Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Intrigues Of Palma

Palma is a hotbed of intrigue. Here is a capital that has its own government as well as it being the location for actual government - of the Balearics and of Mallorca - the latter in the form of the Council of Mallorca. Its town hall has a name that resonates with government - Cort, or Corte in Castellano. The corte of legislature, as with the Cortes Generales of Spain, the lower and upper houses of parliament, rather than the corte of the department store: El Corte Inglés means the English cut, as in the cut of a tailor, reflecting its humble origins.

When Mariano Rajoy inadvertently referred to the "island of Palma", he wasn't totally inaccurate. Palma is its own island, its own affair, divorced from the rest of Mallorca and the Balearics, the consequence of its economic, governmental and inhabitant dominance, as well as of its pomposity and the self-importance that its politicians display. Of these, many are of course imported, shipped in to the palaces of government, be they those of parliament, the presidential headquarters or the Council.

But then there are those who are more homegrown, the Palma political elite, the cadres, the factions. Palma's intrigues are intriguing as much as they are something of which the rest of Mallorca and the Balearics are despairing and have despaired. They attract so much attention, as do the controversies that these politicians inspire. Palacios, terraces, monuments for demolition: they are Palma's affairs, not anyone else's. And yet the rest of Mallorca is dragged into the orbit of these controversies through the sheer power of attraction of the city, despite wishing that they were not. "That's Palma for you" will be a typical comment, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders and a smile of resignation, as it was when an Alcudia politician once said to me that the corruption (of the old Unió Mallorquina) was all just a Palma affair. Generally speaking, he was correct in this observation.

The intrigues are such that they carry into the forthcoming general election. The Partido Popular, no longer ruling the city, has shifted the focus of the intrigues that led to the ousting of Mateo Isern, or at least to his not being put forward as candidate for mayor last May. Isern senses delicious revenge over the "Rodriguistas" of José María Rodríguez, intriguer-in-chief or so it can seem. Alvaro Gijón, formerly Isern's number two, will be running against his old boss: Rodriguista versus non-Rodriguista, albeit that Gijón prefers not to style himself such.

While Isern will probably triumph, especially because the party members away from Palma despair so much of the guard that the Rodriguistas formed around the now despised Bauzá, PSOE has already made up its mind who will head its candidate list for election to Congress. Ramon Socias is that candidate, the former national government delegate to the Balearics who observed in 2008 that politicians should not see politics as something to depend upon and that they should be politicians for a "determined period" (he was talking against the background of corruption).

Socias keeps reappearing. He was in the running to be PSOE's candidate for mayor in Palma in May. He didn't make it. And why didn't he? Ah well, maybe it was all some intrigue. Or perhaps it was all to do with froth and image. PSOE in Palma selected José Hila, and he is now mayor, a leader with a perpetual grin: the amiable, genial, personable Hila, whose sentences are never knowingly spoken without reference to consensus and dialogue. He epitomises current-day, image-conscious, ultra-modern PSOE, a product of the Palma camp led by ex-mayor Aina Calvo, she who failed to win leadership of PSOE in the Balearics despite her promotional campaign that borrowed Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us" dance anthem.

Socias, by contrast, is of the dull PSOE camp of Francina Armengol. Image-wise, that is. Candidacy for Congress carries less image weight than being Palma's  mayor, it would seem. There seems less intrigue than there was when the mayoral candidates were being sized up. Had Socias won, the party in Palma would have been split in much the same way that the PP under Isern was fractured. He didn't win because Hila, with Calvo's support, also had his wife to help him: Maria Angeles Fernandez Valiente, who has now been promoted to a senior post with the Mallorca Institute of Social Affairs (within the Council of Mallorca). Hila and his wife had backed Calvo against Armengol for the party's leadership. Was this solely an image issue? Perhaps it was. Politically, Calvo wasn't necessarily about to ally herself to the new age of Podemos, and yet Hila's wife, it was revealed six months before the mayoral election in Palma, appeared to be a Podemos supporter. Her name was on a Facebook page among some 1,400 classed as supporters.


No comments: