As the dust begins to settle on yet another political explosion in Orihuela, the bipartite government team still maintain their commitment to carry on regardless, and have returned to work after the festive break with both the drive and determination to pursue their aims of governing, but now with the added bonuses of a refreshed, reshuffled team and the apparent obvious support of allies and some adversaries alike.
For the second time in this administration, the Partido Popular of Orihuela failed in raising a censure motion that could have resulted in a vote of no confidence and the overthrowing of the bipartite government team of Orihuela.
The PP and Clr groups, with Pedro Mancebo and Juan Ignacio López-Bas, accused of “selling out” by a number of their original supporters, collaborated to form a new allegiance, but seemingly without the PP even mentioning this move to their originally aligned supporter, Bob Houliston of CLARO. Believing this to be far from in the best interests of Orihuela, Houliston stepped up and, after taking legal advice, blocked the motion.
The city clerk, who is a public Notary, provided analysis as to whether the blocking was legal, given that Mancebo and López-Bas had recently been ejected from their own party group. On 6 of the 7 points raised, the Notary confirmed that is was the case, but offered an element of doubt to one point, the method of communication in which the expulsion meeting was called, which was done by email.
As Houliston publicly blocked the censure motion, sitting as President of the council of elders, along with the youngest member of government, Carolina Gracia and the city clerk, the leader of the PP in Orihuela, Pepa Ferrando, who was destined to take the chair as Mayor, said that Houliston had made a “grave and criminal error” and will face the courts. In a statement, the PP in Orihuela described the move as an “absolute coup for democracy”, with Ferrando saying that “We were threatened that this could happen”, whilst emphasising the there has been no “validity” given to the report from the City Clerk, that “Mr Houliston, chairman of the board of elders, has forgotten to read”, and that, in her view, this was “absolutely illegal” and constitutes “crimes of corruption, bribery and two or three more crimes”.
But the question still remains as to why public opinion seems to be favouring the minority government over one run by those who would collectively have the majority of votes. Combining the PP and Clr results from the last elections would give them over 20,000 votes, but as the 2013 statistics show that there are a total of 91,260, it is clear to see that the actual majority of over 70,000 do not share the passion to put the PP back into power.
The latest “barometer” of public opinion conducted at the end of 2013 indicates that there is a growing concern within the national population of Spain, a concern that has shot up 5.8 points in December alone, now becoming the second biggest concern according to the Centre for Sociological Research. That growing problem is one of corruption in politics. Now standing way ahead of economic concerns, health and education, political corruption is seen to be damaging to the country.
The obvious question is whether it is for that reason that the situation in Orihuela remains such a hot topic. We know that in neighbouring Torrevieja, the former PP mayor Pedro Hernández Mateo still walks free, despite being sentenced to prison for fraud, claiming his right to clemency because of his political position.
The secretary-general of the Regional psoe in Valencia, Ximo Puig, described it as “insane” to consider that that the president of the Generalitat, Alberto Fabra, and the President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy, would endorse a censure motion that included “five charged and one convicted” of criminal offences within the Partido Popular group.
In fact, Puig is proposing the repeal of the clemency a law, which actually dates back to 1870, arguing that the law is now grossly out of date and is being misused in these modern times. The psoe believes that this rule must be reformed to explicitly exclude the possibility of a pardon on a conviction of corruption. A proposal that was not met with welcoming arms, perhaps because the Valencia region alone has more than 250 politicians and civil servants facing crimes whilst in public office.
Puig argues that impunity “is poison to democracy and the rule of law”, and that “we must avoid situations where the corrupt do not pay”. The feeling that “breaking the law comes free generates social alarm”, with governments becoming “a kind of second court to those who have already been judged”.
Indeed, judges across spain joined in and voiced their opposition to the clemency law, as they say that suspending the entry into prison with firm political convictions as a special offense is wrong, and that, “Given the special consideration of this type of crime, we advocate the elimination of the possibility provided for in Article 4.4 of the Criminal Code to suspend the enforcement of penalties for clemency requests”.
The social alarm is quite clear in Orihuela too, as not only was the voice of the public heard on the ground, boos and jeers as Mancebo and López-Bas left the plenary hall, cheers and adoration as the Mayor Monserrate Guillén left, social network sites were also buzzing with praise for the blocking of the motion, and critical of the corruption from the Partido Popular in particular.
As the “hashtags” became attached to messages on twitter, a keyword which connects messages with similar interests, the “#CorruPPtos” and “#limpiezademocratica” tags being clearly aimed at the PP. Messages from the Spanish population echoed what happened on the ground, with comments such as, “Confidence motion fails the CorruPPtos of Orihuela. The lust for power of PP and CLR lie down. Pepa Bye! #limpiezademocratica”, and “CorruPPtos no thanks! 😉 #Mociondecensura #Orihuela” and even more directed comments aimed at raising awareness of past corruptions, “Of the 12 councillors in Orihuela PPopular , 5 are in PROCESS of Corruption or CONVICTED , is this it is the people who run our €?”.
