Saturday, February 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 February 2015


Morning high (6.15am): 8C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 1 March - Sun, 17C; 2 March - Sun, 20C; 3 March - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 6 easing and backing by morning to Northwest and West 3 to 4. Swells decreasing to two metres.

A pretty good day beckons, sunny but not especially warm. An alert remains in place for poor coastal conditions but these will improve and winds will be moderate. Tomorrow and Monday both very pleasant and warmer.

Evening update (20.00): Quite warm when the clouds weren't covering the sun. High of 16.4C.

No Frills Excursions

A Politician With No Idea

"I have no idea." As statements from politicians go, you couldn't ask for a better one than this, and who better to deliver it than the Partido Popular gift who keeps on giving, Mabel At The Table Cabrer? Never normally lost for a word or several - calling the opposition Nazis, for instance - the PP parliamentary goatherd was for once reduced to four-word cluelessness (actually there are five words in both Spanish and Catalan). Yet earlier in the week, Mabel had been vocalising in shouty spokesperson mode when condemning the "crusade" being led by the opposition against her own crusader, the Dracula-caped one, battling corruption wherever it may lurk. Be amazed as José Ramón fights the fraudulent. Gasp as he despatches the deceitful and expels the embezzlers. But Mabel would have been sore afeared at the sight of Judge Dredd roaring towards the courts on his Harley steel horse. The judge who should be dreaded, the OAP oath taker José Castro had been hearing from an axe-grinder.

Javier Rodrigo de Santos, the newly saintly Rodrigo, released from the penance of his misuse of his Palma town hall credit card and rent boys, was twisting the knife. Beans were spilling from His Holiness Rod (dismissed as a "confessed and convicted offender" by another spokesperson, Miguel Ramis) and they amounted to a great deal more than a hill. A mountain was built, and Rodrigo was music to the ears of the judge and subsequently of the anti-corruption prosecutors. Construction businesses had benefited from having been given public works contracts in exchange for which they had been handing 3% commissions to the Jaume Matas-era PP.

It was these commissions that Mabel had no idea about. She could proudly proclaim that she was now part of a PP that was totally new and which had nothing to do with the old Matas model PP. In Bauzá's new model PP army, things are different. Oh, by the way, Mabel had been the minister for public works under Matas.

The blood freshly dripping from the jugular of the revenge of Rodrigo, the vultures swooped. Biel Barceló of Més: Bauzá was "chained to the past" of the corruption of the PP. Fina Santiago, also Més: Rodrigo had confirmed the existence of a "mafia structure and generalised corruption within the PP". For PSOE, Rodrigo's evidence pointed to "systematic corruption" in the Matas government. The Caped Crusader retaliated by stating that his was a profile without corruption, an announcement that lacked a real sense of zap or pow, just as Bauzá the video did. What do you mean you haven't seen it? José Ramón wants to talk to you, so long as it is in Castellano or Catalan. No mention of any trilingual dialogue in giving "sufficient reasons for you to trust us again".

There were those who suggested that the talk-talk video showed signs of desperation. I prefer to think that it showed where linguistic preferences lay. By Friday, four days after having been posted, the Castellano version was beating the Catalan one by 370 views (3,385 versus 3,015). The combined total would, were they all to trust them again, fail to make much inroad into the lost support in the opinion polls. Anyway, if you wish to, you can talk to the president: Email,; Whatsapp, 610 176 291; Twitter, @JRBauza; Facebook, José Ramón Bauzá.

Index for February 2015

AENA privatisation - 13 February 2015
Alcúdia anti-all inclusive party - 7 February 2015
All-inclusive control - 26 February 2015
Andratx, mayors and corruption - 11 February 2015
Balearics stand at Fitur and King Felipe - 5 February 2015
Canary Islands versus AENA privatisation - 24 February 2015
Eco-tax - 25 February 2015, 27 February 2015
Electoral pacts by Mallorca's left - 22 February 2015
Felanitx Theory: Columbus - 10 February 2015
Fitur tourism fair - 6 February 2015
Flu and hospital emergencies - 4 February 2015
Mallorca's hoteliers: unloved - 9 February 2015
Més and Balearics' own airline - 16 February 2015
Palma fiesta planning - 2 February 2015
Partido Popular corruption - 28 February 2015
Podemos power struggles - 3 February 2015
Podemos versus hoteliers - 18 February 2015
Police corruption in Palma - 1 February 2015
Pollensa: Day of destruction - 14 February 2015
Pope in Mallorca - 12 February 2015
PSOE and participation - 8 February 2015
Regional elections opinion poll - 23 February 2015
Sardine burial and Lent - 15 February 2015
Simplicity and Mallorcan winter marketing - 19 February 2015
Tourism ministry and a feeling for tourism - 20 February 2015
Town hall reduction - 17 February 2015
Virgen del Carmen fiesta and Saint Simon Stock - 21 February 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 February 2015


 Morning high (7.15am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 28 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 14C; 1 March - Sun, cloud, 18C; 2 March - Sun, 20C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 veering and increasing North 6 to 7 by midday, occasionally 8 with waves to three metres.

Grey, cloudy start to the day and mild. Showers expected, and the wind will grow in strength during the day. Windy tomorrow as well, but sunny and warmer by Sunday.

Evening update (23.15): A load of rain this morning and in the afternoon the temperatures took a dive from a mid-morning high of 13.4C to seven or eight degrees, recovering a bit later.

No Frills Excursions

The Battles For Mallorca's Tourism

Pre-election skirmishes they may be, but battle lines are nevertheless being drawn in the velvety white sands of Mallorca's tourism. Following the revelation (one that was not in the least bit surprising) of the eco-tax being revived by a pact of parties on the left, the Mallorca Hotel Party (aka Federation) and its presidential candidate, Inma de Benito, came out all guns blazing, seeking to shoot down eco-tax revivalism before it has any chance of being truly re-born. There was as little surprise at the hoteliers' objections as there had been at the left's rediscovered love affair with the tax. Meanwhile, Tourism Public Enemy Number One, the secretary-general of Podemos in the Balearics, Alberto Jarabo, had raised hackles sufficiently well for Calvia's Partido Popular to go into full anti-Podemos mode. At the council meeting, Jarabo's "threats" to the hotels were being condemned by PP-ites, desperately worried that they might be out of jobs come May.

Jarabo had of course riled some within the ranks of Podemos itself, and reactions like those of the Calvia PP might be said to give too much prominence to someone whose grasp on tourism may not be all that it seems. When Jarabo was justifying the return of the eco-tax, he referred to its implementation in Catalonia and Madrid. He was right on Catalonia but he was wrong about Madrid (and this, despite the fact that he comes from Madrid). There is no tourist tax in Madrid. Still, we have become used to Majorcan politicians having only limited knowledge of tourism matters. Bauzá once suggested that the Baltic countries were competitors to Mallorca's summer tourism. Prior to this assertion, no one else had ever made such a claim, and they certainly haven't done so since.

Someone who does have intimate understanding of Mallorca's tourism is Calvia town hall veteran Jaime Martínez. The larger than your average tourism minister bear has such deep knowledge that it is produced in a 50-page document replete with many-coloured graphs and pie charts, statistics and percentages. The "balance" of Balearics tourism in 2014 was presented for us all to see, and we could only but admire a ministerial ability to use presentation software. Before publishing this consultants' dream of a document, Jaime had been telling us how positive January's tourism had been. He stopped short of describing it as "historic" (one of his favoured adjectives) but a 21% increase in January's international tourism was cause for celebration and for confirming that the ministry's paltry promotional spend on travel fairs and blogger trips was paying off. However, when one considered the numbers for all of January's tourism, it became apparent that half of it was made up Spanish pensionistas, whose spend is just a fraction above zero, while state-subsidised pensioners from countries like Denmark were also in the mix (and they spend only a fraction more than their Spanish counterparts) as were - because tourist arrival statistics do not discriminate - all the various cycling teams, such as Sky and their entourages. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 February 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 14C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 27 February - Rain, sun, wind, 16C; 28 February - Sun, cloud, 12C; 1 March - Sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 6. Swells to three metres.

A mild morning, looking quite cloudy, and cloud there will be through the day with showers possible at any time. Similar tomorrow and with stronger winds. The change of the month seems as though it might be bringing a change - sunny and quite warm weather forecast at present from Sunday.

Evening update (21.30): Mostly grey, occasional light rain, a high of only 13.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Rearranging The Deckchairs: All-inclusives

In Calvia they have been rearranging the deckchairs while taking care not to slip on the red herrings trawled on to the deck. Tourism minister Jaime Martínez met with representatives of the tourist business associations and promised control of all-inclusives. A promise to control all-inclusives? Shouldn't such a promise be being greeted with fanfares in the media and spontaneous flash mob dancing in the streets?

