Thursday, April 03, 2014

Cards Versus Corruption: What matters to expats

Tuesday was an eventful day in the Balearics parliament. It was a day which brought joy to expatriates. Their lives will soon be made that much more worth living. Oh, the convenience of it all. A lovely, lovely residence card replete with identifying photo and chipped fingerprints. Just like the ones the natives have. Rejoice, rejoice.

The Balearic parliament approved a motion calling for an end to the residence certificate, which not so long ago was reduced to a credit-card-sized piece of flimsy green paper but which lacks a photo unlike a health card or driving licence, both of which can do a reasonable job as means of identification but aren't complete (no fingerprints, for example). Parliamentary approval means comparatively little, other than adding more pressure on Madrid to get a move on and scrap the flimsy piece of paper and replace it with some plastic. Madrid has already agreed to this.

But never let the moment be missed for politicians to get in on a photo opportunity and appear as though they might have had something to do with this momentous decision. There was a beaming President Bauzá, radiant at the prospect that the bit of plastic in an expat's wallet might rub off on his party when it comes to municipal elections next year. Unfortunately, one can well believe that some expats might actually think that he was in some way instrumental, when he wasn't.

While the champagne corks were popping and expatriates could face a bright future with their shiny new piece of plastic and convict-style photo, parliament was engaged in other matters. One of these had to do with the minor issue of political corruption.

Jaume Matas, the one-time president of the Balearics and member of the Partido Popular, has sought a pardon from the national Rajoy government (and by extension, the King) which would mean that he would avoid doing nine months in choky. This was the greatly reduced sentence he received in respect of the first of various charges which he faces. Already having seen several years lopped off of the sentence, such judicial generosity hasn't been enough for Jaume.

The matter came before parliament. It is, like residence cards, not something over which the regional parliament has any real say. It can make its views known but no more. As such, it might have been considered irrelevant that the matter had even been raised, but it was relevant, highly relevant. Bauzá has made much of this PP administration being clean and of attempting to distance himself from the murky recent past in which Matas and others snorted around the sty as happy as political pigs in shit, gobbling up whatever was going.

The PP were content to vote in favour of a general motion against there being any pardons for political corruption. This wasn't good enough for the opposition on the left. They wanted a specific motion which would have called on Madrid to turn down Matas's request for a pardon. The PP refused to back this motion.

A justification for this was given by the PP's Miguel Jerez. He said that the motion led by the Més leftist grouping would personalise a specific case (i.e. Matas). The general motion that the PP favoured would avoid the need for any possible future debates if politicians on corruption raps also sought a pardon. In a rare moment of humour, he suggested that debates related to other individuals might require the use of an "indultómetro", a pardon-o-meter.

He may well have been right to suggest this, but of course the opposition were right to personalise the issue. Matas may not be the only Balearics politician to face further charges or to already have been sentenced, but he was at the top of the whole festering pile of corruption that has been exposed as having existed during his second period of office. He deserves the personalisation.

By having refused to accept the opposition's motion, the PP has risked looking as though it is soft on corruption and is unwilling to finger one of its own. As such, therefore, the corruption debate was both relevant and revealing. Yet, what was more important in parliament on Tuesday?

Expat convenience viz the residence card versus political corruption. There, in a nutshell, was an expression of priorities and concerns.

No comments: