Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Spanish political update: Jordi Pujol, prime minister of Catalonia, of the conservative Catalanist party Convergence and Union (CiU), has shaken up his cabinet according to the wishes of party heir apparent Artur Mas. Whoop-te-doo, you think. Yeah, it's just a shuffle of names, but it's the most power that old-time political boss Pujol has ever surrendered to any of his designated heirs, of which he has had several in his 22 years of power, all of whom he first made and then broke. The problem with CiU is that it's really a melange of people with very different political beliefs, from lefty progressives to Christian Democrats, united by their strong Catalanism and by Pujol's leadership. When Pujol goes, and he has promised to retire and let Mas be the party's leader in the next elections within a year from now, will CiU hold together? Or will the more conservative and less Catalanist CiU voters move to the conservative centralist People's Party (PP), with the more lefty and less Catalanist CiU voters moving to the Socialists and the more Catalanist and lefty CiU voters moving to the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), leaving CiU with only its Catalanist conservative core? If that happens, then Pasqual Maragall, the Socialist candidate in Catalonia and former mayor of Barcelona, will be the next Catalan prime minister, defeating Mas and the other parties soundly. Probably not too much would change, though; Maragall would be less anxious to expand the role of Catalan as Catalonia's State language than CiU, but he'd spend just as much money foolishly and run up just as much debt as Pujol has. (Pujol's conservatism doesn't keep him from passing out lots of big juicy helpings of pork.) Should Maragall win the 2003 Catalan elections, he'll be beautifully placed to become the first serious Catalan candidate for Prime Minister of Spain after PP Prime Minister José María Aznar's successor (either Rodrigo Rato, Jaime Mayor Oreja, or Mariano Rajoy) stomps Socialist candidate José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the 2004 national parliamentary election. Maragall will have been in power in Catalonia for five years, assuming he gets reelected in 2007, and Prime Minister of Catalonia is a very important job in Spain, similar, say, to Governor of California in the United States. Maragall will have plenty of weight to throw around as a big vote-getter in a big, rich region, and would be the logical Socialist choice in the nationals in 2008 assuming that Zapatero gets beat in 2004, which seems a safe assumption.

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