Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Dead Woman President Walking

When the next election comes round on 26 June, the Balearics will provide its own little sideshow. The region contributes eight deputies to the national Congress - 2.3% of its 350 total. This might seem unimportant but 26-J could prove to be very important for the Balearics.

At the pre-Christmas election, the Partido Popular, with the highest share of the regional vote, secured three seats. There were two each for Podemos and PSOE and one for Ciudadanos (C's). Excluded from Congress, therefore, was Més. It polled worse than the party had hoped, though its 7% share of the vote put it in the mix for potentially gaining a seat: parties have to secure a minimum of 3% in order to be considered under the proportional representation system.

Més is this time more confident of getting itself into Congress, though a pact with the United Left and Pacma (the party against animal mistreatment) would, on the basis of the December vote, still leave it short. What would change its fortunes would be an alliance with Podemos, and the chances of there being an alliance of what one might describe as the hard left in the Balearics are strong.

Were there to be this alliance, it would - again using December's vote - be the main force in the Balearics, polling higher than the PP with 33% of the share of the vote. With the PP staying more or less where it was in December (it surely won't lose votes), PSOE would be relegated to one Congress seat. If things went really badly for PSOE and exceptionally well for the hard left pact and for the C's, PSOE could find itself with no seat (an unlikely outcome though).

The alliance with Podemos is not yet a done deal. Podemos will insist that it has the first two names on the "list", i.e. its two current deputies. Having gained 23% of the share of the December vote, it holds the aces in negotiations with Més. But granting Més the third name on the list would have some appeal because of the way in which the hard-left alliance would become the number one force.

Why should this really matter? It would matter a great deal to the government of the Balearics. Here would be a situation in which two partners in government (one actually in it, Més, and one not, Podemos) gang up against the leadership of that government - PSOE. If for no other reason than psychological, it would be a blow to Francina Armengol and to her party.

But it could prove to be more than just psychological. Podemos has remained outside the government. It might decide that, emboldened by a June performance, it would seek entrance. Though the regional government was determined by the regional and not the general election and though PSOE got the greater share of the vote and the greater number of regional parliament seats, Podemos and Més together have a higher parliamentary representation. Armengol isn't forecasting any threat to the "stability" of her government, but she would be weakened if the Més-Podemos general election alliance were to be realised.

The fact is that she was already weak. In the run-up to the regional election last May, she and PSOE shifted more to the left. It was clear which way the wind was blowing, and it was steering a leftward course. It didn't do PSOE much good. It was sufficient to enter government but into a government with its hands tied. Armengol isn't a puppet as such, but she is no puppet master. Podemos is perpetually hovering, threatening to hang her out to dry. After 26-J, she will hang on to the presidency, but her credibility will be less than it already is: a sort of dead woman president walking, constantly bleating the lines about consensus and dialogue, when in truth the dialogue is all one way.

So rattled is PSOE that its number one on the December list, Ramon Socias, is to be ousted. What difference his removal will make is hard to fathom, though his position as number one in December was also difficult to comprehend. A former national government delegate to the Balearics, he has some substance, but he's in the "veteran" category, tarnished by old failings and something of a non-entity when pitched against the likes of the PP's number one, Mateo Isern, or the judge, Juan Pedro Yllanes, the Podemos number one. Changing him for another non-entity doesn't make much sense. PSOE is up against it whoever it has on its list.

Though further weakened, Armengol should survive. Despite PSOE's weakness, it does have some strength. If Més and Podemos have in mind an alternative president (one from its combined ranks), PSOE would surely block it. But why would they? They'll just tell PSOE what to do, and the president will agree. There's consensus and dialogue for you.

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