The positive mood seemingly supporting the clean government team in power, “Orihuela has a minority government but honest and courageous. It will continue for the rights to the city”, whilst another pointing out that “The shame of Orihuela is that the City is ALWAYS in court”.
Although remaining mostly quiet during the campaign to have him and his team removed, the Mayor, Monserrate Guillén, who had previously affirmed his anti-corrupt morals, saying, “I arrived with an empty suitcase and I will leave with an empty suitcase”, immediately after the meeting said, “I have not beaten anybody, who is the winner is the people of Orihuela”.
Although some may say that the social networks were flooded as part of an orchestrated campaign against the motion, there was of course nothing stopping the PP and their supporters voicing their opposition, nor was there anything stopping a public display of support at the town hall, neither of which happened in reality. Unlike the supporters for the blocking of the motion, with tweets such as “Big Bob! Has not disappointed us!”, and a simple “Happy new year : Lol:: Lol:: Lol:” amongst the first mentions, with others commenting on the perceived mood of the town hall, “Orihuela is fuming today!”.
In fact, within the Twittersphere, the Orihuela PP have 805 followers, with some key players such as Monica Lorente having 925 followers, Pepa Ferrando has 217 followers, Victor bernabeu has 61, and even senior PP members such as Serafín Castellano with 3,329 followers and Alberto Fabra with 13,968 followers. The psoe in Orihuela on the other hand has 1,010 followers, Antonia Moreno with 257, Antonio D. Zapata has 253 and regionally Ximo Puig has 6,926. As for the Los Verdes in Orihuela, they have seemingly not yet grasped the importance or need to branch out using such methods, with their 126 followers, Monserrate Guillén with 291 and Martina Scheurer publicly declaring that she is not on Twitter. There is no apparent presence of either Clr or CLARO on Twitter, the point being that if this was an orchestrated campaign, it was rather poorly done, but the main players could have played a bigger part in raising awareness, should that have been the case, rather than what most believe that it really was the voice of the people speaking.
The fact that praise was levied towards the Mayor himself, with tweets reading, “Congratulations # Orihuela and Oriholanos for keeping Monserrate”, and “I’m happy for Guillen”, there was seemingly less praise towards the PP and Clr move, the closest tweet that could be seen was simply, “to us that no one wins”.
As for the immediate future of Orihuela as a whole, it will be up to the courts to decide if blocking the motion was legally correct or not, but as the deputy of the relatively new Compromís group, Mireia Mollà, expressed her “satisfaction”, she also stated that, “the failure of this censure motion shows the importance of the precedent set at Tavernes de la Valldigna, where the Council of Elders stopped a motion against Compromís Mayor Jordi Juan, because, as has happened in Orihuela, the PP also intended to make a motion with the support of a turncoat councillor, which the law does not allow, as a recent ruling reaffirmed”. A second similar case was also presented to the courts recently which saw an ousted Mayor return to power, as the courts deemed the motion there should never have gone ahead.
Allegations have also been made that suggest Houliston will be returning as councillor for the coast. However, despite Mancebo´s having already issued press releases that indicated he was back in power, even before the motion had been heard and subsequently rejected, no such plan is in place for Houliston. This does not rule out a return to government of course, but at this stage, there have not been any talks, discussion or decisions made which would see Houliston back.
That said, following the departure of Antonia Moreno from the government, a reshuffle has taken place of the competencies and roles left behind, which has resulted in Councillor for Festivities and Youth, Carolina Gracia, assuming the role of spokesperson for the local government and the Municipal Socialist Group. Antonio Zapata will be the first deputy mayor and retain Planning, Projects and Institutional Relations. Rosa Martínez will have Culture added to her current responsibilities of Tourism and Education, as well as holding the role of second deputy mayor. Once newcomer Victor Ruiz takes the role replacing Moreno, he will be given the departments of Human Resources, Internal Affairs and Employment, Communications and Infrastructure.
According to Gracia, this distribution of responsibilities of government “is the most responsive to the needs of citizens”. All other roles, responsibilities and positions will remain unchanged at this time, which includes the Councillor for the coast, Martina Scheurer, who remains in place, as she has done throughout this latest chapter in an ever changing political mine field that mixes corruption, turncoats, legal challenges and ignorance of the people, whilst the government team still try and go about the business of running the municipality, albeit with the obvious complications of most major financial decisions being so far paralysed as the PP with their alliances blocked any move by holding the majority, a position they may soon find is slipping away from their grip.
Key players in the political framework will continue to have their say live on radio, make sure you tune in to 89.2fm on the Orihuela Costa, 93.1fm on the Costa Blanca, or listen online at www.exiteradio.com.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/42186/