Martínez was pow-wowing with the CPTB, the Balearics confederation of tourist business associations, an organisation belatedly formed in the hope that the good ship Complementary Offer, years ago holed below the surface by the icebergs of all-inclusive, can now be hauled into dry dock, patched up and sent off again to navigate its way through party boats and the pool parties and lakes of cheap alcohol in the grounds of the Clubs Allinclusivana. It was a ship that never sank but ran aground, idling on the rocks of the tourism sector, languishing in the shallows of its complacency and incapable of unifying its many disparate components - all the different tourist business associations - as a powerful tug to drag it back onto the high seas of battle with the hoteliers. As much as blame can be assigned to lack of regulation, to tour operator designs, to hotelier compliance and to tourist demand, so the complementary offer has to accept blame for all-inclusives as well. Years ago, its numerous associations with their own agendas and their own justifications for existence failed spectacularly in establishing a lobby to confront the highly professional one of the hoteliers and an organisation with one or two interlocutors to communicate with the regional government.

Even now, this confederation appears to be less than the sum of its parts. Who actually does its talking? The contrast with the hoteliers is great. Vázquez and de Benito; they are the hoteliers' federation. The tourism ministry and any other stakeholder in the tourism industry knows who they are dealing with. The complementary offer? 

And so to the meeting in Calvia and to the presence of the usual complementary offer suspects angling to have their photos taken so as to show that they are doing something, which generally amounts to no more than a chinwag. But, they can point to success. The minister's promise. Ah yes, the promise of control. Which is precisely?

Martínez says that there will be a register of hotels with an all-inclusive offer. This, one presumes, is what he was talking about a couple of months ago when he referred to an "analysis of the incidence" of all-inclusive. I've got news for him. Go on the internet, and you can register those hotels with ease. You might not get all the on-arrival upgrades, you might not get exact numbers of all-inclusive places that are optional, but you can get a pretty decent idea of the incidence. This said, it shouldn't be necessary. A tourism minister should already know and have long known what the incidence is. The need for a register confirms the ministry's ineptitude. It should damn well have this information anyway.

But having got the register, then what? How does it amount to "rigorous" control as it has been styled? It sounds like an exercise in information gathering without specified objectives. Hence, the deckchair rearrangement, a move that suits both ministry and confederation. Both can appear to be being proactive when the truth is that they have taken two decades to react.

One of these rigorous controls will, where Calvia is concerned, stop all-inclusive guests from taking food and drink off hotel premises. And how is this news? When the 2012 tourism law was enacted, this prohibition was something highlighted by the tourism ministry as one of its measures to tackle all-inclusives. Why are they now talking about Calvia? It's in the law; it is meant to be applied across the Balearics. So why isn't it?

The 2012 law also contains provisions that require all hotels to submit quality plans. Again, the ministry suggested that these plans would act as a means of elevating standards and service and so be a further measure to tackle all-inclusives. But the law did not stipulate what was expected of these plans or indeed what the outcomes would be once they were submitted, whenever this might be.

There is colossal legislative procrastination in the Balearics, and the tourism law is a prime example. The tourism decree that was issued last December fleshed out aspects of a law that had been approved two and a half years previously, but it failed to say anything about all-inclusives or to add to the demand for quality plans or the provision for out-of-hotel food-and-drink prohibition. So, in the absence of clear objectives, clear requirements for plans, clear implementation of law, we are left with the deckchairs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 February 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 10C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 26 February - Rain, 15C; 27 February - Rain, sun, 14C; 28 February - Sun, cloud, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 6 to 7 easing 5 by the evening. Swells to two metres.

Fine, clear morning, quite breezy. Clouding over later and possibly bringing rain later on that will persist into tomorrow and Friday.

Evening update (20.00): Wind and some sun. High of 14.5C.

No Frills Excursions

It's Back: The eco-tax

So, it's pretty much official. It has yet to be ratified, but a Balearics eco-tax, or a tax on tourists under some other name, will in all likelihood feature in the manifestos of Podemos, Més and PSOE. If, as seems possible, these three parties form a coalition government, an eco-tax it almost certainly will be.

It comes as no surprise that Podemos and Més should favour such a tax. PSOE is more of a surprise. I had previously doubted that PSOE would wish to revisit the crash scene of a tax it was responsible for introducing during its first administration (the pact of 1999-2003). The PSOE hierarchy might, when push comes to manifesto shove, take the view that it is too emotive an issue and too much of a risk, but Cosme Bonet, one of the party's electoral programme co-ordinators, appears to believe it is a risk worth taking in order that "tourism contributes to the conservation of the environment". He prefers to not refer to the tax as an eco one, but eco-tax is precisely what it would be.

Bonet has also said that it would be a tax with the consensus of the tourism sector. If he believes there will be consensus, he is probably deluding himself. The hoteliers, for one, will take a great deal of persuading. It was, after all, they who got the Matas Partido Popular administration from 2003 to abandon PSOE's unpopular tax. There again, the hoteliers had every reason to have been indignant with the old tax. It was they who shouldered the burden for its collection. One of the flaws of the eco-tax was that it was discriminatory; it was not applied to non-hotel accommodation.

This time, as far as the Més spokesperson David Abril is concerned, the hoteliers will not be singled out. The tax would be universal, and by that he means the inclusion of private holiday accommodation, currently not regulated, that Més would regulate. As PSOE has previously suggested that it would also seek regulation and as Podemos has intimated as much, a tax would apply more widely, just as it does in Catalonia, where private accommodation is properly registered and regulated. But this will hardly be a move to mollify the hoteliers or guarantee a consensus.

Tourist taxes are the flavour of the moment and not only among the Balearics left. In the Canaries, the Nueva Canarias party has presented a proposal for a tax to the regional parliament. Its purpose would be to raise additional funds for modernising outdated resorts and tourist services. The party reckons that 100 million euros could be raised. The hoteliers in the Canaries are dead against the idea. Among reasons for their objections is the Balearics eco-tax fiasco. Others include arguments that the sector is over-taxed as it is and that far too little of the revenue raised by the Canaries' tourism sector actually finds its way back into the system. This is a reasonable argument. The tourism sector generates tax revenues of over 1,500 million euros annually, yet, as an example, only 17 million are earmarked for tourism promotion (which is still a lot more than in the Balearics). It is an argument which, not for the first time, raises questions as to how tax revenues raised by the regions are then redistributed and used.

In Madrid, the PSM (Madrid socialist party) wants to introduce a tourist tax, one that has been spoken about for years but regularly rejected. The difference here though is that it would be a tax for a city, and there are plenty of examples of European cities which have such a tax. The Canaries' objections refer to the fact that tourist taxes are applied to cities and not tourist regions, but they then run up against one very important exception. Catalonia. Its tax is for the whole region and so includes tourist areas such as the Costa Brava as well as Barcelona.

Catalonia's experience of a tourist tax was always going to be one closely observed by other regions of Spain; it hasn't had any harmful impact. It is a tax that isn't too onerous (ninety cents a night is a typical rate) and that is limited in terms of the number of overnight stays: for a two-week holiday, for instance, it only applies to a maximum of seven nights. But Catalonia is not Mallorca and nor is it Tenerife. It clearly has hugely popular mass-tourism areas, but these don't generate quite the same media interest that Mallorca does. The old eco-tax was as much a PR disaster because of negative international media coverage as it was a disaster of discriminatory implementation. Any new tax would come in for the same treatment; the same hue and cry. Would it, therefore, be too great a risk? 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 February 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 10C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 25 February - Sun, wind, 15C; 26 February - Rain, wind, 13C; 27 February - Showers, wind, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 to 4 backing and increasing Northwest 6 to 7.

Banks of cloud observable as the sky lightens. Calm at present but strong winds expected throughout the day. Should be reasonably sunny, though. Tomorrow also bright, but Thursday looking like a washout and a windy one at that.

Evening update (18.45): Quite sunny but very blowy. A high of 15.1C.

No Frills Excursions

When Canaries Sing Rebel Songs

Spain's awkward squad has just got bigger. The latest member to join the rebel souls of Catalonia and the are-they-aren't-they's in the Basque Country is the Canary Islands which, cast adrift in the Atlantic, originally Berber African rather than Spanish, were not fully brought under the control of Castile until 1495, a necessity to facilitate the use of the islands as a stopover for Columbus's voyages. The distance from Spain makes the Canaries a curiosity of colonialism contemporised within a framework of nationhood; it's as though Iceland were a part of the UK or was still a dependency of Denmark. Far away, there is none of the geographical umbilicism that hauls the Balearics towards Barcelona and Valencia while the political cord - the current one - has been twisted; accord between Santa Cruz and Las Palmas and Madrid has been ruptured, whereas the bond between Palma and Madrid remains, generally, harmonious.

