Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Unhappy Together?: Mallorca's left

Biel Barceló is a name with which you should familiarise yourselves if you haven't already. He is secretary-general of the PSM, the Mallorcan socialist party which supports Mallorcan nationalism. He is the parliamentary spokesperson for Més, a grouping of the PSM, Entesa (basically the same thing as the PSM, but formed when there was a split in PSM ranks), the Iniciativa Verds (greens) and the ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya - Catalonian republican left).

Més is a relatively new grouping in that rather than being a coalition of different components it became a "single political project" in October last year under the leadership of Barceló. He is thus the strong man of the Balearics left-wing, the firmly left-wing as opposed to the qualified leftism of PSOE. He has been on the scene for a number of years. He knows his way around. He is the Més candidate to be president of the Balearics in 2015.

Barceló has spoken of the possibility of there being a government which is truly of the left for the first time in the Balearics. While PSOE has headed two coalition administrations, these were ones in which the old Unió Mallorquina (not left-wing) featured. The UM is now dead but partially resuscitated by a struggling regionalist-nationalist merger that is El Pi. Centrist Mallorcan nationalism, represented by El Pi, may be inconsequential at the spring elections next year. Barceló is thus correct in believing that there could well be a government only of the left.

He made his remarks at a public meeting with Laura Camargo, who is a leading member of Podemos in Mallorca. Camargo noted that though there had been talk of a "possible flirtation" between Més and Podemos, "no romance was envisaged at the moment". She was referring to the possibility that Podemos might join some grand pact of the left rather than go it alone at the regional elections. If there were to be such an amalgamation, then it is conceivable that it might just secure the highest percentage of the vote and so head a new government.

Even if there isn't such a pre-election pact, Podemos would surely form part of a left-wing coalition in government, headed by PSOE. In the absence of a grand pact between Més and Podemos, PSOE would certainly achieve a higher percentage of the vote and so be number one in government, with Francina Armengol as president. But whichever way it might play out, you have the ingredients for mightily difficult government.

Just consider Més for a moment. One of its components, Entesa, was born out of an ideological division within the PSM in 2006. It has since come back into the fold. A further component is the ERC. It was not part of the original "single political project" formed last year. Its inclusion within Més was approved in May this year. But now an almighty row has broken out because the ERC president, Joan Lladó, only managed to make eleventh position on the list of Més candidates for the regional parliament; the list headed by Barceló.

The ERC has called foul, to which Barceló has responded that the voting for candidates was transparent. It was a process, therefore, through which Lladó received comparatively little support. The ERC might now walk away from Més, and Barceló seems unconcerned were this to happen; the ERC on its own, according to the latest polls, might not manage to win a single seat in parliament.

Barceló has also spoken of the need for there to be "sovereignism" within Més, by which he means one ideology. But as had previously been demonstrated with Entesa, arriving at this one ideology is not straightforward, while the ERC row has simply reinforced the difficulty. Place this inside a coalition government with Podemos and as importantly PSOE, and you begin to see how such a coalition could be riven with conflict. The current Partido Popular administration may not be all sweetness, light and harmony, but a coalition of the left could be like a bar brawl of competing factions.

There again, it might not be. It might work perfectly well, but Armengol as president would face an enormous challenge to ensure that it does, and a key challenge she would have would be in the divvying-up of responsibilities. Which party would get education, health, environment, tourism? Barceló isn't totally accurate when he says that there would be a party of the left for the first time. There was under Antich when the UM was booted out of the coalition. What happened then was that the PSM got more power, i.e. at environment, and went around reversing decisions. Antich was rarely in total command of his government anyway, bowing to demands for, for instance, the absolutism of Catalan. Barceló might believe in sovereignism, but putting it into practice is quite a different matter.

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