Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Year Of Balti

One of the Three Kings, aka Three Wise Men, is Balthazar (other spellings are permitted). He was apparently a Babylonian scholar, which should really have set the alarm bells ringing in a Nativity sense, as Babylonia didn't exist as such around 0AD. But this is mere trifling. Balthazar was there, and that's all that matters.

Such wisdom has been passed down the generations and the millennia, and it finally settled on the chair occupied by the president (speaker) of the Balearic parliament. One has to take wisdom to be the principal attribute, as the Baltasar (this is the local spelling) of the Balearics is not someone who you would describe as scholarly. And it was this that helped elevate him to the status of my Person of the Year.

Balti Picornell became president after Xe-Lo Huertas was prised out of the speaker's throne for not having been thoroughly correct in a Podemos style. Podemos weren't about to give up the throne, as holding the parliament presidency was their reward for having acceded to being a complete pain in the arse as part of the so-called agreements for change by which the Balearic government allegedly operates. The party cast around for a suitable replacement for Xe-Lo. This suitability was meant to have been determined by the Podemos fascination with feminism. Unfortunately, they discovered that feminists were in short supply - female ones at any rate.

The closest they could thus get was Balti. This was despite the beard. It wasn't so much the hair, the beard, the sort of lumberjack shirt or his insistence on wearing Converse sneakers that were the problems where some within the government parties appeared to have been concerned. It was what Balti had done before. Depending on reports (or translation), he had either been a mechanic or a metalworker. Normally, the Balearic political class is dominated by those with law degrees or others who have been geography students or have owned (or continued to own) a chain of pharmacies. Balti didn't therefore quite fit the mould. Non-scholarly, it might have been suggested. And it was.

Well of course, they eventually all denied that having been a mechanic or a metalworker was in any way a reason for exclusion from the speaker's chair. Balti was duly anointed, and in a Babylonian manner became one of the more recognisable of all Podemos politicians. He even met up with Natty Dreadlock In A Babylon, the Podemos Tenerife rasta in Congress, Alberto Rodríguez.

Once installed, Balti endeared himself by completely refusing to bow to convention or indeed to bow to the King, to whom he instead gave a present of the book of the life of his namesake, the communist Aurora Picornell, who had been executed in 1937. There was also his Renault Twingo, in which he arrived on his first day as president. This was subsequently traded in for a secondhand Kangoo Van after he had a bit of a prang with the Twingo.

The exchange of vehicle occurred around the same time as Balti was being lauded by Podemos member of parliament Aitor Morrás for having gone on an official visit to Ibiza and having settled for just having the "dish of the day" at a local café. Nothing ostentatious for Balti, though we have still to find out if he has ever eaten balti.

Barely a month after becoming speaker, Balti rattled several cages by working entirely according to his Little Red Book. This was the book of parliamentary rules, one of which has to do with the speaker having the power to request that the media and the public leave the chamber if a matter affecting parliament's "decorum" is to be debated. There was, and it had to do with the PP's Álvaro Gijón. The press and public trooped out, and all the parties had a pop at Balti for having followed the rules.

Meanwhile, Balti was encountering some issues with his predecessor, Xe-Lo, and her sister-in-arms, Montse Seijas, who like Xe-Lo had been ejected from the Podemos parliamentary party. Xe-Lo and Montse were having to slum it in an office which, according to parliament technicians, was barely big enough to swing a cat let alone accommodate the substantial forms of both themselves (plus two lucky staff), a couple of tables, four chairs and a closet. Xe-Lo and Montse issued a formal denuncia, and we never heard any more about it.

Montse, it was to turn out, clearly had designs on something more spacious. And so it happened that parliament's security became aware of noises at night on the third floor of the parliament building. They went and investigated, and who should they find but Montse, who had taken to sleeping in the parliamentarians' common room. Balti was informed, and he instructed security that no one was allowed in parliament offices or rooms after eleven at night. These were the rules.

Balti, who goes by the book. Sometimes. No question, however, that he was Person of the Year.

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