One says generally, but the Balearics have their disagreements with Madrid. Financing and oil are the two most prominent, but presidential protests are ones that play to a Balearics gallery with a plot hidden behind the act; Bauzá's ambitions to tread the corridors of Madrid power may still exist, even if they have been weakened by too much hamming it up to his Balearics audience and by his being Brutus to the Madrid-admired Caesar of Mateo Isern. By contrast, the president of the Canaries, Paulino Rivero, has no such need for the duplicitousness of the staged political plot as he owes no debt to masters in Madrid. Paulino, his party - the Coalición Canaria - indeed the whole of Canaries politics at present are symbolic of the islands' remoteness; they are as though there has been a separate development.

Rivero's political interests were initially pursued within Adolfo Suarez's post-Franco democratic union coalition. He then moved on to something called the Agrupación Tinerfeña de Independientes (Tenerife independents), a party that had links to Francoism. This then became part of a Canaries-wide independence party and ultimately became what it now is - the Coalición Canaria, an unlikely conglomeration of Canaries' nationalists, ex-commies and right-wingers. Notwithstanding the former communist element, the coalition can best be described as centre-right with its unifying theme being that of Canaries' nationalism. If one were to look for a Mallorcan comparison, it would be that of the now defunct Unió Mallorquina.

Remote from the Spanish mainland, the Canaries find themselves divorced from the political mainstream in a similar fashion to Catalonia. But unlike Catalonia, there is no agitation for independence. Instead, Paulino and his nationalist coalition seek specific rebel causes. One of these had been the oil prospecting, until Repsol discovered that the oil was far from being black gold and ceased its exploration. The coalition were not left as rebels without a cause, though. They had another one. AENA.

The government in the Canaries has taken the matter of AENA's privatisation to the Supreme Court, and it has accepted the Canaries' request to look into a Canaries' demand that the privatisation is suspended. The justification for this is two-fold. One, was an acknowledgement of a lower court that a meeting of the commission overseeing affairs between the Canaries and the state had not been called to address the management of airports in the Canaries. The second was the notice that the Canaries Government had issued in July last year of a widening of powers under its statutes of autonomy in the event that the state ceases to have direct management of airports. What this all boils down to is the fact that the Canaries Government wants to have management of its eight airports, two of which - Gran Canaria and Tenerife South - are treated by AENA in the same way as Palma in that their taxes are the same.

It is difficult to see how the privatisation could be suspended given that shares are now on the market, but the court could, in principle, agree with the Canaries' argument. AENA, for its part, says that direct state management hasn't ceased because national government still holds a majority of shares. But whatever the outcome, there is a marked difference between the Canaries and the Balearics. The Bauzá government has mumbled about having management of the airports, and especially Palma, but has done absolutely nothing about it. Rivero has, and one can attribute this to the fact that, unlike Bauzá and the Balearics PP, he and his coalition are independent of Madrid. As such, one can argue that Rivero is genuinely sticking up for regional interests, whereas Bauzá merely alludes to them.

Even if the court dismisses the Canaries' claim, the point will have been made, and it is one that goes to the heart of state-regions' relationships and political associations. The Canaries can sing rebel songs, while the Balearics hum, not having the courage to sing the words.

Monday, February 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 February 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 6C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 February - Sun, showers, wind, 15C; 25 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 13C; 26 February - Sun, showers, wind, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West and Southwest 3 to 4. Swells of three metres decreasing to one metre.

A clear sky before dawn and mainly clear skies through the day bringing warm sunshine, but going belly-up this evening with showers possible and lingering into tomorrow when the wind will return. The wind, mainly from the north, and so cold, a feature of the week.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 20.9C, positively spring-like, but colder weather coming in.

No Frills Excursions

There May Be Chaos Ahead

Last October, the results of an opinion poll of voting intentions for the regional elections this May led me to suggest that government in the Balearics could be plunged into chaos and that the islands could be ungovernable. A new poll, for "Ultima Hora", hasn't altered my opinion and nor has it given any clearer indication as to the make-up of possible coalitions; the poll establishes that there would have to be a coalition of some style, as no one party would have a majority.

Three months away from the elections, the Partido Popular has yet to show signs of sufficient enough support returning to enable it to retain its current parliamentary majority. Deprived of friends and allies among other parties, it will, on current polling evidence, be booted out of government. The assumption of a pact of leftist parties forming the next government holds good, but what might this pact look like?

On the basis of the higher estimates of numbers of parliamentary deputies, an amalgam of PSOE (plus its Formentera wing), Podemos and Més would have 33 seats, three more than the 30 needed to form a majority. Lower estimates make things messier, so in order to avoid over-complicating hypotheses, let's accept the higher ones. PSOE would have the most seats and a one per cent greater share of the vote than Podemos. Francina Armengol would become president with Podemos and Més her partners.

This is the neat and easy way of looking at the poll, but neat and easy may not be how things will be, and that is because of Podemos. Much has been said about Podemos being an unknown quantity, but this is the unknown of policy. There is another unknown. How would Podemos behave in government?

This is no idle question because even entering into a coalition presents Podemos with a philosophical difficulty. Essentially, it rejects all established political parties, but this rejection is all but absolute when it comes to the "casta", the two main parties - PSOE and the PP. A coalition with PSOE would run counter to one of its principal reasons for existing - which is to break the duopoly of what is seen as a corrupt two-party system. Getting into bed with PSOE could, probably will be construed as hypocritical, but what's the alternative? Does Podemos turn down advances to form a coalition? If it does, why is it bothering with putting up candidates? Moreover, were it to, it would fail those who vote for it. If it gains 12 or 13 seats, as the poll suggests, its democratic responsibility would require it to swallow its philosophy.

This said, we have already begun to see that Podemos can be chameleon-like and pragmatic. Its distaste for the casta would be put aside in order to have a place at the governmental table. But then what? Here is the real unknown because of how Podemos operates.

The extent of its participative democracy can be exaggerated, as it has its citizens' councils to make final decisions, but the principle of participation is a Podemos fundamental. Might it abandon it as it would also abandon its rejection of the casta? Possibly, but if not, then how, when it holds places in parliament and a cabinet, is government going to function? It is here, I would suggest, that lie the roots of potential chaos. The portents are already not that good when one considers resignations and differences that have cropped up in various Podemos councils. And there would also be, in effect, differing systems of decision-making for a coalition government - parliament, the cabinet and the Podemos participators. How are these reconciled? Can they be?

It is Més, I believe, who would hold the key to a coalition. Given the experience of some of its senior people, I could see it acting as a type of peacemaker, but for how long could such a coalition hold together? We might all be surprised, and a coalition might work perfectly well, but there has to be a fear that at some point it would collapse and so would the government.

So much for the left, what about the right? The higher estimate for the PP is 27 seats, three short of a majority. A pact with El Pi (that might amount to 30 seats) has been ruled out by El Pi's Jaume Font. If this is impossible then it will be impossible, as things stand, for the PP to carry on after May. But, there might yet be a twist. PP barons won't admit it, but if Bauzá is declared "imputado" by the judge's investigation into the granting of new pharmacies, these barons might well welcome this. Bauzá would have to stand aside. Someone else, Gabriel Company, the environment-agriculture minister, or Maria Salom, the president of the Council of Mallorca, would take over. Suddenly, clawing back those three seats might not seem impossible.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 February 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 7C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 23 February - Sun, 16C; 24 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 12C; 25 February - Rain, wind, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North and Northwest 4 to 7, waves of three metres at times four or five.

A starry, chilly morning as a distant cockerel crows. There has been some rain though overnight. A windy day in prospect - not one to take a boat out as there is an amber alert - but also a sunny one. Tomorrow is forecast to also be sunny and may well feel pretty warm as the UV is set to double. Later in the week, things look a bit ghastly.

Evening update (19.30): There was rain this morning and the wind was a cold one. Sun later but a high of only 13C.

No Frills Excursions

Speed Dating For Socialists

In a week when the Mallorcan agenda has been dominated by whether or not Hamish McHamish can travel from Stornoway to Palma without having to go via New York and can do so, moreover, at a time that allows him to first enjoy a hearty breakfast, and by a broader agenda of the redefinition of omnishambles by England's cricket team and something that has been happening in "Eastenders" (of which I remain blissfully unaware), Mallorcan life has staggered on in not untypically chaotic fashion and has, in the process, introduced the concept of speed dating to political formations. Parties everywhere have been getting into bed with each other, seduced by the merest hint of flirtation. Fancy a pact? Your place or mine? The left have been tying themselves up in knots of mutual bondage: several shades of political neither black nor white that may, by the time they have finished pacting away, exceed fifty. As there are three more than fifty municipalities in Mallorca, then this is eminently feasible.

When the cat of Podemos was thrown among the pigeons of socialist or something-resembling socialist parties, its claws bared ready to attack and have a good lunch, little might we have appreciated that these various parties (of which there is an unfathomably large number) would resort to an unseemly scavenging for the scraps of power by discarding ideological differences and, with or without the Top Cat of Podemos, combine them to make recipes that can best be described as cooking up stews of "anyone but the Partido Popular". Ingredients may be incompatible, their flavours may clash, but who cares? It's all about becoming Master Political Chef (or Chefs).

