Friday, August 05, 2016

Mayors Who May Not Be Mayors

Here's a conundrum. Why is it that mayors may not be mayors? Is it because they are not allowed to be? How can that be, if they are already mayors? The question's illogical. Ah but, what if mayors may not be mayors because, despite appearances which indicate that they are, in reality they aren't? Does that clarify things? Tell you what, let's have an example.

It is the Partido Popular's Marga Duran who has let the cat out of the bag. She isn't a mayor, though she would have liked to have been. She lost out in Palma because the three-way alliance (?) between PSOE, Més and the Podemos Palma branch (Som Palma) blocked her way. As such, it might be expected that she would be less than glowing in her praise of the mayor who denied her the opportunity. So is it all sour grapes? One rather suspects that it isn't. In fact, one pretty much knows that it isn't. The cat left the bag long ago and has been been stroked benignly and smilingly ever since. By whom? By a mayor who may not be a mayor. José Hila, the mayor of Palma.

There's the title right enough, but otherwise ... ? Marga confirmed, if confirmation were required, the reality. In essence, Hila performs an honorary role. He appears when it is necessary for him to appear, smiles nicely, tells everyone that there's consensus and dialogue and then disappears to his honorary office. He may appear to be the mayor but he isn't. In Marga's damning words, he carries no authority. Instead, his town hall is governed by three factions, one of them his own - PSOE - from which some mutterings have emanated regarding his effectiveness. They have not been expressed loudly but they rumble lowly nevertheless in the seventeenth-century corridors of the old town hall.

Which is a bit of a shame. Hila seems to be a perfectly pleasant and decent bloke. One might disagree with some of his politics, but what's there to dislike? Smartly turned out, a ready smile, always there to offer supportive words. Perfect. But if all he's doing is performing an honorary function, then you would hope for all of this.

Is it really his fault? Up to a point it is. He was after all party to the three-party alliance of which he and PSOE are a part. The question mark following alliance above indicates that this alliance (aka pact) is not all that it may appear or wish to appear. Hila is thus a hostage to the misfortunes of PSOE in needing to establish pacts. Without them, they wouldn't be setting foot in the corridors of power, be they those of the town hall, regional government or the Council of Mallorca.

PSOE can generally only operate in alliance. It's been like this for some time in Mallorca, but until recently the dice were loaded in its favour. Since the elections last year, the dice have rolled differently. Where PSOE ostensibly lead, there are powers behind the thrones. Leaders, e.g. Hila, are therefore relegated to honorary roles. Grace and favour, bestowed on them by those who wield the real power, not because those others gained more votes but because without them PSOE would be nowhere.

President Armengol is similarly a hostage to misfortune. Her honorary function isn't, however, quite as tenuous as Hila's (not yet anyway). The mayor was only ever half a mayor anyway. Under the deal with Més and Som Palma, he'll be stepping aside next year. By August 2017 he will no longer be mayor. He's already, therefore, on his way out, though it is questionable whether he's ever been in. He will be succeeded by Antoni Noguera of Més. So sure was he of the prize that awaits him, that he was given (or more likely gave himself) the grand responsibility for the "model of the city". Blimey, it doesn't get more mayoral (in-waiting or already in practice) than that. He has the whole city in his hands. Unlike Hila.

Pacts, coalitions, alliances - call them what you like - can only work if there genuinely is consensus and not a stream of consciousness which seeks to confirm that there is. What one gets is what one has in Palma and the regional government. (The Council of Mallorca is rather different and that's largely due to Miquel Ensenyat.) Marga Duran is correct in referring to the "three governments" in Palma, the three parties each with their own domains, pursuing their own agendas. Oh, they'll say otherwise, and not just Hila, but is anyone really convinced?

Armengol, meanwhile, appears so in thrall to the model she presides over that she is wishing it on Pedro Sánchez, PSOE nationally and therefore Spain. But it is for appearance. She would hardly say anything else, given that she was taken hostage by Més and Podemos. Presidents as well as mayors may not be presidents.

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