Tuesday, April 08, 2014

President Armengol?: PSOE's primaries

Francina Armengol will be PSOE's presidential candidate in the regional elections next year. She secured approximately ten per cent more of the vote on Sunday than her rival, the former mayor of Palma, Aina Calvo. As secretary-general of the party in the Balearics, Armengol possessed the whip hand, and the party was duly whipped into her paddock.

It was a vote that was not without curiosity. Grandly entitled the "primaries", the process leading up to the election bore no resemblance to rather better-known primaries across the Atlantic. There were no cheerleaders, no families dragged onto stages to beam admiringly at wives or daughters or mothers, no small fortunes spent. Between them the two candidates forked out a miserly four grand. Primaries-lite, the "big debate" took place in the middle-Mallorca backwater of Lloseta, which rhymes with Rosetta. No stone was revealed, though, bearing a decree to establish the divine cult of the new ruler, whichever it was to be. Neither Francina nor Aina can aspire to cult status, though each may, in their contrasting ways, be divine.

Aina, the more glamorous of the two, had placed hope in the support from her Palma bailiwick. She duly received it, as territorialism decreed that the tribes of the Balearics offered tribute to their own. But it worked the other way, too. Francina of Inca could command the loyalty of her home leather town. The Kingdom of Cusco, with she as its queen, was hers, aided by more of that whipping and the tanning of Inca's hides as they were corralled into the Armengol booth.

Mysteriously, the vote was less predictable in the forgotten islands. Were it down to Menorca, then Calvo would have been made queen on the day. The vote there was almost the reverse of the overall result. In Ibiza, Francina gained over twice as many votes as Aina.

Whatever hard-to-explain variance there was in the voting, both candidates needed the support of their "home" territories and to appeal to a broader electorate than had previously been the case. Both "militantes" and "simpatizantes" were eligible to place their cross against the names. The former are the active, paying members. The latter are supporters. Which has begged a question as to how a supporter is defined. Is the actual election - against other political parties - not the occasion when supporters should demonstrate their support? Can one be certain of credentials? In Barcelona, a similar exercise involving supporters has led to numerous complaints.

The combination of members and supporters meant that 14,572 people could express a preference. Perhaps it is surprising that PSOE in the Balearics can count on only 2,587 paying members. Or maybe it isn't surprising.

Tribal and territorial factors aside, what were the 14,000 plus voting for? The differences between Aina and Francina were small. They were largely ones of style rather than substance. Now that the vote has been taken and the winner declared, though, whatever minor differences might have existed will be buried. "We must work together," said Francina to Aina. Together they are stronger. Together they are a real alternative to the right. Together they can rid the Balearics of Bauzá. Get thee behind us, thou robber of Balearics citizens. Francina didn't quite say this, but she did suggest that José Ramón had been doing some robbing. Which was rather unkind of her.

There is a very real possibility that the Balearics will have a female president. Decline in support for the Partido Popular suggests that though the PP will most likely win the election next year, its margin would be insufficient to form a majority. This occurred in 2007. The PP got 47% of the vote, but its 28 seats (five more than PSOE's) were not enough to prevent a PSOE coalition forming the regional government. PSOE with the backing of the Més grouping might just be able to oust the PP next time round. It is too early to predict, though.

Issues that are likely to crop up during proceedings in 2015 are the scale of public administration and trilingual teaching. Armengol would be most unlikely to follow the Bauzá line on cutting back levels of government, such as the Council of Mallorca. She was once its president, after all, and enjoyed spending its money. On TIL Armengol has said that she would dump it. Més would certainly hold her to that. Calvo had implied that she would keep it. Here is one difference, and it invites a question as to whether they could work together or whether, like Delgado was to some extent with Bauzá, Aina might prove to be the elephant in Francina's room: an altogether more glamorous one than Delgado and also, despite her defeat, a very much more popular alternative to the leader than Delgado was.

* Photo of Francina Armengol from http://www.psoe.es

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