I’m not much of a man for forums -too busy- but I was recently made aware of some interesting developments on the biggest of our local English language forums, arboleas.co.uk. All of the busiest forums seem to be up in the Almanzora valley – read Lenox’s interesting post about the different ones here.
What with being retired, and being under the threat of demolition, the Brits of the Almanzora Valley have a lot of time to consider the forthcoming elections, even if they don’t understand them. Many people twirp on constantly about “how we ought to get together and show these Spanish chappies how to run a proper country”. (Ignoring, of course, the fact that only last week they were decrying how badly run the UK is and how glad they were to be out of that hellhole and into the paradise that is Spain).
However, it appears that the only person who could be bothered to do anything was an ex-unionist called Roger Done. Roger shot to fame by opening up the “Arboleas help desk”, a volunteer service operating out of Arboleas townhall to help British expats with all townhall dealings. Arboleas, by the way, is officially 65% British. Fine ideals, and at first it did a fine job. In fact, it still does, running a volunteer advice and translate service for expats who need help with the townhall.
However, the helpdesk quickly shifted into local politics and Roger joined the PSOE party. His helpdesk quickly became an offshoot of the townhall, officially attempting to mediate in the urban abuse crisis on behalf of the expats. Many expats decried him as a townhall toadie – I neither know nor care how involved he was.
Anyway, Roger and the Mayor had a very public falling out not too long ago, apparently after Roger realised that yes, he was a crook and no, he wasn’t interested in having Roger as nº2 in the next elections.
So, up pops Cristobal. Cristobal was the Mayor of Arboleas for 20 years, part of an old family in the area and a well respected man. In 2003 he stood down to “concentrate on other interests”. These consisted, naturally enough, of dabbling in the construction industry (Cristobal is apparently a registered surveyor, amongst other talents). Being a man who had run the town with an iron fist for 20 years, he made sure that his cronies were installed in his stead and, no doubt, kept a beady eye on proceedings from his place in the private sector.
Sadly, just before the 2007 elections everything went pear shaped, some of his councilors ran off to the PSOE and he was left rudderless. He quickly reformed under the PSA party banner and went back in for the 2007 elections. He got three councilors and is the official opposition in town.
What’s the PSA? Pay attention now, things get complicated.
The PA (Partido Andalucista) is a much bigger party than the PSA (Partido Socialista de Andalucia), but is still an irrelevance in Andalucian politics, as is the entire “nationalist” block – they all joined forces at the last regional elections under the “Coalicion Andalucista” banner and still didn’t manage to get enough votes for a regional MP in Seville. Unlike the Catalans or the Basques, Andalucians aren’t interested in nationalism, nobody here really believes Andalucia is a seperate country. Spain = Andalucia, and they’re proud of it.
The PSA is the “socialist” (left wing, read it as you will) breakaway party that a chap called Pacheco setup in ’92. Pacheco was the Mayor of Jerez, one of the founders of the Partido Andalucista who decided he was loosing out, and formed a breakaway left wing party, officially in order to counter the growing swing to the right he found in the PA. He’s now being investigated for the normal urban abuse and petty corruption cases many of these mayors are, ah-hem, “suffering”. He stood down as party President about a year ago.
In Almeria, the only representation the PA have in municipal politics is in Zurgena (Candido) and Vera (Felix), both of whom would have got in had they joined the monster raving loony party – the PA was simply a handy party for them to fit into. They have a handful of councils in the west of the region (Seville, Cordoba).
The PSA, as I can see, is exactly the same, the only councillors they have are PA left wing renegades like ex-Mayor Cristobal of Arboleas, who felt they could be big fish in a small party. Hey, it’s better than letting power go to your head and setting up your own party (PAL, GIL, etc)
With me so far? Good. Hang on, I’ve forgotten what I was going to say next.
Oh yes,the expat vote.
Cristobal, getting wind of the Roger / Angel (PSOE Mayor) split, offered him a nice position in the PSA party. He also offered him the use of his sister-in-law’s (or whoevers) empty office to run the helpdesk from. Where he is going to stand, we do not know, as all Roger will officially say is that he’s running but won’t give details, as they aren’t finalized. Nothing wrong with that. He has said he expects a 50/50 split between Spanish and British on the party list.
So we now have a situation where, as far as I can see, the town in Spain with the most British expats is going to vote for one Brit sitting on a left wing nationalist party, simply because he was the only one organised enough to do anything about it. But the same people will be in charge, and the same local power bloc will continue. In short, the local cunning Spanish will have outwitted the 65% British majority and ensured that the “good old boys” will be returned to power.
The idea of British expats voting for a minority left-wing regional nationalist party is, in any case, absurb if you think about it – why would any expat want Andalucia and the Junta to have even more power? It’s like when the EuroWeekly backed that far right wing party AES in the European elections (see here). Short sighted chasing after the buck.
But, surprisingly enough, the arboleas.co.uk forum appears to have decided to unilaterally back Roger and the PSA party. Remember that I’ve only just returned to this forum after a while away, and the first thing that struck me was that it’s 100% pro-PSA & Roger. The old moderators have all been kicked out in a coup détât and replaced with a mysterious core of 4 anonymous moderators appointed in their place. And there a great number of complete idiots commenting on it. Seriously. I’m talking morons here. Quite a few local residents still trying to find out answers to common questions, but the number of moronic trolls seem to be increasing by the day.
It’s not just me saying this. At least two readers of this blog contacted me recently to complain about the pro-Roger stance of the forum. Quite what they expect me to do about it is baffling. Good on him, I say. Go for it.
So, bearing in mind I can’t vote in the Almanzora valley and have no wish to, why can’t some bright civic minded people up that way get in touch with a serious party and try to organise a fresh new initiative up there? Because, believe you me, cutting deals with the same old boys from before won’t change a thing towards the expat community and the urban abuse scandal in the area. There are a number of serious national parties aiming at the local elections who would jump at the chance of having well organised locals set up their own lists. And being within a national party with no previous connections to the town allows the new regime to take advantage of past experience without fear of traps or hidden influences.
Or, if you must deal with the local parties, go for the national parties that have never had a lookin around there. The PP or the IU, for example (differs from town to town). Get to know your local history, find out which groups have never had power and throw your lot in with them. The strategy from town to town will change.
Just don’t, I beg every single expat vote in the Almanzora valley, throw this opportunity away. Get together. Plan. Organise. Try to do it properly. And get a freaking move on.