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Monday April 11, 2011

Planes, trains and Spanish politicians


Si, si, señor. It’s that time of the year again when politicians are on their best behaviour, kissing babies in the street, cracking jokes with the elderly, cutting ribbons and generally acting as ingratiatingly as possible with all and sundry in the run up to the big event: regional and municipal elections.

In Spain there’s a cut off point for unctuous self promotional opportunities and that date passed at the end of last week. There was a sudden flurry of activity beforehand as politicians across Spain desperately tried to squeeze in as many openings, launches, unveilings and conferences as possible. For example in Castellón a new airport was launched, the only hitch being that there were neither planes nor passengers present. This didn’t concern Pedro Gimeno, deputy president of the airport concessions, at all. In fact he admitted that they had rushed to beat the photocall curfew in the lead up to elections on 22, May. Any event from now until that date is banned to avoid rigged electioneering close to the voting process.

Meanwhile in Seville, the minister of public works called an early press conference to unveil plans for several new metro lines which would surely endear her to the good citizens of the city when it came to the vote?

Here in Majorca, the current left wing coalition regional government has been beset with problems and scandals since taking office, corruption topping the list, and as a consequence might find itself out in the cold.

Then again, Jaume Matas, former president of the Baleares, and a member of the conservative partido popular (PP) party is facing massive corruption charges and is currently standing trial. As the recession continues to gnaw away at the Spanish economy most Majorcans vent their rage on politicians. They seem apathetic about voting for either the socialist PSOE or PP parties and have little time for the smaller, lightweight parties in the current coalition.

In rural Soller, my local town, the council is in such a state of debt that last December Christmas lights had to be funded by shopkeepers and a wild sea of brown leaves engulfed the kerbs because there were no funds for street cleaners. All the same, it still valiantly manages the usual complimentary fare at the town’s fiestas which includes sobrasada sausage on hunks of brown bread, slabs of coca (a local kind of pizza) and cava and wine.

In the scheme of things we resident foreigners still think the Majorcans have got it made. How often do local councils in the UK conservative or socialist fund any kind of regular party or event for their local citizens? And how many mayors in the UK walk around the town most days shaking hands with local constituents and stopping to discuss their complaints? No doubt David Cameron would call it the Big Society in action.

Whatever happens on election day here in the Baleares, the sun will still shine, the fiestas will still rumble on into the night and nothing much will change. So one could say that despite the economic gloom, the Majorcans, at least, have never had it so good.

First appeared in Telegraph Expat





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