Here a pact, there a pact, everywhere a pact, pact. But amidst all this coalescing and ganging up on the poor PP, there is Podemos which one minute doesn't know whether it will sanction involvement in municipal elections and the next minute appears to do so and which says, on the one hand, that there can't be any pacts and then, on the other, appears to change its mind.

As much as one can actually fathom out what is going on, we do know that, for instance, in Sóller its local Podemos lot has defied politburo orders by forming a pact with PSOE, Més and Guanyem. You, Sóller Podemos sorts, can't become Junts per Soller, says the citizens' council of the Balearics Podemos and if you insist on being a junt, you'll be expelled from the party. Here is just one example of how the speed dating has been working and is, as a consequence, causing total and utter confusion. What are the voters meant to make of all this? Who actually might they vote for?

One feels that rather than anyone but the PP, the electorate may come to the conclusion that it's better the devil they know after all rather than some cobbled-together amalgamation of God knows what.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 February 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 7C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 22 February - Sun, wind, 14C; 23 February - Sun, 15C; 25 February - Sun, showers, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4 veering West during the morning, locally Northwest 5 by the evening.

Cloud discernible as the sun starts to rise. Likely to be a fair amount of cloud today and showers. Wind also a factor with an amber warning for coastal conditions. Staying windy into tomorrow but sunnier. General pattern remains unsettled.

Evening update (19.30): Wasn't too bad for a while and then the cloud came in, as did the rain. High of 14C.

No Frills Excursions

How The Fiesta Of Virgen Del Carmen Came To Be

Among my writing responsibilities for the Majorca Daily Bulletin is that of being Miquel Ferrà i Martorell, the paper's "history man". (Actually he is one of several, as there is also Andy Rawson, myself, Andy Valente when it comes to the history of food and good old George Giri with his reflections on times of yore.) Miquel has been resident historian for years and when I say I am him, what I mean is that I put his articles into English. Rather than translations, they are often more like English versions on account of editing, and this editing can include additions to the original. And one such addition is the point of this story.

I was going to highlight this week's Miquel article on Facebook when I realised that Miquel has been moved to a Thursday, so it was too late when I discovered the fact; hence, why I am doing so here. The article is about an English saint, Simon Stock, with whom, I fancy, most English people would be unfamiliar.

Simon, whose surname was derived from a word to mean tree trunk as legend has it that he spent several years of his life as a hermit living inside a hollowed-out tree, lived between 1165 and 1265, though there is a question mark over his birth year just as there is also some debate as to whether he was born in Aylesford, Kent or not. But he was certainly closely associated with Aylesford and this association was confirmed when, Simon having abandoned his hermitic existence, the first general chapter of the Carmelite Order to be held outside the Holy Land convened in Aylesford in 1247; Simon had chosen to join the Carmelites.

Without going into the detail of Miquel's article and so to cut to the chase, the most notable occurrence in Simon's devotion was that of a vision he had in 1251 of one of several invocations of the Virgin Mary, i.e. the Virgen del Carmen, whose scapular, represented in many a religious painting, featured the emblem of Mount Carmel. And it is this vision which led to what I added to the article, as it is of some no small relevance to the fiesta of Virgen del Carmen; in Puerto Pollensa, this is the main fiesta of the year.

The important point in this story was the exact date in 1251 when Simon had that vision. It was 16 July, and as a result of the vision, 16 July has long been allocated as the feast date for the Virgen del Carmen. Therefore, the fiesta that is celebrated in Puerto Pollensa can be attributed to this English saint, Simon Stock. Prior to Miquel's article, I was unaware of this fact and I imagine that there are many others who are equally unaware. Given the close connection between Puerto Pollensa and Britain, it seems somehow appropriate, but more than this there is the curiosity of how a current-day fiesta came into being, as, unlike many others, it wasn't dependent upon a saint's day which is typically defined by birth or death.

Friday, February 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 February 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 7.5C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 21 February - Showers, sun, 13C; 22 February - Sun, wind, 11C; 23 February - Sun, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4 veering Southeast by the evening.

A chillier morning with clear skies and patches of cloud. May be a shower later but otherwise reasonable. Tomorrow still looking pretty iffy and wind returning for Sunday.

Evening update (19.15): Pleasant sun for much of the day. A high of 16.6C.

No Frills Excursions

Lost: A Feeling For Tourism

So, Jaime Martínez has spoken. Another historic and record year awaits us. Praise the Lord. Jaime did so while shielding his ample presence behind an artillery of statistics. Tourist spend, overnight stays, occupancy. On and on and on. Does anyone really take any notice of this stuff? Jaime obviously does, as he is an example of tourist-bureaucrat writ large - very large in his case. Stats, spreadsheets, percentages, these are his stock in trade along with the minutiae and obfuscation of property regulations. This, everyone, is tourism in a Balearics government style. Numerate but touristically illiterate. There is little feeling for tourism only for its data and references to article this, that or the other of whatever law or decree.

As chance would have it, the Mallorca Tourist Board (aka the Fomento del Turismo) appeared on the winter flights scene this week, its president, Eduardo Gamero, lending his support to the campaign for more flights. Having done so, the inevitable misunderstandings followed. It is perhaps fair to say that the title Mallorca Tourist Board is nowadays rather misleading. One can appreciate the misunderstandings, but it is necessary to point out - yet again - that the board is not a government body. In all its 110 years of existence it never has been. It is quite wrong to level criticism at it, though, for any perceived failures of tourism policy; it has no role to play in this and more, perhaps, is the pity.

The chance that I refer to was in the context of Martínez's numerical version of the islands' tourism. The Balearics tourism ministry and its agencies, such as the Balearics Tourism Agency, which superseded the former IBATUR, is a regulatory authority and one more prone to drawing up property law than concerning itself with the realities of the tourist. Hindsight and all that, but I remain convinced that had the Mallorca Tourist Board not been neutered, deprived of funding, sidelined by political jealousies after the regional government (and tourism ministry) were created in 1983, there would today be a far greater feeling for tourism at an official level. There had to be a regulatory ministry, as none had previously existed, but the propensity for existence justification through hyper-lexis (too much legislation) has made subsidiary the very essence of tourism, something that the Mallorca Tourist Board understood very well and did so, moreover, by bringing together an enormously eclectic mix of interests and individuals; the painter Joan Miró was, for example, closely involved with it.

Had the board been allowed to continue with promotion and the type of tourism development it had been involved with from the time of its inception, I can't help but feel that a better fist would have been made of confronting issues such as seasonality. Here, after all, through a board membership of the private sector, was an organisation that had the ear and the input of all those who mattered in the industry. I would thus argue that 1983, the year that regional government started, was when Mallorca's tourism took a wrong turn. Not totally, but wrong in a shift in emphasis away from that feeling for tourism. Thirty-two years on, Jaime and his battery of statistics just reinforce the perception of a turn that went the wrong way.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 February 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 20 February - Sun, showers, 16C; 21 February - Rain, 11C; 22 February - Sun, showers, 11C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 locally 6.

Banks of cloud observable as dawn approaches. Should be a reasonable amount of sun though today and mild. Greater chance of showers tomorrow and Saturday looks as though it may be a washout and a fairly cold one, too.

Evening update (19.30): Not a bad day, a good deal of sun and felt warmer than the high of 17C. 

No Frills Excursions

The Simplicity Challenge: Mallorca's winter marketing

Let me give you a challenge. You are given the task of marketing Mallorca in winter. Forget for one moment lack of flights and hotels and restaurants being closed. Think only of Mallorca. What does it offer? What would you market? The chances are that you will come up with a fairly long list. Do I need to repeat them? Not really, you are familiar enough with them.

Let me now give you a different challenge. You are given the task of marketing Tenerife in winter. Forget for one moment the availability of flights and hotels and restaurants being open. Think only of Tenerife. What does it offer? What would you market? The chances are that you are not familiar with Tenerife, not like you are with Mallorca, but were you to be familiar then you will come up with a similar list to the one you have for Mallorca. Tenerife has mountains (a massive great big one with a lot of snow on it), wildlife, gastronomy, cycling, culture, walking, golf. But if I were to now give you a final challenge, what would be your simple winter marketing message for both Mallorca and Tenerife. For Tenerife, it might be one word. Sun. For Mallorca?

I know what you are going to say. There is sun in Mallorca, too. Tenerife can have its dodgy, rainy and cloudy days. You will probably also say that oh, there is so much more in Mallorca than Tenerife. You might be right, but the chances are you are one of the converted. Preaching to the likeminded gets you only so far, and let's face it, having so much more hasn't got us all very far. But come on, I'm still waiting, what is the simple winter marketing message for Mallorca?

