Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Welcome To Tractorllorca

Tabarnia, someone has said, will be the word of 2018. Tabarnia is a neologism, a word that is in the process of entering common usage. It is also a form of portmanteau, a combination of the old Roman place names Tarraco and Barcino or of their modern equivalents, Tarragona and Barcelona.

Tabarnia, the word and the concept, wasn't entirely new when all of a sudden it leapt into the public consciousness late last year. A petition, a satirical one (so it is said), proposed a type of secession with unity. Tabarnia came from the organisation Barcelona Is Not Catalonia. It was advocating a breakaway region, which corresponds to the one-time County of Barcelona, that would be independent of Catalonia but part of Spain. As such, it was an obvious statement against a Catalonian drive for secession.

The petition went viral and Tabarnia has, over the past fortnight or so, inspired all manner of comment. It has also produced its variants. One of these is Palmarnia. The right wing in Mallorca has latched onto Tabarnia by attacking the secessionist aspirations of certain sections on the left - Més, most obviously. Palmarnia, in essence, would be a reclaiming of Palma from secessionist influences from outside the city - the "part forana" or "fora vila" - which (who) have taken over important institutional roles in the city.

The Palmarnia proposition contains aspects which are quite amusing. Some of the secessionists who landed in Palma have never done so much as run a village bar. This is one criticism. The essentially rural nature of this takeover is defined as having come from Tractorllorca. Well, it made me laugh anyway, even if it does only provide one perspective.

The Tractorllorca that is being referred to is a sort of conservatism of a rural tradition allied to a radicalism of secession, independence, folklore and odd attitudes towards tourism. A different Tractorllorca is also conservative but it takes great issue with, for instance, the environmentalist stance of the very same political class. The "countryside alliance" which protested in Palma last year comprised hunters, farmers and bullfighting supporters. My impression of some of Mallorca's part forana, especially the rural areas, is that it is highly conservative but with absolutely no desire for independence: it is mostly Partido Popular territory.

Likewise, an attack on those now in positions of power and influence in Palma's institutions fails to recognise that - just to take a couple of Més names at random - some of them are from Palma. Antoni Noguera, for instance; Biel Barceló. They were both born in Palma. Miquel Ensenyat, the president of the Council of Mallorca, was of course born in England. He wasn't thereafter a Palma boy, but he had many years experience as mayor of Esporles, and the general view was that he was a decent mayor.

But the very notion of Palmarnia highlights a Palma-centric arrogance. If there were to be some reclaiming from the clutches of secessionists, then why just Palma? Its institutions, agreed, would determine such a policy, but is it not Mallorca and the Balearics which need saving? To hear what some on the right are suggesting, then it would appear so. Independence as an aspiration isn't confined to Més. The president of the Balearics, Francina Armengol, is apparently more radical and more independence-minded than her partners in government, so that includes Més. This, at any rate, is a view coming from the PP and reflects a paranoia of an apparently unstoppable drive towards Balearic independence.

I personally don't believe this for one moment, but the fever of Catalonia has unquestionably been caught in the Balearics, if only by the real promoters of independence - Més (plus organisations such as the Obra Cultural Balear) - and their accusers on or towards the right, such as the PP, the C's and elements in the media.

Més and their ambitions for independence are predicated - electorally - on extremely shaky ground. The reality is that where the current government is concerned, Més in Mallorca and Menorca obtained 15.3% share of the vote. They may well not achieve this in 2019; polls would suggest they will struggle to.

These secessionist influences are nevertheless being foisted onto a public that has no particular desire for them. Més are given their place in the spotlight by a system that rewards less than one sixth of the vote. Ultimately, for any change as dramatic as, say, independence or Brexit, there should really be the demand for a dramatic and qualified majority at the polls: not a bit here or there. Otherwise you end up with what you have: deeply divided societies. And if the Catalonia election can be considered a more accurate reflection than the 1 October referendum, then that is precisely what you have.

Such division is a long way off, if ever taking root in the Balearics. Tractorllorca isn't about to take over. There are too many other tractors.

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