The PP and CLARO amalgamation

Although it may seem like a lifetime away, the issue of locally elected councils is still a hot topic, as the time to choose one´s representative will be here sooner than we might think.

In Orihuela, the government team has been persistently rocked since day one of this administration, with a three or four party coalition becoming decimated to two groups, operating in minority government of 9 councillors, as internal differences and battles saw casualty after casualty, although, despite that, the inner core remaining stable throughout, under the management of the mayor, Montseratte Guillén.

The latest departure of a high profile psoe councillor may not have rocked the ship this time, the same couldn´t be said when CLARO councillor Bob Houliston resigned from his post, siding with his previous arch enemies, the Partido Popular.

Since then, Bob Houliston, the CLARO head, has maintained a stance that the errors of the PP that cost them the last election, namely the neglect of the coastal zone, had been both a wakeup call to the group, and served as lessons that they have learnt and intend to rectify. For that reason, Houliston effectively became their additional member, supporting their decisions all the way.

But the obvious question is how far? When the switch towards supporting the PP was first made, the credibility of Houliston suffered a tremendous blow, with many then believing he had sold out, and that he had contested his seat in government based on a lie, as he was particularly vocal about his opposition to the PP, with many not understanding how or why that might have changed.

Similarly, Houliston´s alliance with Pedro Mancebo and his Clr party was short lived after the elections, when, despite them joining forces to take their place on the elected bench, internal differences soon became too much.

Since the time that CLARO signed their pact with the PP, they fully intended to overthrow the government and take over, but with every attempt failing, with even their own party having to regroup and back down after the regional PP failed to support the bid for former mayor, Mónica Lorente, to lead the party into a censure motion. It started to feel like whatever they tried to do, they would fail, although as the majority group in parliament, their votes could always win any notion, either in support or objection. Despite this, the government team still manage to continue to govern, although through a “manipulation of the law”, according to Houliston, still in a legal capacity.

This week, another discreet step towards the future was taken, as Bob Houliston announced that his CLARO party would be standing in the next elections as an independent group, publicly severing the alliance in the future.

As for the PP, although they say they have learnt their lessons, the proverbial proof of the pudding is in the eating, with many of the voters still supporting them as a group, there are also many who feel that their previous neglectful attitude is so endemic, they would never change. The obvious questions being what they have done for the coast during this current period in opposition, whilst holding that majority power.

A recently highlighted question has come about over the insistence of the PP to push for 1,350,000 euro from the sale of public land on the coast be spent finishing a Civic Centre in the small inland village of La Aparecida, home to around 2,500 residents. At the same time, Bob Houliston is insisting that his party, with an agreement with the PP, want to build a multi-purpose auditorium on the coast. Although both these projects may be exciting developments for the future, the question of priorities is an obvious one, especially why the PP are seemingly pushing so hard for work in a village where just over 2% of the population live, rather than the coastal project where well over 30% reside. That question was put to Bob Houliston by Mark Nolan on Exite Radio this week, to which the surprise reply was simply, “That one tiny village is where the councillor Mr Aniote lives”, José Aniote being the former councillor for the coast under the PP government.

These things collectively could show how the allegiance seemingly didn´t actually work, nor will it ever be a viable option for the benefit and the excitement surrounding the initial amalgamation, that of ensuring the interests of the orihuela costa.

This opinion of future confusion is also conveyed in a press release from the Clr supporters group, they accuse CLARO of a “missed opportunity” during their annual general meeting held last week, by criticising the inner structure of their once aligned group, “As usual there was no opportunity for the rank and file to select and vote for individuals from within the party. No individuals were nominated or seconded, no choices were given, there was the usual “take it or leave it” attitude from their president who presented the same executive committee as last year to the members. He chose the executive himself and then required the party faithful to re-elect the committee en masse, which like last year, they did”.

The Clr Supporters Group continue, “Mr. Houliston promised in 2011 that he would not seek re-election in 2015 because he would be 78 years of age by then, so surely this AGM would have been the perfect time to install a new CLARO president”. Indeed we also know of another high profile member who made the decision to dedicate her previously charitable life to politics, Nora Bond, previously from Help at Home, but her voice also seemingly now quieter than when she first made the statement of her political future.

It remains abundantly clear at the moment that the residing government team are here to stay, it is also clear that the team in office are carrying on with their joint manifestoes with the same vigour and conviction in which they started. As for what all of this means in the future, well that is entirely up to the people who choose to elect them, assuming you are eligible and registered to vote.

If the PP have proven the errors of their ways, they may just gain enough support to win the next election. The similar could also be said of the two groups still working together in government, the psoe and Los Verdes. If the actions of the bipartite are proven of benefit to the voters, then those voters may well offer the same support as before. Should a similar situation arise of forming another coalition, only time will tell as to whether that option becomes viable once more, or if either the socialists or greens have gained enough support to win outright.

But of the smaller groups, CLARO and CLR, whilst both still offer an alternative, the question of the likelihood that they can gain enough support to gain a seat is in clear doubt, but with time to build and boost their profiles, the floor remains open for what is undoubtedly going to be the most hotly contested election in the history of the municipality, once voting day arrives in 2015.

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