullfighting - 22 April 2014
Fairs in April - 5 April 2014
Calvia and Sóller on Trip Advisor - 10 April 2014
Camping in Mallorca - 15 April 2014
Corruption and residence cards - 3 April 2014
Cricket season, Mallorcan tourism season - 7 April 2014
Feuds - 18 April 2014
Francina Armengol wins PSOE presidential nomination - 8 April 2014
Gabriel García Márquez and Day of the Book - 20 April 2014
Insecurities in Mallorca - 1 April 2014
Low-cost hotels - 16 April 2014
Mallorca's plain and tourism - 6 April 2014
May hotel occupancy in Mallorca - 24 April 2014
Mayors rebel against President Bauzá - 12 April 2014
Nicknames - 23 April 2014
Palm Sunday - 13 April 2014
Pancaritat Easter picnics - 19 April 2014
Partido Popular and discounts - 26 April 2014
Playa de Muro's boulevard - 11 April 2014
Summer season in Mallorca - 27 April 2014
Ten things that changed Mallorca's tourism - 14 April 2014
Theme parks - 2 April 2014
Tourism museum in Calella - 9 April 2014
Tourism raw material - 21 April 2014

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