Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Quotas, Intrigues And Government Crisis

All governments have their moments of crisis when inner tensions arise. Dismissals, reshuffles, even resignations will occur. They are not in themselves unusual. Within the most rigid and disciplined of governments there are disagreements, spats and also intrigues. The moments of crisis are often self-induced rather than brought about by outside events.

During the periods in office of the two Balearic governments prior to the current one, there were times of upheaval. The "pact" of 2007 to 2011, which comprised PSOE, the PSM Mallorcan socialists and the old Unió Mallorquina (UM), was an amalgam of incompatible convenience. PSOE was the arbiter, caught between two parties which, because of their competing claims on Mallorcan nationalism but from very different ideological perspectives, hated each other. It didn't help PSM humour that the UM nabbed some high-profile ministries - tourism and environment. (Want to know why Més now have these ministries in the current government? There's your answer.)

The crisis that engulfed the pact government wasn't, remarkably enough, because of the inherent conflict. It came about because the UM was consumed by corruption charges. They were to eventually prove too much even for a docile president like Francesc Antich. He booted the UM out, with some sixteen months left of the legislature.

The regime of José Ramón Bauzá had, at its outset, nothing of this in-built tension. One party, the Partido Popular, was governing with a majority. For all this, however, it was a government which spent most of its period of office in a state of crisis. After just a year, the first health minister, Carmen Castro, resigned. Personal reasons, it was said. A few months later her replacement, Antoni Mesquida, also resigned. Personal reasons were initially cited. Then we found out the real reason. Austerity and cutbacks to the health service were too much for this brother of PSOE's Joan, currently in charge of "special projects" in Calvia.

The finance minister, Pep Aguiló, left the following May, sacked because Bauzá needed to sacrifice him. The so-called green taxes, aimed at large retailers and car-hire agencies, threatened to deprive Bauzá of a significant support base in the Balearic business community. The taxes were dropped.

Next to go was Rafael Bosch, the education minister. It was his sacking that was to eventually expose the tensions within the PP. Bosch was not the advocate of trilingual teaching and anti-Catalanism that Bauzá wanted. His departure arguably signalled the eventual end of Bauzá. The remaining two years were 24 months of chaos, fall-outs and recrimination.

Bauzá was quite different to Antich. He was an authoritarian who sought to impose discipline but failed to. Antich was more the diplomat, all the time having to balance the conflicts that he had been party to in forming the pact. The same can now be said for Francina Armengol. But she heads a quite different type of government. One party, Podemos, isn't even part of government. It remains outside, pulling strings, determining policy and sniping at the government when it suits it to do so. However, Podemos is not the reason for the crisis that has broken out in the Armengol administration because of the resignation of culture, transparency and participation minister Esperança Camps.

Nine months into government and its first victim has been claimed. There were rumblings about Camps, her effectiveness, the fact that she wasn't a politician as such when appointed, her continuing to live in Valencia and her apparent lack of knowledge of the "realities" of the Balearics. Some of which begs the question as to why she was appointed in the first place, but it was this appointment which uncovers the divided nature of the Armengol administration. We had thought (and will continue to think) that Podemos is the wrecking crew, but how much thought had we given to Més?

In itself Més is a coalition, but not just of the PSM, the Greens and the one everyone forgets, Entesa. It is a coalition between Mallorca and Menorca. Camps was a Més Menorca appointee. It made her and ultimately it broke her. She faced rebellion because her senior officials simply didn't rate her, but she might have survived had it not been for the intrigues within Més in Menorca.

She was also an appointment based on the unwritten island quota system for ministerial positions. Bauzá hadn't concerned himself so much with this. When Castro, from Ibiza, resigned, she wasn't replaced by someone else from Ibiza. The quota system is far more evident with the Armengol government; just another aspect of coalition, if you like.

Armengol is asking Més to come up with a replacement with "weight" for Camps. It will probably be Més Menorca which makes the nomination. That way all the constituent parts of government are kept sweet, meaning that all the factions and the intriguers are kept happy. It's a recipe for crisis. Don't bank on it not repeating itself.

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