Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mick's Your Més Man

"Més seem to have no idea where they're going - how much they'd love Ensenyat to say yes, but he wants to stay at the Council of Mallorca."

I wrote this three weeks ago. It was in light of the opinion poll which confirmed that Més were leaking support. A revival of fortunes appeared unlikely. With Biel Barceló, the one Més politician of real substance in government and parliament circles, having been ejected from the frontline, the party was left with less than substantial leadership. Barceló was never in any event going to be a candidate for the Balearic presidency in 2019, but he remained a definable face of the party. Despite the controversies about the contracts and the trip to the Dominican Republic, he was still more asset than liability.

Prior to Barcelo's resignation in December, Més were already riddled with division. The party was aware that Barceló had no intention of standing in 2019, so the question was arising as to who would. Més, a coalition essentially of the PSM Mallorca Socialist Party and the Iniciativa Verds, had begun to show its fault lines, and the more dominant element - the PSM - was getting twitchy. The main candidate appeared to be the social services minister, Fina Santiago, and Fina is not a member of the PSM; she's from the Iniciativa.

When Barceló did resign, it had seemed as if Fina was nailed on to become the new government vice-president. This was before the PSM machinery moved into gear. The vice-president (and tourism minister as it was to also turn out) would be Bel Busquets. Fina has never said anything, but there was an unmistakable sense of her having had the right hump as a result. And she wasn't the only one. Outside of Més, Bel was not looked upon favourably; President Armengol clearly didn't want her.

Since Busquets was catapulted into her dual positions in the government, it has become apparent that she doesn't actually have much support within the PSM rank and file either. Hers, to be blunt, was a terrible appointment, one that was transparently motivated by a PSM determination to dominate Més. The opinion poll ratings are only destined to slip further, unless Més get a grip on where they're going.

Adding to the division within the party was the attitude of Santiago to the contracts affair and then also the Barceló trip. She was more forthright in suggesting he should go because of the Globalia "gift" of the few days in the Dominican Republic than she had been over the Jaume Garau contracts. She had nevertheless implied that more heads should have rolled than the one minister's which did. The PSM, closing ranks around Barceló, didn't take kindly to that.

So, Més have found themselves with two candidates for the presidency who are both, in their different ways, unacceptable. The party needs the cavalry to come and rescue it, and the cavalry charge consists of one person - Miquel Ensenyat, the president of the Council of Mallorca.

Ensenyat has said in the past that he wants to stay on at the Council. Having spent his time as president bolstering the role of the Council, to such an extent that it is appearing more and more like a government in its own right, his intention has been to go for re-election next year. He has also said in the past that he believes Santiago would be the best presidential candidate in 2019. Was he just being diplomatic or did he mean it?

One suspects that it was the latter, even if he now says that he would get a better result than Santiago in a selection run-off. An observation of Ensenyat is that he isn't quite the whole Més (PSM) insider deal. There is an element of distance between him and the party machinery. Nevertheless, Més - if only one faction - know that he is really the outstanding candidate. And it now seems highly likely that he will put his name forward at the primaries for selection. Busquets might struggle to beat Santiago. Ensenyat would have no such problem.

What is it about him that makes him such a strong candidate? One aspect is that distance. He gives the impression of being his own man. As such, and he has demonstrated this at the Council of Mallorca, he is able to draw people together, not divide them. His time as president hasn't been all a bed of roses, and there will be many who disagree with his policies, but he has succeeded in creating a unity with PSOE and Podemos that has been missing from the government and also at Palma town hall.

Ensenyat has his ideologies, of course he does, but they are modified by his being a sympathetic character. If he is confirmed as the Més candidate, it would be a surprise if the party doesn't experience a revival.

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