Tempting it might be to delight in the delicious possibility of a sizable chunk of the Balearics PP political edifice collapsing under the sheer weight of legal proceedings, but delight must be tempered. There is something not quite right in the state of Majorca, and it isn’t just allegations of wrongdoing; there is the legal process as well. So thick and fast have come notices these past days of m’learned friends taking more than a passing interest in PP politico affairs, that one could easily form the impression that the party is falling apart, individuals being thrown to scavengers borne by the eight winds of the Mediterranean. Mine is not to question m’learned friends but to wonder at timing and mechanism.
Let’s consider the facts. On Tuesday the regional parliament approved a new law. Referred to as the Ley de Farmacia, it is a piece of legislation that is dull even by the standards of most legislation. But, those of you with a touch of knowledge will be aware that the word pharmacy has been known to attach itself to the Balearics president. José Ramón is a pharmacist. So also, you might not know, is the health minister, Marti Sansaloni, as is the government’s director-general for pharmacies, César Vicente Sánchez. Put law and pharmacy together, add in the backgrounds of some key government figures, and you begin to realise that the law may be rather more interesting than first thought, and this all has to do with the creation of new pharmacies. Though Sansaloni has said that it will allow for a wide contest for the adjudication of pharmacies, another pharmacist, who isn’t a member of the government, has filed a criminal complaint with regard to obstacles having been placed in the way of new pharmacies. The provincial court in Palma has ordered an investigation into the role of Bauzá, Sansaloni and Vicente. By implication, personal interest is said to have influenced their decisions.
The complaint, which claims abuse of public office and falsification of documents, looks highly likely to result in a judge declaring Bauzá (and others) as “imputados”. The PSOE opposition believes that Bauzá is already in a state of “pre-imputado”. It is believed that it is only a matter of time for the “imputado” to be declared.
It is here that one comes to the mechanism, the legal mechanism. Being imputado does not mean that one has been charged with a crime. It can later mean to indict, i.e. charge with an offence, but it is typically used to refer to the first stage in potential criminal proceedings. Essentially, it means that someone has been cited as being under investigation for possible criminality and is summonsed to declare in court either as a witness or as an accused. (The vague “helping with enquiries” might be an English way of expressing this, but those enquiries are not ones made by a court.)
The huge problem for Bauzá is that being imputado disqualifies someone from standing as a candidate in elections. Who says so? Bauzá. It was he, in looking to clean up the PP, who made the rule. It was one that led to his falling out with Jaume Font, who left the PP and formed his own party. Font thought the rule was too harsh and in way he was vindicated. Investigations into him as an imputado prior to the 2011 elections ended up being “archived”, which can often be the case. Bauzá might have wanted Font out of the party anyway, but as the imputado rule has been applied in the past, it cannot now not be applied, and it could well end up applying to the man who introduced it, i.e. Bauzá.
Meantime, another thorny issue has emerged, and it concerns the PP’s candidate for mayor in Calvia, José Manuel Ruiz. He has been cited as being under investigation, i.e. imputado, in respect of a criminal complaint brought by the Canal 4 television channel against the Majorcan, government-funded broadcaster IB3, of which Ruiz was director-general before standing down to concentrate on his candidacy. The complaint accuses Ruiz and others of a form of misappropriation in respect of unfair competition; advertising rates were set at well below market value, it is said. Ruiz, therefore, finds himself in precisely the same situation as the mayor of Andratx, Llorenç Suau, who has accepted that he will not be seeking re-election because of the imputado rule.
So, what does Bauzá do about Ruiz? He is due to declare in early March but this in itself doesn’t mean a great deal. The case could roll on for months with Ruiz remaining imputado, though the PP seem to think the declaration might make him “non-imputado”. It might not. Then what? Also, Font had his imputado status quashed seven months before the last elections but was still not able to stand as a candidate. There is more than a hint of double standards here.
It is a highly unsatisfactory situation. Accusations are made, judges have to consider the facts and imputado is declared (or not), leaving the accused in limbo. He is not charged but he is under suspicion and everyone knows this. Bauzá has been hoist with his own ethical petard, one that was perfectly honourable, and now finds a key mayoral candidate to be in violation of the rule and he himself at risk of also being so.
Clearly, there have to be grounds for a judge to cite individuals and were there an isolated case, it might be considered unfortunate, but when they come along more or less simultaneously and with the individuals being as they are, one does have to be agog at their timing. And to make matters worse, there is the small matter of the payments by businesspeople for the building of the PP’s headquarters. Judge Castro has now added this to the wide-ranging Palma Arena investigations that have thus far pulled in Jaume Matas, Iñaki Urdangarin and Princess Cristina. Bauzá had said that the matter was not one for which he had any responsibility - and he didn’t - but he now finds himself being accused, by parts of the media at any rate, of not having admitted to some 500,000 euros in cash that were paid to help fund the building of the HQ. He may not have been involved with the PP hierarchy at the time of the building but as current leader of the party he does have to accept that he should make himself aware of the full financing arrangements.
The anti-corruption prosecutor, Pedro Horrach, at loggerheads with Castro over the Princess, has asked Castro that he be able to investigate the money trail in the HQ affair, a suspicion being that cash was forwarded in return for subsequent “favourable adjudications”.
This is a further twist in what has been an extraordinary week. Bauzá will know he is under enormous pressure. The press has already started to weigh up the credentials of successors, assuming he is in no position to stand as president. There is much that is unsatisfactory about what has been happening - the imputado status seems to be open to potential mischief-making - but it is an unsatisfactory situation that Bauzá insisted upon. Is the PP collapsing? I take no delight if it is. Not in this way. Not in the courts deciding. But unfortunately, Majorca’s politics usually end up with the courts. Most unsatisfactory.
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