Image matters and image is created through many sources not just those of the marketing people. Image is a legacy of time and though there will be those who will point out that there was once a time of relative plenty in winter, predicated on sun, the dominant image, for Mallorca, is its summer sun, to which can be added unexciting but nevertheless strong attributes, such as reliability, safety and proximity. But legacy of time counts for only so much nowadays, and image has been amended. Winter sun as there once might have been has been airbrushed from the tourism image. It has been planted elsewhere, transported by the destination deciders in their tour operating and airline HQs. It is not a Mallorcan winter marketing message, only an optional extra along with the other elements on your list.

Even for Tenerife, the simple message of sun is not sufficient. It has, to use jargon, a point of parity. In other words, there are plenty of other places with winter sun. It has, therefore, to find further value, but it is the underlying simplicity of its winter message that is its hook and initial attraction. Other messages are loaded on to the foundation of the sun image, but for the tourist and for those who market to the tourist, it is that foundation and simplicity of message which appeals.

I was talking with Jason Moore (the editor of the Majorca Daily Bulletin) yesterday and he mentioned a conversation he had had with an airline marketing manager who, seemingly, had been unaware of what Mallorca has to offer in months like January and February. The marketing manager might have been surprised, but presented with an array of different types of attraction, activity, fiestas and so on, what can be done with the information? Where's the hook, where's the simple message? For a marketing manager, if sun (or snow) is the message, the task is that much more straightforward, and so welcome aboard the winter sunshine airline express.

The tourist is today confronted with overwhelming amounts of information and massive choice. For any destination, there has to be a simplicity of message in order to cut through this overload. Complexity can be added, but initially there has to be something that stands out. For all that Mallorca has its array of winter attractions, reducing them to a sensible and meaningful message is not easy. The marketing manager would be scratching his head and thinking, it's a heck of a lot of easier to flog Tenerife.

The winter message, as a result, attaches itself to comprehensible niches. Cycling in winter is a prime example. Varied landscapes and terrain, good roads, decent enough climate. The message isn't so difficult. But niches amount to only so many tourists. Lacking a core message makes the winter in Mallorca a tough marketing proposition. Packaging various niches might sound like a solution, but only partially. A strong social media presence (of which there isn't one) would help, but one still comes back to that core and simple message. And I wish I knew what it was.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 February 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 19 February - Showers, sun, 14C; 20 February - Cloud, sun, 13C; 21 February - Showers, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 6 to 7 easing through the afternoon to 5 to 6.

Blustery and cloudy morning, sun at times during the day. Outlook remaining unsettled and windy into the weekend with showers likely at any time.

Evening update (20.15): Dull day. High of 13.8C.

No Frills Excursions

The Hotelier-Podemos Power Game

Alberto Jarabo. Note the name. You'll be hearing a lot about him over the next weeks and months. He is a maker of documentary films dedicated to social issues. He does not have a political background. It is unlikely but not inconceivable that he could be the next president of the Balearics. Jarabo has been elected as the secretary-general of Podemos in the Balearics and so his name will probably top the Podemos list when the regional parliamentary election comes around.

Not having a political background is no barrier to an aspiring Podemos politician. Indeed, it is the preferred model. Anyone who has held office with an established political party is deemed unsuitable. Alberto is, therefore, cast from the mould that Pablo Iglesias has shaped. So far, so good, but might there prove to be one particular obstacle for Alberto? He isn't Mallorcan. He isn't from the Balearics. He is from Madrid. He has lived in Mallorca for fifteen years. But a "madrileño" potentially gaining high political office in the Balearics? One wonders how well this might play with a parochial electorate, even one minded to give the "casta" of the PP and PSOE an almighty kicking.

Non-Mallorcan or not, Alberto and the Balearics Podemos prominenti are making all the right noises, unless you happen to be a hotelier, in which case you would prefer not to have to listen. The hoteliers will lose their political influence, says Alberto. "The excessive power of the hotel lobby," adds Laura Camargo, the Podemos secretary, has created the problem of "how wealth is generated" in the Balearics. This attack on the hoteliers was only to have been expected. After all, the hoteliers had got their retaliation in first. Last week Miguel Fluxá of Iberostar spoke of his concern that a "utopian government could fall into the hands of people who do not understand economics". One of his executives, the hoteliers federation president, Aurelio Vázquez, said much the same thing. The founder of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer Julià, found it "incredible that we are considering the possibility of the triumph of a communist or populist system in a country as advanced as Spain".

When Jarabo talks about breaking down the "monoculture" of tourism in the Balearics, there can surely be few who would disagree with him. But he appreciates that tourism is the prime generator of wealth. Podemos aren't about to kill the tourism goose and its golden egg but they are about to emasculate hotelier power and the "coalition" formed between the PP and the hoteliers. There will be many among the electorate who will back them on this. As I noted recently, there is no real love among Mallorcans for the big hoteliers, and in the participative spirit of Podemos (and others who are coming to this way of thinking), the hoteliers might take note that a perception of aloofness requires altering; they need to engage far better with their communities.

For all that Podemos might want to deprive the hoteliers of their power, they will know full well how much of a power they are up against. The hotel lobby goes well beyond commercial interests. It is a political entity in its own right and its political nature is about to be strengthened. The federation has changed its rules in order to allow a non-hotelier to be its next president. Vázquez's successor will be Inma de Benito, a hotelier-politician, and she has also been getting hotelier retaliation in first. What does one make of her call to political parties to not allow any further consumption of land for new hotel building beyond existing provisions? Does one detect the sight of a rug being pulled from under Podemos through the expedience of a new-found environmental evangelism on behalf of the hoteliers? It may be a very adroit move on her behalf. See, she is a hotelier-politician.

But then, we are at present in a state of speculation. Podemos haven't won anything yet. Nevertheless, the hoteliers (and others) have to take them seriously, even if they will hope that opinion poll support does not translate into actual votes or that Podemos trip up. The investigation into the financial affairs of Podemos leading light Juan Carlos Monedero is one way in which Podemos may stumble. Another source of slip-up is the connection that won't go away - Venezuela. To suggestions of funding for Podemos can be added the extraordinary threat by Venezuela's president, Nicolás Maduro, to expropriate property and interests of Spanish companies, such as Meliá, if they don't put pressure on the Rajoy government to stop its campaign against Podemos and charges of links to the Venezuelan regime.

For all that the Mallorcans might not love their big hoteliers, they are unlikely to take kindly to Venezuela sticking its nose in. With friends like that etc. and of a madrileño in Mallorca, to boot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 February 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 13C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 18 February - Sun, showers, wind, 13C; 19 February - Sun, cloud, 13C; 20 February - Cloud, sun, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 6 veering and increasing Northeast 7 to 8 during the morning.

A grey morning and a windy one. Very rough on the coasts - an amber warning in place - and staying rough into tomorrow. High risk of showers at any time today.

Evening update (22.45): Generally miserable sort of a day. Rain at times, wind, but not cold; there again not that warm, a high of 13.7C.

No Frills Excursions

The Perils Of Meddling With Town Halls

Ciudadanos is one of what can seem like a baffling array of political parties that are positioned to the left of centre. It is a comparatively new entity, having been formed in 2006 initially as a party in Catalonia but which is now country-wide. It has performed reasonably well in its Catalonian heartland (nine parliamentary seats at the 2012 election) but less well nationally; it has no deputy in Congress. Nevertheless, a recent poll suggested that the party could take 12% of the national vote, which is an extraordinarily high poll rating when one considers the support for Podemos.

Ciudadanos is a reminder that reforming parties had been created some years before Podemos came on the scene. Changes to the political system, anti-corruption, Ciudadanos has had something of the Podemos philosophy without drawing as much attention to itself. It was a creation of a time that well pre-dated Podemos when great misgivings with the current political system were already been voiced. Almost simultaneous with its founding was that of the centrist Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD), which has also placed emphasis on political reform and with which pacts have been suggested but ruled out.

One area of reform that Ciudadanos (C's) and the UPyD have in common is that of local government. The UPyD has previously advocated reducing the number of town halls in Spain. The president of C's, Albert Rivera, agrees. He proposed the other day that town halls be cut by a massive 7,000, to leave only 1,000 and did so within the context of a programme of "democratic regeneration". In this, the emphasis differs to that of the UPyD, which has pointed to the massive cost savings that could be made.

But is Rivera's proposal contradictory? A strong argument in favour of small units of local government is that they benefit democracy. Localism increases citizen involvement, it hastens and improves decision-making, it acts as a buttress against corruption of more centralised forms of government. These small units can be and are tiny. In Mallorca the tiniest is Escorca with fewer than 300 people, greatly outnumbered by the local goat population.

