by Staff Reporter

PALMA
FRANCESC Antich is leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in the Balearics. This coming Friday, he is to be officially appointed President of the Balearic Islands, a post which he held previously between 1999 and 2003. l May we start with some simple arithmetic? If the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) won more votes and seats than the PSOE, why are you going to become President?

Because our system of election is a Parliamentary one. What people vote for initially is a Parliament, then the election of the president comes later. The PP as a party have 29 seats, the PSOE and its allies have 30. l The PP have almost the same representation by itself than the other parties put together.
The fact that the PP won 46 percent of the vote is something we have all got to take into account. Being in power, we have to govern for everyone - not just narrow interests. l In the same way that your predecessor Jaume Matas had a second chance, you also will once again become president of the Balearic Islands this Friday. Is it an opportunity for you not to repeat mistakes of the past?

Without a doubt; we've made that clear from the word “go”. The pact that the PSOE now has in place with its allied is not like the one which was in place when we came to power in 1999. For me it is of key importance that the Majorcan Union (UM) party is an integral part of government and that it has joint responsibility with the PSOE which was the most voted-for party in Opposition. The government that I will be forming is also different from the one in 1999 in the sense that there is a more concrete structure and programme in place - nothing has been left to “generality.” The next Balearic Administration will be strong and efficient and the ministries won't be powers unto themselves. l Will you have the power to dismiss a minister if he “isn't up to scratch” even if he isn't from the PSOE?
The leader of the Balearic government will indeed have the power to do that. It's part of the mandate. l “Don't let us down,” young Spaniards called to prime minister José Luís Rodriguez Zapatero the night that he won the national elections. Is it your view that a similar call is being made to you as next leader of the Balearic Islands?

Yes, I do feel that. Above all, it's important that I and my allies in the Progressive parties understand each other well. All issues should be put on the table so that there can be a peaceful but solid change. I am conscious of a great responsibility this “second time round.” l Is your new government going to make an impressive first move, similar to the way Zapatero's new central Socialist government announced its intentions to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq?

Our priorities will be those which are closest to the hearts of the people of the Islands. Rather than making sensational announcements, we are going to attend to day to day matters which are at the root of governing people's lives. That is why we have said that issues such as education, housing, and public transport are basic matters to be dealt with. We'll be hard at it from day one. l Will it be possible to stop the work on the new hospital at Son Espases and keep Son Dureta as Palma's main hospital?
We are going to take another look at the whole situation and apply some sound common sense, as we promised in our election manifesto. l The next government here in the Balearic won't have a deputy leader. Why?
I don't see it is as necessary. There will be a Ministry for the President's Office which will act as a co-ordinator for other departments. l During the electoral campaign, you and your followers supported a change in the management of the regional television station, IB3. It is now being said that the station is going to be controlled by your ally UM. Isn't this a bad beginning?

That's not correct. IB3 isn't going to be the domain of any one party in particular. The whole of the Balearic government will be involved. And it's not only that. The idea is that the televison service, whoever manages it, should be working for the people of the Balearic Islands and not at the beck and call of the regional government. There are going to be important changes in IB3: they will be multi-faceted and with an adequate budget. l Will the new IB3 be in a position to criticise your government?
Our role model is national Spanish television where the government can indeed come in for criticism. Yes, of course, criticism is allowed but I hope it will be well presented and that the channel also speaks highly of the issues that the government has handled well. l Eight years ago, the Partido Popular launched a series of legal complaints against the “purging” undertaken by the Socialists in ministries and public companies. Are you going to throw out a lot of people when you enter government as the new president?

It's normal when there is a change of government that some people will enter and others will leave. Those who are tied to the Administration of the Balearic Islands purely for political reasons know that they are not going to continue there. People who are carrying out their work honourably and openly have nothing to fear and anyway, I don't want anyone to feel they are going to be hounded. l What you are going to do, of course, is audit the accounts of the outgoing government?
There are a series of questions which we have concerning the costs of the motorways built in Ibiza, high debt figures and some areas of fixed expenditure that have been in place for many years. We want to know what is going on. If that is termed “auditing,” then yes, we are going to audit. l Your last government (1999-2003) became known as the “Progressive Pact Government”. Will there be a name attached to your Administration this time round?

That is on the bottom of our list of worries. What we want to get across is that we are going to set up a centre-left government which is strongly interwoven and committed to responding to the trust which the people of the Balearic Islands have placed in it. It's an opportunity to show that there is a real alternative to the policies of the Partido Popular.

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