Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Here's the latest twist in the soap opera which is Spanish politics. In the Madrid regional Parliament, the PP got 55 seats, the Socialists got 47, and the Communists got 9, giving a Popular Front coalition a 56-55 majority over the conservative PP. That was the deal that was made, and the Socialists and Communists agreed to ally and put the Socialist candidate in as President of the regional government, the biggest prize they won in the May 25 elections.

But the best laid plans of mice and men go straight to hell. Two of the Socialist deputies, Eduardo Tamayo and Teresa Sáez, bolted the party yesterday and refused to appear and vote for the prospective Socialist Chairman of the Parliament (i.e. Speaker). This put in the PP woman, Concepción Dancausa, instead of the SocioCommie guy, Francisco Cabaco, as the wielder of the gavel. The two rebel deputies have been summarily kicked out of the Socialist Party and now the question is what they're going to do. If they abstain or do not appear when the vote on who's going to be the President of the region comes up, the PP candidate, Esperanza Aguirre, not exactly a member of the PP brain trust, will win 55-54. There goes the Socialists' big victory from March 25, the control of the Madrid region with its more than 5 million residents.

Tamayo says that the two rebel deputies refused to appear because they do not believe that the Socialists should pact with the Communists in a coalition; they say that such an alliance "is a betrayal of social democracy". Tamayo says he informed the party leadership about his and Sáez's votes on Saturday, so they knew what was coming several days in advance. Continues Tamayo, "A deal (with the communists) does enormous damage to the interests of the Socialist Party, because if what we try to do is to obtain power at any price without respecting the voters, the voters will end up punishing you, and Rodríguez Zapatero (Zap) has a date with the ballot boxes in a few months. We will not permit this kind of agreement, which takes the Socialist Party toward the extreme left. Someone has to represent the moderate Socialists in the Madrid regional parliament."

The Socialist Party spin is that, as everyone knows, there are various factions within the party. The two big factions are the "guerristas", named for their leader Alfonso Guerra, who are the fairly hard-left Party apparatchiks who control the regional party groupings, especially those to the south of Madrid where Socialist power is based, and the "renewers", who are rather Gary Hart-like--they have "new ideas" but nobody's sure what those new ideas are; they do generally believe that it would be a good idea to remove the guerristas from their positions of power within the Party.

The two rebel ex-Socialists, Tamayo and Sáez, are members of a small faction called the "balbases", formed in the early nineties under power broker José Luis Balbás. Historically they've switched between the two major factions in the party; in 1995 they supported Joaquin Leguina against the guerristas; in 1999 they supported the guerristas against Leguina. In 2000 their support was crucial in getting Zap named Party leader. Meanwhile, both Balbás and Tamayo have been accused of corruption and dishonesty regarding a few real-estate deals.

Anyway, both guerristas and renewers were in favor of getting together with Gas and the Commies and hoofing the PP out of the Madrid regional parliament. But the balbases threw a monkey wrench into the works, because they're resentful at not getting enough bones thrown to their faction. So say the Socialists. The PP is howling with laughter again, since it looks like they're going to keep the big electoral prize that the Popular Front coalition would have taken away from them. Also, the Socialist party looks like a bunch of disorganized and incompetent doofuses, as usual, and helps to convince responsible Spanish voters to vote for anybody except them. The PP is going to win the next general election. This fiasco is going to put them over.

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