This theory of localism is not, however, well observed in practice. Town halls may be better at understanding local issues and so making informed decisions, but as for citizen involvement and corruption, the evidence in favour doesn't stack up. There is repeated criticism of the lack of transparency and information at town halls, which therefore limits involvement, while corruption cases or allegations of corruption are never too far from the surface. Just consider that at present there are investigations related to Andratx, Calvia (the radio affair), Felanitx, Lloseta, Marratxi, Pollensa, Vilafranca. Go back over time and you will find any number of cases of corruption, allegations and electoral fraud. It might be noted that the leader of the El Pi party, Jaume Font, was once disqualified for eight months from public office because of such a fraud in Sa Pobla, which he denied. (And he subsequently romped home as mayor.)

For all the faults with local, town hall government, Rivera's proposal sounds like one that would replace one imperfect system with another. If localism, warts and all, is truly a more democratic form of government, then how would drastically undermining it result in democratic regeneration? The UPyD line, that of greater efficiencies in terms of cost and administration, has, on the face of it, more merit, but however the case for reducing the number of town halls is styled, a reduction would bring with it perils.

The UPyD suggested three years ago that towns with fewer than 20,000 people in Mallorca should be merged. In other words the town halls would be merged. Under this suggestion, there would be only five municipalities that would be unaffected. For modernisers and, dare I say it, those with a British perspective on such matters, the suggestion would make sense; it is undeniable that services in smaller towns are comparatively and proportionally more expensive than in larger towns. But it is a suggestion that flies in the face of the sociology and culture of the villages and towns. The town hall is symbolic of local identity. It may not be the final word in efficiency. It may not be without its dodginess, but when there are villages like Buger (fractionally more than 1,000 people) which can celebrate anniversaries of "independence", the importance of village identity and of its prime institution makes tampering with that institution extremely risky.

The risk may explain why national government has shied away from radical reform. Significant reductions in the number of councillors (which will be the case with this year's elections) are as far as it has gone. It might be said that it has missed the opportunity, presented by economic crisis, to effect real reform, but was there ever the stomach for it?

Monday, February 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 February 2015


Morning high (6.15am): 10C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 17 February - Rain, wind, 15C; 18 February - Sun, showers, wind, 13C; 19 February - Showers, sun, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 6, locally 7 around midday.

Cloudy before sun-up, quite mild and calm but wind is due to be a factor today and for the next couple of days. Showers possible later today and more likely tomorrow. An unsettled pattern for the week.

Evening update (20.15): Some rain around in parts, some sun, a high of 15.3C.

No Frills Excursions

We're Més. Fly Us?

There was a time, pre-Podemos, when Més was making a very good case for becoming a strong, third political force in Mallorca. Set against the repeated nonsenses emanating from the PP and the irrelevance of PSOE, here was an alternative, and it was doing quite nicely in opinion polls and being treated nicely by a media which was discovering that it might actually have something to offer. Then Podemos came along, feasted modestly on right-wing PP support and gorged themselves on a smorgasbord of preferences for leftist parties. As an example of how the left are consequently being squeezed around the political dining-table, a poll for the Council of Mallorca elections has Més losing at least one councillor, while Podemos are matching PSOE. Alas poor Més.

Responding to Podemos has not been easy for any party, but for one which might be considered to be similar ideologically it is a tough task. Perception is of course everything. Podemos differ in many ways to Més, but the public will find it hard to see where clear blue water of the Mediterranean might exist between them. For Més, with its environmentalist agenda, it will lie in making the water bluer still, but then aren't Podemos signed up to this as well? Probably, possibly, who knows for sure.

Més is its own range of tapas within that leftist smorgasbord buffet, though maybe, in keeping with the "new Europe" that has been born in Greece, it should be a meze. With dishes of Greens and of Mallorcan tradition, here is a feast of leftism but one in which the largest platter is that of the PSM: the Mallorcan socialists with their Mallorcan nationalist philosophy. This nationalism is a button for Més to press but good old Podemos (in the Balearics) seem to also believe in the same sort of self-government and Catalan linguistic immersion that Més espouses. No, it really isn't easy when some other lot come along and nick your reasons for being.

Undeterred, Més has announced various proposals which, rather than being bogged down in nationalist ideology, are more pragmatic. They are to do with generating employment and would, one presumes, be included in an election manifesto, and among them are a couple of proposals which are different (for the moment at any rate). One is that the regional government should establish an online system for the commercialisation of private holiday accommodation. This would naturally go down like a lead balloon with the hoteliers, but then Més believes that the PP "has governed for the hoteliers". It's hard to disagree.

Another proposal is the one that Més flagged up last November; that the Balearics should have its own airline. The proposal has been misinterpreted as it was originally (probably still is) not one for international flights. The principal reasoning behind it was in fact for inter-island flights plus perhaps some flights to Madrid and Barcelona. As such, it is now more difficult to make a case for such an airline than it was in November; Air Europa will enter the inter-island flights market in May and has announced that it will be competing hard on price with Air Nostrum. Més now says that an airline would lengthen the tourist season and would mean less dependency upon a few principal markets. Which is a pretty vague statement. Does it refer to existing, overseas airlines, to the current limited amount of off-season tourism from these principal markets, to domestic tourism, or what exactly?

Whatever it is that Més has in mind, it is the suggestion that public funds might go towards such an airline that probably renders the proposal a non-starter. There are several pitfalls with such a proposal. Would it exceed powers under the statute of autonomy? Would the national competition commission not block it? Would Air Europa and Air Nostrum see them in court? And, ultimately, would Europe say no?

The EU does permit state aid to airlines but normally only in return for restructuring if an airline is in difficulty. Air Malta is a case in point. It may be government-owned (though there is a move to partially privatise it) but government money it has received has come with the strings of cuts being made to personnel (and routes) in order to establish profitability. But even rescue aid can fall foul of Europe. Cyprus Airways has been shut down because EU rules on aid were broken. Consequently, it's hard to see how a start-up, publicly-funded airline in the Balearics could be allowed.

I noted above that Més was making pragmatic proposals rather than ones driven by nationalist ideology. Mainly so, but is it nationalism driving a dubious vanity airline project? It might appeal to nationalist sentiment and be an attempt at making Més seem different, but the proposal will surely never fly.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 February 2015


Morning high (6.15am): 9C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 16 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 14C; 17 February - Showers, wind, 13C; 18 February - Showers, wind, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3 locally 4.

A reasonable day on the cards - and note that the UV rating is edging up - but showery and windy weather coming in overnight. The week ahead is forecast to be dominated by wind and occasional rain.

Evening update (18.30): Though there was a fair amount of cloud, when the sun was out it was pretty warm. A high of 20.2C.

No Frills Excursions

Carnival Crazies: Burying sardines

Francisco de Goya knew a thing or two about painting. He could turn his hand to pretty much any subject and do so with a remarkable ability for subversion and the portrayal of darkness. His painting of the burial of the sardine is a good example. Apparently there were at least two alternative versions, but the one most commonly known is an expression of supreme grotesqueness with the "sardine" symbolised by a grinning but disturbing face on a banner. Goya's painting, while celebrating the joy of the common man, is a satire on the church and on the crown. It was created during the reign of the absolutist monarch, Ferdinand VII, who had attempted to outlaw carnival and so the end-game of carnival, the burial of the sardine before the start of Lent.

Goya didn't invent the tradition of the burial of the sardine but he certainly helped to popularise it. Quite what its origins are is open to debate. The generally held theory is that it arose during the reign of Carlos III, so some time between 1759 and 1788. The king, the story goes, ordered that there be one final party before Lent and, because there was an abundance of sardines, these were the culinary centrepiece. However, because there were so many sardines and because the weather was particularly warm, there was an almighty great pong on account of sardines rotting in the heat. The solution was to bury them. As theories go, it seems as good as any, though the fact that there appears to be no documentary evidence to support this royal command could mean that it is just a tall tale.

Goya's painting (or paintings) most definitely assisted in spreading the sardine tradition and in also reinforcing the bizarre, profane and anti-establishment nature of carnival as a whole. Over the decades of turmoil through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, carnival and the sardine were symbolic of the people taking over for a short while and poking fun at those who often made their lives a misery.

The burial of the sardine is nowadays absolutely central to the carnival story. It clearly isn't a Mallorcan tradition as such, but it finds expression here in Mallorca as much as it does on the mainland. Consequently, this week there will be sardine-burial ceremonies, most of which confirm that, on occasion, Mallorcans are more than capable of acting in a totally bonkers fashion.

A sardine, being a sardine, is only small. As such, it doesn't command a great presence when it comes to a spot of street-theatre, fiesta-style celebration. In order to overcome its diminutive nature, there are mock, giant sardines instead, and nowhere does this in any more peculiar fashion than the village of Portol in Marratxi. Its twenty-third burial of the sardine takes place on Shrove Tuesday, the last day of feasting before Ash Wednesday and Lent kick in. At 6pm, as has become traditional, a giant, comedy sardine will be paraded through the streets, carried as though by pallbearers, accompanied by suitably solemn music from the local band (music of a tongue-in-cheek variety, if it is possible to describe music in such a fashion) and by ladies of the village, clad in black mourning dresses and weeping (in a hammed-up, over-the-top manner). The weeping, so tradition suggests, is all to do with the people being saddened at the end of the carnival festivities and being faced with the prospect of several weeks of strict religious observance (or not). 

