Thursday, October 19, 2017

The PR Of Consensus And Dialogue

I'm sure that it can't have escaped your attention that Francina Armengol has devoted her thus far 843 days as president of the Balearics to the pursuit of consensus and dialogue. Never before has there been so much consensus and so much dialogue. One imagines that the walls of Can Armengol (not that attic development in Palma that she had nothing to do with) are adorned with posters bearing large legends. "It's good to talk", "engage with your interlocutor", "consent to consensus" and other such motivational messages confront her before she steps out each sunny morn (mostly sunny), ever prepared to conjure up consensus and deliver dialogue in arriving at harmonious accords in the name of the citizens and coexistence. By the way, I have an increasing issue with coexistence as it sounds a somewhat contrived state of being, but whatever.

Such is the determination of the Armengol advocacy of what we can abbreviate to C&D that it can unfortunately rebound on her, not least when members of the Partido Popular are engaged as her parliamentary interlocutors and basically take the rip out of her. A note to the PP, however: perhaps some C&D of your own might not go amiss. And it is of course the mighty PP in Madrid which is charged with failing to follow the path of C&D with the hapless Carles Puigdemont, whose own consensus has obliged him to take a course that one suspects, in another life, he wouldn't have taken. Such are the duties of governmental coalitions and support bases that you plunge your region (some say nation) into total crisis.

Puigdemont should really serve as a model and as a warning to Armengol about the inherent risks of C but with a D that is a one-way form of dialogue and communication. A hole is dug deeper while a form of groupthink swirls around, made more dogmatic as the pots and pans are beaten with ever greater ferocity and the more extreme elements within coalition plot a path towards what, quite frankly, looms with an ever larger D, that of destruction.

The Armengol C&D, for internal Balearic consumption as opposed to her calling on Rajoy and Puigdemont to try it out, necessitates keeping an open ear to partners in government. When a president is thrust into power with the dubious level of mandate that PSOE was at the 2015 regional election, she cannot wield any great power because she and PSOE don't have it. They are endlessly subject to the exigencies of others and to bending to their will because they have no other choice, short of abandoning so-called progressive politics and policies (meaning left-wing) and attempting C&D with the PP or others with a less progressive attitude.

So, all this C&D stuff is essentially a PR ruse to justify the nature of a pact with competing objectives, one of which is an aspiration for independence, be it that of Catalonia or the Balearics. The Més proposition in favour of Balearic sovereignty is plainly preposterous in terms of a PSOE global vision. As a party it wants as little to do with Catalonia's demands as the PP (and Ciudadanos) wish. Armengol might attempt a touch of D with David Abril and chums on the question of Balearic independence, but you can rest assured that there is no C - consensus does not exist.

The president will thus have been taken aback when the PP launched into her by accusing her of holding independence sympathies. This was done in part because she hasn't said anything about the Més independence statement. If and when she does, we can be reasonably sure that she'll crack out the C&D line and say absolutely nothing.

The constant recourse to reminding the citizens that her government is one predicated on the principles of consensus and dialogue has more than a hint of desperation and delusion about it. Here is an administration attempting to act in a manner that culturally doesn't come naturally. It's like a football team adopting three at the back when it's always been used to 4-4-2. The system is awkward, the players aren't adept because they've been brought up another way. This is not the German system, where they've stuck to a method of consensus and consistently delivered Angela Merkel.

The greatest charade of all lies with Podemos. They are not about consensus, they are about Podemos. While there is much to admire about Podemos - confronting corruption, for instance - there is also much which is unnerving, and Armengol and PSOE know this full well, and PSOE have demonstrated this concern in the past, as with Pedro Sánchez and a refusal to give Pablo Iglesias governmental houseroom.

But you can't blame her for persistence, and so today as with every other day those legends on the wall will be her reminders. What'll be the theme today?

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