Thursday, February 09, 2017

Balti Eats Balti: Mr. Speaker

I have a photo opportunity suggestion for when the new president (speaker) of the Balearic parliament is finally sworn in. He should be whisked off to the nearest curry house, where hopefully they do more than tandoori, in order that the headline can read "Balti eats Balti".

It is just possible that Balti does eat Balti, though his Mallorcan authenticity might possibly preclude this. A hearty dish of organic frito is more likely to be Balti's favoured dish "de jour". Whatever it is, one trusts that it doesn't get stuck in his beard or hair when (if) parliament resumes for the post-lunch session. They have cameras trained on parliament speakers and the speaker, you should take note.

For reasons not entirely clear other than to procrastinate ever longer, Baltasar Picornell will not be sworn in as the new speaker of parliament until next week. It's all a bit like Joe Root taking over as England captain from Alastair Cook. Everyone knows this is going to happen, but process needs to be gone through, which is rather more necessary for electing a parliament speaker than it is an England cricket captain. (Though the social media obsessives would beg to differ; the ones who still hold a candle for Kevin Pietersen and for whom due process was not observed with Cook. The obsessives maintain that Cook sold KP out in order to keep his job.)

Apart from fairly obvious differences between Balti and Joe - appearance, sport, that sort of thing - the one major difference in terms of being lined up for promotion is that Balti only recently became the frontrunner. Podemos had insisted that he would be right for the job but their preference was for another woman to replace the excommunicated Xelo Huertas. Unfortunately, the woman they had in mind, Marta Maicas, has found herself needing to do some explaining to a court in respect of allegations that the digital signature of Montse Seijas was forged - Seijas being the other Podemos deputy to have been terminated. Consequently, it was becoming clear a month ago - because Podemos were saying so - that Balti was "gaining points" in the speaker bid.

But despite assuming pole position, Balti's elevation was far from secure. That was because the Podemos partners in the "agreements for change" - PSOE and Més - didn't want anything to do with him being speaker. They still don't, but their hands have been forced by the Podemos threat to break the agreements and therefore cease to be a "partner".

Having gone through the turmoil of the institutional crisis created by the Huertas affair, the two other partners were insisting that her replacement needed to be able to guarantee stability. In fact, there are still rumblings of this nature, but Balti is being foisted upon them and on parliament because Podemos were never going to give up the parliamentary presidency: it remains for now their most significant position in regional administrations anywhere in Spain.

Why might they be so concerned that Balti will not ensure stability? To answer this, one has to consider Huertas and how she was as speaker. The history books are rapidly being revised, but she was generally felt to have made a decent fist of the job. It is one that does require being evenhanded and also a certain amount of dignity. She may have lost this because of the affair, but even when she was meeting the King and insisting that he spend the money for the official reception on soup kitchens, she didn't come across as being extreme.

This, really, is part of the issue with Balti. Not that he has hippy hair and beard, not that he was a mere metalworker (or whatever it was), but rather that he comes from a background that is strident even by Podemos terms. His membership of the union for the Third Republic and the Balearic civic unit for a Republic should make his meeting with the King something to look forward to, assuming he doesn't boycott it.

Being a Republican, though, hardly sets him out as unusual among Podemos ranks. There has to be something a bit more to the reluctance of PSOE and Més to have not wished to sanction his election. And it may just boil down to the very simple belief that they don't think he's up to the job. Fina Santiago, who is the Més minister for social services, was outraged by the idea that he was being opposed because of his work background. She explained that she believed that there were individuals within Podemos who were better qualified, better suited. She also found it odd that Podemos were backtracking on their aim for the speaker to be a woman.

Such a principle went by the board. Laura Camargo ruled herself out, Maicas was being quizzed by a judge, so there was no other option than a man. Balti it was and Balti it is, unless by some bizarre twist of politicking, the PP's candidate Nuria Riera is elected. Were she to be, then the government's pact would be well and truly busted.

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