The Portol sardine, as is the case with some sardines elsewhere, doesn't actually get buried. The Mallorcans enjoy nothing more than setting fire to something, and little excuse is needed for a festivity to feature a roaring bonfire. The comedy sardine is toast, its final moments being marked by the sound of a trumpet reveille. Having committed the sardine to its fiery end, it is of course time to get eating. Cue, therefore, many a real sardine and any amount of strong alcoholic beverage plus, of course, the ubiquitous ball de bot folk dance.

The actual burial (or burning) usually requires some form of blessing, which may or may not be serious and may or may not actually feature clergy. In Pollensa, as an example, where a sardine is normally paraded with a collection of candles, the "clergy" can typically consist of blokes dressed as nuns and a priest who, on account of his appearance, would not normally get within a mile of a church.

So, take note. If you see some strange sorts wandering along the streets carrying something which looks as though it is destined for a funeral, don't be alarmed. In Mallorca, just as you are never far from the sea at any time of the year, at the end of the carnival, you are never far from a sardine.

Photo: Portol sardine, from Marratxi town hall,

Saturday, February 14, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 February 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 6.5C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 15 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 16 February - Cloud, showers, 11C; 17 February - Cloud, rain, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4.

Clear skies this morning and a mainly fine day in the offing but due to cloud over later. Tomorrow also a mix of sun and cloud but the next few days are looking pretty hopeless.

Evening update (20.15): Sun went in and cloud came in by the afternoon. Mild day. High of 19C.

No Frills Excursions

Alcúdia Versus Pollensa: The day of destruction

Alcúdia is taking Pollensa on today. And they'll be doing so at the Club Pollença. A rivalry there has long been between the two towns, but what is that brings them head to head today? Well, it's nothing physical. It's nothing controversial. Not in current-day terms at any rate. "Alcúdia versus Pollensa" is the title of a session that forms part of the annual series of history courses that Pollensa organises during the winter months, and the clash between the two towns has to do with a specific set of studies devoted to "El día de la destrossa" (the day of destruction).

Of dates in Pollensa's history, none offers greater pride than 30 May 1550. We know that the simulation of the Moors and Christians battle takes place on 2 August each year during the Patrona fiestas, but the actual battle of 1550 had been staged some weeks before. 30 May 1550 is central to the historical and cultural narrative of Pollensa, but it is linked, through family ties and the town's psyche, to events that occurred 28 years previously. 29 October 1522 is known as the day of destruction. It was a day that witnessed scenes of unparalleled barbarity, it was a day that ripped the heart out of Pollensa, killed many of its inhabitants and rendered it meek, impotent and deprived of resistance. 29 October 1522 was the day of quite appalling massacre.

The context was the uprising of the "Germania", the brotherhood. It had broken out in February 1521 and was the response of the peasant and artisan class in Mallorca (the impetus did actually come from a different revolt in Valencia) against grand land owners who, through abusive taxes, blatant exploitation and grinding poverty, had trodden the common people of Mallorca so far down that no other response was possible than that of direct and violent conflict, and it was a conflict which broadened in scope - the revolt was against the Spanish monarch (Carlos I) as well. 

The people of Pollensa would have been aware of what was coming. The revolt in Mallorca was finally met with the might of royal forces. A squadron appeared off the northern coast in mid-October. The viceroy in Mallorca ordered a campaign of blood and fire to stamp out the uprising in different parts of the island. Pollensa was attacked. Women and children took refuge in the church. It was set ablaze: two hundred died. Men who had taken to defend their families and their town were slaughtered, hung and quartered. The streets were littered with bodies. Buildings were ablaze. Those who survived were cowed into meekness. They would not revolt again and they faced retribution: the price of having to pay the royal treasury for their town to be rebuilt. 

How did Alcúdia come to be the opponent in all this? Well, it was Alcúdia where the royal troops landed, and Alcúdia was where supporters of the crown and of the nobility in the "part forana" of Mallorca had been holed up. They had sought refuge behind the town's walls and they had got it. Ten months before the Pollensa massacre, a siege of Alcúdia by the "Germanies" (also known as "agermanats") was ended. The battle of Alcúdia took place on Boxing Day, 1521, and it proved decisive. The Germanies were defeated and so Alcúdia could be prepared as the operations centre to end the revolt across the island.

There were of course other battles. A fierce one took place in Sa Pobla in November 1522, for example. The Germanies were being defeated everywhere, and the uprising was finally and definitively crushed in March 1523. As a mark of the gruesome nature of the conflict, one of the revolt's leaders, Joan Colom, was hung, drawn and quartered. His quarters were placed on pillars in Palma, while his head was mounted on the city's Puerta Pintada. It stayed there until 1820, a reminder to all of the consequences of rising up against the nobility and the crown.

But what of those links between Pollensa's day of destruction and the battle against the Moors in 1550? One link was that this battle marked the recovery of the town's pride that had been shattered in 1522. Another was a very notable family link. Someone who survived the massacre was a young Joan Mas. His father was slaughtered in 1522, but twenty-eight years later, it was Joan who led the people of Pollensa in repelling the Moorish invaders and who is, of course, represented each year in the famous battle simulation.

It took a generation for Pollensa to regain its esteem. The rivalry with Alcúdia has never since been of the style it was in those days of the sixteenth century while nowadays, it is simply a case of who claims bragging rights for tourism infrastructure and other contemporary matters. The day of destruction and its awfulness does live on in the memory, but it is said that there are many people in Pollensa who are unfamiliar with it. They know all about the Moors and the Christians and the glorious victory; far less about the inglorious 29 October 1522. That's why, therefore, there are history courses and why today the memory will certainly be relived.

Friday, February 13, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 February 2015


Morning high (6.15am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 14 February - Sun, 16C; 15 February - Cloud, 15C; 16 February - Cloud, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 2 to 3 becoming Variable by the afternoon.

Some light cloud across the moon before dawn, cloud expected to persist for most of the day with the risk of the odd shower. Tomorrow is due to be a very good day and the best for a few days to come, as the general outlook doesn't look that promising.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 17.7C. Some sun but mainly through light cloud. 

No Frills Excursions

AENA Privatisation: Uncertainties and unknowns

Finally, and after glitches concerning the auditor, AENA's initial public offer of shares has gone ahead. The 58 euro per share price rose on the first day of trading to over 69 euros, leaving the minister for development, Ana Pastor, a happy lady. Analysts consider it to be a strong stock, and though the price is likely to fall a little, the entry onto the Madrid stock market has been positive.

Despite the muted euphoria, there are several unknowns which cloud the AENA privatisation. One, that of union relations, has, for the time being, been placed on the back burner, the two main airport unions CCOO and USO having called off strikes that were planned from this month and through the spring and summer. Assurances have been given regarding contracts and minimum staffing levels. If the unions are now adopting a temporarily contented watching brief, not all has been rosy with the chief institutional shareholders. The belief that the privatisation might herald a phase of optimism for the Balearics has been shaken by the fact that the Banca March's investment foundation felt that the share price was too high and so has, along with Ferrovial, opted to stay out of that original core of investors and will not, therefore, be represented on the new board. Still, there has been plenty of interest from major investors such as George Soros and through sovereign funds in the Middle East, Singapore and Norway.

One of the greatest unknowns has to do with the further liberalisation of the skies and so of international airline presence at major airports, by which one means Madrid and Barcelona. Emirates, Air India, Latam Airlines are among overseas operators jostling to develop new routes and which are eyeing up Madrid in particular as a hub. There is, as a consequence, disquiet among an already emasculated Spanish airline industry that existing hub activities might be threatened; Air Europa appears especially minded to get the ear of the ministry on this matter.

And it is the relationship between the government and the 49% shareholders that provides the biggest unknown of the lot. Who ultimately will wield the power? The government may have retained a majority of shares, but how determined might it be to exercise its majority against the ambitions of others?

Coming to Mallorca and the Balearics, further development of international air routes might be thought a good thing, but only if good interconnecting schedules can be piggybacked onto routes that the likes of Emirates or Air India might desire. Otherwise, Palma looks unlikely to be a beneficiary of privatisation. This said, Ana Pastor, following the previous announcement by regional tourism minister Jaime Martínez that airport taxes will be frozen for ten years, has intimated that there may, after all, be room to manouevre in terms of lowering taxes (especially for the off-season) at Balearics airports. Airlines have naturally welcomed the suggestion, though they see in it an element of pre-election campaigning. As I have noted before, the profitability of Palma will be something that shareholders will be keen to maintain and so tax reductions would only be of interest were there a guarantee of greater profits from resultant flights.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 February 2015


Morning high (8.00am): 7C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 13 February - Cloud, 15C; 14 February - Sun, cloud, 15C; 15 February - Sun, shower, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3.

