Monday, January 29, 2018

Jaume The Kingmaker

The maths are simple, give or take a plus or minus here and there. The latest poll suggests that a coalition of the right/centre-right could come into power after the 2019 election. This poll doesn't show any great movement from one last summer. It merely confirms the fact that the only party making a notable gain in the opinion polls is one of those on the loosely defined centre-right - Ciudadanos. It further verifies that PSOE and the Partido Popular are stuck in neutral and that Podemos and Més are in reverse.

If nothing else, the poll reveals that the "new politics" are very much alive. The pattern in the past with PSOE-led governments has been for the PP to come along and trounce them. There's no chance of that happening in 2019, and the PP know it. The party's spokesperson, Marga Prohens, has alluded to the fact that the PP will need a pact in order to form a government.

Unless there is some form of political earthquake between now and May next year, it is clear that there will be a coalition of one form or another. Polls, as we know, are not always accurate, but as the latest shows little movement compared with the previous, it is probably a fair reflection of wider voter sentiment.

A conclusion that the right/centre-right would automatically make an alliance, assuming they together reach the thirty seat majority threshold, is too simplistic. There are issues which bind them and those which do not. El Pi, forecast to increase by one its seats in parliament (from the current three to four), is already being cast in the role of kingmaker. Potentially, El Pi could go either way.

One of the principal differences between the PP, the C's and El Pi is the Catalan question, in particular the language and culture. El Pi was formed in a circuitous fashion. It is the amalgamation of the Convergencia, which was the remnant of the defunct and discredited Unió Mallorquina, and the Lliga Regionalista. This latter party was formed by Jaume Font, now the president of El Pi, after he left the PP. A reason for him having done so was that he was under investigation by a court (the case was later closed). The PP ethics, newly introduced by José Ramón Bauzá, barred election candidacy to anyone being investigated. Font disagreed with this, but he also disagreed with Bauzá's increasingly anti-Catalan stance prior to the 2011 election.

The PP, under new leader Biel Company, have moderated their views. The party has returned to what it once was in the Balearics: accepting of Catalan and also of regionalism. In this regard, the PP aren't distant from El Pi, which also clings to the sort of soft-nationalism that Maria Munar advocated with the UM. There is more of an issue with the C's.

One has to assume that the gains made by the C's (six or seven seats, according to the poll, compared with the current two) owe at least something to the party's stance on Catalonia and to educational matters in the Balearics. The leader of the C's, Xavier Pericay, has been a constant critic of Catalanism in education and of alleged political indoctrination (in favour of Catalan independence and republicanism) in schools. The PP might be prepared to swallow this, but El Pi might not.

For the parties of the government pact, the poll indicates a best-case scenario of them just crossing the finishing line. They would need the one seat of Gent per Formentera (pretty much assured) in order to get to the thirty majority, but this hardly represents a ringing endorsement of the government. Més and Podemos have both slipped, by a combined six seats at most in the poll. Both have their internal issues and both, so it would seem, are being penalised for a radicalism, the counterpoint to which is the rise of the C's.

PSOE, says the poll, might gain one seat and be bumped up to fifteen, but as with the PP, it is a party that finds itself suffering because of the new politics and the past errors. PSOE would be most unlikely to wish to abandon the so-called "progressive" politics enshrined in its agreements with Més and Podemos, but one still feels that it only has these agreements because it has no other choice.

If the pact parties failed to gain a majority, might El Pi be persuaded to ally with them? One can't rule anything out, but it would be hard to see how such an alliance could ever work. To take but one example, there are holiday rentals. El Pi sees things very differently.

As things stand, it is just possible that the election will lead to a minority government. El Pi would be the kingmaker. All the parties need to be nice to Jaume Font.

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