Friday, September 23, 2016

Francina At The Crossroads

Francina Armengol has called for an "urgent" agreement between her party, PSOE, and Podemos in order that there is a change of national government. She said this - and it wasn't the first time by any means - during the course of this week's parliamentary debate, something which the Partido Popular's Marga Prohens described as a confidence debate for Armengol's presidency and government.

Armengol was bound to have made this call. It could well be that she is thoroughly committed to the principle of a PSOE-Podemos alliance at national level. Equally, it could be that she could say nothing else. Her government depends on the relationship that PSOE has with Podemos. It's as simple as that.

For Armengol to have her wish granted, Pedro Sánchez would need to fend off the assaults from significant voices within PSOE. Andalusia's Susana Díaz, seen by many as the real power in PSOE and a likely future leader of the party, has warned Sánchez that PSOE doesn't have the parliamentary clout to be able to form a government. With only 85 seats in Congress, she has noted, the party cannot govern.

In any moral terms it is questionable for a party with slightly less than 25% parliamentary representation to be allowed to govern, but Sánchez still seems as though he might try. Again. Armengol, for her sake, has to hope that he succeeds. She heads a government with an even lower percentage representation, one enabled solely by the partner that is not in government (Podemos with 17% representation).

The pretence that exists with this government was further exposed during the debate. If applause is a mark of support, then it was in short supply, either from Podemos or Més as Armengol defended the "government of change". Ultimately, whatever Armengol says or does, this government is bound inextricably to the fortunes of PSOE nationally. It might be recalled, for example, that Més had at one point appeared to have been prepared to pull out from an agreement following the 2015 regional election. A stumbling-block was the financing of the Balearics. With Sánchez as prime minister, this would all be sorted. It may have seemed in June last year as if a PSOE national government (with whichever other parties in tow) was a goer. In truth, it never was, and PSOE just finds its support (at the ballot box) more on the wane.

Armengol is caught between the rock of national fortunes and the hard place of local difficulties. She couldn't have envisaged tourism becoming the battleground it has. The tourist tax, and the skirmishes over its distribution and purposes, was never destined to leave casualties. Saturation and its fellow tourist traveller, limits, may well do.

Podemos and Més have both affiliated themselves with the "without limits there is no future" manifesto. Podemos's Laura Camargo pointed this out to Armengol. The president instead insists that limits are not a solution. The three parties are poles apart on the issue. They know it, and any observer of the government can recognise it. Rather than the tourist tax being a defining policy of this government, the headless arguments over tourism numbers are defining it. If any senior figures from either Podemos or Més put in an appearance on the anti-tourist route planned for tomorrow in Palma, the game could be as good as up.

The divisions in the government are such that Camargo attacked Armengol for devoting herself to mere amendments of "disastrous policies" pursued by the PP when it was in power. Direction, Camargo asserted, has not been defined. The fact is that the only direction which counts is one determined by Podemos. The relationship with PSOE and PSOE's dependence on Podemos in the Balearics should make Sánchez stop dead in his tracks. It would be no different if there were ever a PSOE-Podemos national alliance. Like Armengol, Sánchez would be a Podemos play thing, ever exposed to its exigencies.

It isn't as if, however, Podemos and Més don't have their own concerns. For Podemos they are also a factor of national developments. The battle royal between Pablo Iglesias and Iñigo Errejón is one which boils down to Errejón's view - and a correct one - that the electorate needs to be able to trust Podemos more. It could otherwise be that Podemos have peaked and that there is only way for the party to go. At local level, there is the business with one of its main figures, Daniel Bachiller,  and the funding that his laboratory has been receiving; funding which has seemingly produced no results. Camargo believes there is a "campaign". Others will believe it only appropriate that Bachiller is brought to account.

Més, meanwhile, are contending with the consequences of the June general election alliance with Podemos which spectacularly failed to deliver. Armengol has her problems, but her "partners" have them as well. Each is fighting its own battles, and government is thus diminished.

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