Pleasant morning, sun enduring until the afternoon and then cloud coming in. Risk of a shower overnight with tomorrow predominantly cloudy. All seems reasonably mild until Tuesday, as the forecast is suggesting a renewed bout of strong northerlies bringing lower temperatures.

Evening update (19.30): Unremarkable sort of a day. Felt milder than a high of 14.7C though.

No Frills Excursions

A Pope In Mallorca

On 31 October 1982 at just before four in the afternoon, an Alitalia Boeing 727 entered Spanish airspace coming from the east. The Boeing was greeted by three Mirage fighter planes based in Palma. They escorted the Boeing along an air route that had started in Alguero in Sardinia and which crossed Mallorca from Manacor to Palma and continued to Valencia on the mainland. At two minutes past four on that afternoon, the plane was 10,000 metres above Palma and at precisely that moment, the great bell of the cathedral, N'Aloy, rang out. Bells of all churches across the island also rang, while boats in ports blasted out their sirens and one hundred doves of peace were released.

This was the occasion of the first papal visit to Spain in modern times. Pope John Paul II came to Spain ostensibly for the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of Teresa of Ávila (Saint Teresa of Jesus). He was to visit Spain on four more occasions. About the closest he got to Mallorca were those 10,000 metres above Palma, his Boeing accompanied by the three Mirage jets.

Popes of the modern day didn't used to travel. They never left Italy. It was Pope Paul VI, John Paul's predecessor, who got in touch with the modern world by venturing abroad, but unlike John Paul, he didn't get around that much. He never came to Spain, for instance. John Paul's successor, Benedict XVI, visited Spain three times, but in all this roughly fifty years of papal travel Mallorca has not been blessed by a papal visit.

The occasionally tempestuous history of the papacy does offer Mallorca some consolation for having been overlooked if only very tenuously. From the time of the so-called Papal Schism of the late fourteenth century, there were different popes, one of whom was a much earlier Benedict (the thirteenth). Known also as the Moon Pope, Benedict was an anti-pope who, at the time of being excommunicated, was calling himself Benedict XIII. He established himself at Peñíscola Castle in Valencia and maintained that he was the one and only pope until the moment he passed away in 1424.

When Benedict died, there were two rival successors, both anti-popes following a previous anti-pope. One was Benedict XIV, while the other was a cardinal named Gil Sánchez Muñoz, who took the name Clement VIII and who, for five years after Benedict's death, clung on to an increasingly absurd idea that he was the pope and no one else; as also did Benedict XIV. Eventually, Clement basically just got sick and tired of all the politics and the pretence, relinquished any claim he had and patched things up with the by then real pope, Martin V.

So, how does this offer some consolation for Mallorca? Well, it was what Clement did next which allows the island to boast that it has had a little bit of popedom in the dim and distant past. Clement, once more Gil, was forgiven by Martin and appointed the Bishop of Mallorca. It wasn't quite the same as there being a pope on the island, even a false one, but Mallorca had a bishop who had been but who hadn't been pope, and that's about as close as you get to a papal presence on the island.

President Bauzá, hoping to bury the news of the provincial court in Palma having ordered a potential criminal investigation of the president related to the lack of tenders for opening new pharmacies (remember that Bauzá owns one), was off in Rome meeting Pope Francis. The president, who might hope, forlornly, that this visit will have diverted attention, while he might also believe, misguidedly one fancies, that it will do him some electoral good, took the opportunity to have a word with Francis about the canonisation of Ramón Llull. He has invited Pope Francis to come to the island to celebrate this.

The invitation might also seem like electioneering. No, not seem: is. However, there are very good reasons why Pope Francis should come for the canonisation and not just because it's about time that the island was granted a papal visit. In many ways, it is surprising that Llull is not canonised. Given what he gave the church, he should have been. Llull, "Doctor Illuminatus", was a contemporary of the Scots religious thinker Duns Scotus, "Doctor Subtilis". These two, who definitely met in Paris and on other occasions, were arguably the pre-eminent Catholic scholars of their time and, crucially, they defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. In terms of Catholic philosophy, it doesn't get a lot bigger than this.

Should Pope Francis come to Mallorca? Definitely he should. And think of the publicity and the visitors this would attract. If necessary, they'd lay on special flights. Of that, you can be certain.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 February 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 6.5C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 12 February - Cloud, 16C; 13 February - Sun, shower, 13C; 14 February - Sun, cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 2 to 3.

Some cloud passing across the moon on a quite chilly morning. Warm later and plenty of sun. A rather more mixed bag over the next couple of days with cloud set to dominate tomorrow.

Evening update (20.30): Decent. Some good sun. A high of 16.6C.

No Frills Excursions

The House That Eugenio Built

They sent the bulldozers in during the second week of November 2010. The wrecking and tidying-up crews worked efficiently and effectively. Where a chalet had stood became once more a plot of land in an area of special countryside protection: pastoral equilibrium was re-established. The chalet, over seventy square metres in size, should not have been built. The only licence for building had been for the renovation of a farm shed.

Who is to say that had the chalet not been demolished that it would not now be subject to "regularisation"? Many a property on Mallorca's rural land was granted an amnesty last year under the regional government's Ley de Suelo. The futures of some of these buildings would have been documented and stored in the pending trays of town halls or other authorities, some stamped in red with a threatening "denuncia", awaiting transmission to the courts. Their executions had been stayed at their death rows among bucolic greenery until one day came the pardon. Pay a suitable retribution and all will be forgiven. The bulldozers sighed. There was no work for them.

But the chalet I mention never had a chance. It had to be removed and to be levelled. It had to be restored as a place of natural habitat. There is no X to mark the spot of where it was. You wouldn't know it had ever been there. This was ground-zero chalet. There were strong political as well as legal reasons why all physical memory of it should have been expunged. This had been the chalet that Eugenio had built. 

Eugenio Hidalgo, the one-time and now disgraced and imprisoned mayor of Andratx, was one of the unlucky ones. Unlucky because, though he engaged in widespread planning abuses and got sent to prison as a result, he might well have believed that, abuse or not, the chalet would eventually be given official reprieve or become sufficiently well established in terms of the years it had been built that it would no longer be the target for the bulldozers. After all, wasn't this how such things worked in Mallorca?

Had the chalet been anyone else's, it might well have been reprieved. But it wasn't anyone else's. It was Eugenio's. A further pound of flesh was required in addition to the jail sentence. It became ground-zero chalet in a revenge attack. The demolition was symbolic restitution for the destruction of public confidence through the chain reaction of what Eugenio hadn't bargained for: the actions of anti-corruption prosecutors newly emboldened and supported by the national attorney-general. Matas, Munar, Ordinas, Nadal, Buils, many more have been burned by the firestorm that the prosecutors unleashed. And it was one whose source can be localised to protected land in Andratx. Ground zero.

Llorenç Suau is a mayoral descendant of Eugenio's. The current mayor of Andratx, he won't be re-standing. In October last year, Llorenç and two former mayors, Isabel Alemany and Francesc Femenias, were indicted to declare "in quality" by a Palma court looking into supposed irregularities surrounding the licence for developing car parking in Sant Elm, which just so happens to be the property of the Alemany family. Though not accused, Suau has opted against re-election as he supports the stance of his party, the PP, on not having candidates caught up in legal proceedings. He reckons, though, that whereas the presumption of innocence is a right for all citizens, it doesn't apply to politicians. There is now a presumption of guilt. And, sadly and generally speaking, he is right; sadly because it shouldn't be so and generally speaking because, notwithstanding attempts to clean up local politics, the public wants to believe in political crookedness.

For Llorenç, the problem is that there is someone whose guilt was proven. Eugenio's. Hidalgo is the cross that Andratx mayors have to bear. Llorenç knows this. Innocent or not innocent, the public smell urban planning indiscretions - real or not real - as acutely as they detect the burning of forest land. Their senses have been heightened by the Hidalgo-fallout and Tramuntana firestorms.

Elsewhere, and even with rules laid down by the PP regarding candidates, mayors are not as prepared as Llorenç to sacrifice themselves. Tomeu Cifre in Pollensa is one. Local rather than general party rules appear to apply to him. He has not been charged with any criminal offence, thus he can re-stand and, it should be noted, court documentation in respect of one accusation against him appears not to have been forthcoming from his accuser.

But perhaps mud sticks, regardless. Eugenio didn't build a house of corruption for mayors; it was there before him. What he did build, though, was an enduring edifice of perception, proven in and reinforced by the courts, that will not shift from public sight. Innocence, guilt. Who would be a mayor?