By Andrew Ede
The temporary monarch
Kings don’t abdicate every week. For once, therefore, the seismic event merited the Richter scale font sizes that occupied special second-edition front pages. The King is not quite dead. Long live the King. It also unleashed a journalistic earthquake of historical and futurist analysis, doubtless one that had been written in advance. Seismic, yes, but unexpected, no. The tremors of abdication had been felt for a good while. But though the shocks of hunting in darkest Africa and of one of the in-laws being hauled before the beak might have been deemed reasons for the royal resignation, an explanation that it was all about the handing of the Bourbon baton to the younger 46-year-old generation seemed genuine enough. Juan Carlos deserves credit for his foresight in succession planning. Some monarchs go on and on and on. One Spanish wag, and there are such beings as Spanish wags, tweeted that Isabel II (aka Elizabeth II) had announced that she too would be abdicating. In 2064.
Stability. The abdication was also about ensuring stability. But no sooner had the announcement been made than an impression of anything but stability was given. Uncertainty certainly. They were gathering here and there, calling for a new republic. The last thirty-nine years had only been temporary. A provisional monarchy. Time to move on, everyone, and the moving on should mean that the British media can stop referring to the likes of Mariano Rajoy as a prime minister, as even for the British he would genuinely be what he already is in Spain - a president. Head of state of a republic.
Rajoy, in a rare act of comradeship, thanked Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba for not subscribing to the republican fervour. Socialists can be royalists too, you know, and PSOE are, generally speaking, good Spaniards. They don’t want Catalonia going it alone and they also don’t want to have to worry about what to do with the various royal palaces if there are no royals to occupy them any longer. One of these palaces is the Marivent in Palma.
What was to become of it, future monarch or no future monarch? Francina Armengol, head of PSOE in the Balearics, appeared to suggest that she preferred its return to Balearics ownership. Going against national PSOE sentiment, she insisted that there should be a referendum to decide between monarchy and republic. President Bauzá attacked her “ever more extremist discourse” that is “more left than the left and more nationalist than the nationalists”. Simon Tow, in a superb letter to “The Bulletin”, described her as “an opportunist of the worst kind”. Simon stole my thunder in styling this opportunism as a means of trying to regain the loss of the left vote to other parties. Precisely.
The Balearics oil crisis
R ather lost amidst the abdication news was the latest on possible prospecting for oil off the coasts of the Balearics. National minister for energy (and tourism), José Manuel Soria, explained that, whereas prospecting off the Canaries would be at a distance of a minimum of fifty kilometres, off the Balearics it would be only nine kilometres. This sounds rather alarming. If it means rigs, then at nine kilometres, they would be clearly visible.
President Bauzá defended his and the local PP’s stance on prospecting. His own opposition to the prospecting might smack of seeking political advantage, but the PP in the Balearics has been pretty consistent in expressing its opposition. He was perfectly justified, therefore, in pointing out to PSOE that it was the Zapatero government who opened up the possibility to prospecting in 2010 and that they, in the form of previous President of the Balearics, Francesc Antich, who considered that it was quite “normal” for there to be prospecting.
All manner of tourism business organisations weighed into the argument last week. At a meeting which included representatives from the hoteliers federation, the Chamber of Commerce and the Majorca Tourist Board, the possibility of taking the matter of prospecting to the courts was raised, while at a forum organised by the magazine “Preferente”, serious names from the tourism industry were in attendance for a discussion that rejected prospecting. Some of these names, such as bosses of Meliá and Iberostar, have already made clear that they are opposed to any drilling off the Balearics.
Growing unrest in the PP
B auzá’s rather peculiar “more nationalist than the nationalists” statement had to be seen in the context of his desperate need to regain the loss of the PP vote and, more importantly, the loss of support for him. A meeting of party grandees to consider the poor result at the European elections exposed, it would seem, the very serious divisions in the Balearics PP.
While Bauzá apparently attributed to the loss of votes to general economic crisis in Spain, others were far from convinced, and they included two Palma heavyweights - José María Rodríguez, the president of the party in Palma, and Alvaro Gijón, mayor Isern’s number two. One reason for the PP’s faltering support was the conflict in education. Hostility within the party towards the regional government’s handling of the language issue and its overall management style (Bauzá’s in other words) is now all but total. Another Palma notable, former councillor José Manuel Sierra, called for the dismissal of all members of the Bauzá cabinet with the exception of Gabriel Company, the minister for the environment and agriculture.
Company, it is known, does not see eye to eye with Bauzá. Undeterred, Bauzá announced that his number two, vice-president Antonio Gómez, would be campaign manager for next year’s regional elections. The Palma faction will hate this.