Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus. Ex Maria virgine, gaudete! A couple of days after rejoicing for the birth of the Virgin Mary, as opposed to Christ, this line from a sacred Christmas carol, believed to have been composed in the sixteenth century and popularised by Steeleye Span in the 1970s, has come to mind. Rejoice, rejoice! Christ isn’t born, but there is to be a rebirth, and X Maria are part of this. Rejoice!
Maria de la Salut, so popular myth has it, acquired its name from a Christian community which existed before the Muslim occupation at the start of the tenth century and somehow managed to survive this occupation. The real version is that it is derived from an Arabic word, which elsewhere became and remains Almeria: basically, a watchtower. Because this word sounded like Maria, the name was corrupted, and then some time in the seventeenth century an oratory was built that was dedicated to the Virgin Mary - Maria de la Salut (literally Mary of Health) was a representation of the Virgin Mary from early Christian times.
So, in Maria de la Salut they celebrate the birth of the Virgin. Or they would do normally; the annual fiestas had to be ditched. Deprived of the enjoyment and rejoicing of the fiestas, the good people of Maria have been otherwise entertained by carryings-on at the town hall, which owe absolutely nothing to the Virgin Mary as such but have publicised the presence of X Maria.
A coalition of Més and independents, X Maria announced last week that it will be presenting a motion of censure designed to turf the current administration out of the town hall. This motion is a vote of no confidence. If it is carried, the El Pi mayor, Biel Mas, other El Pi councillors and PSOE councillors who support El Pi will be gone, and X Maria can take over.
Political shenanigans of this nature are not exactly uncommon at town halls. Més have known them in the past. In 2015, only a few months after taking coalition office in Manacor, and with Miquel Oliver as mayor, Més and partners (PSOE and Volem Manacor, like Podemos) were booted out by El Pi, the Partido Popular and Manacor independents.
The reason for ejecting Més et al from office in Manacor appeared to owe as much to the opposition having been sore election losers as it did to any incompetence on behalf of Oliver (who is the current mayor) and others. The PP teaming up with El Pi made some sort of political sense in that neither of them are on the left. But when one comes to the situation in Maria de la Salut, what do we find? X Maria and the PP are unlikely bedfellows.
There is planning behind this no-confidence vote. Bernat Quetglas of X Maria, who it so happens was once a member of PSOE, will be mayor for twenty months. Jaume Ferriol of the PP will succeed him and serve the remaining ten months up to the next municipal election. The X Maria-PP alliance appears confident that its no-confidence vote will bring down an administration which has in any event been governing with a minority, and to facilitate this alliance, Guillem Jordà, who was the Més mayor before Biel Mas, has allowed Bernat Quetglas to be the X Maria mayor-in-waiting. This is presumably because Bernat (ex-PSOE) is more acceptable to the PP than Guillem.
This said, the alliance is one that is setting aside ideological differences “for the good of Maria”. Biel Mas has been accused of not being transparent, while his administration has been “paralysed” because of its minority. Biel, for his part, says that this paralysis could have been remedied if the opposition parties hadn’t chosen to block everything; the opposition has been “destructive”. He’s convinced that the no-confidence vote is down to personal grudges and interests.
The saga of the potential Maria de la Salut no-confidence vote has attracted a good deal of attention in the local media (other than in the Bulletin, that is). To no small extent this has been due to the X Maria-PP alliance, unusual as it is. But it has also generated interest because it is a further example of how small town politics can quite often throw up this sort of case, and Maria is small (population of 2,227). This isn’t just due to the political fighting, as the no-confidence vote can only hope to prosper because the electoral system creates situations such as that in Maria - a minority coalition. The X Maria-PP alliance will establish a majority (six of the eleven councillors); El Pi and PSOE only have five.
As for the citizens of Maria de la Salut, will the no-confidence vote be something to rejoice or will they shrug indifferent shoulders, resigned to the fact that it is just politics, and wish that the fiestas could have provided the entertainment instead?