|Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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X marks the spot but what difference will your vote make? 

This month I thought might talk a bit about (yawn) the local town hall elections. The thing is about a fortnightly paper and with me writing once a month is that very often before I get a chance to talk about something it is already old news. I am writing this before polling day because, believe it or not, I do have a deadline, whereas the paper isn’t printed until after so we should already know the result.

I hope therefore all you foreigners (non Spanish) followed my example and took a few minutes out of your day last Sunday to go and place their vote. I was going to say to put an X in the relevant box, but of course it doesn’t work like that here, they have this weird and wonderful system whereby you put a sheet of paper listing the candidates for the party you are voting for into the appropriately coloured envelope, white for those voting for the town hall (Ayunta-miento).
This is the reason, in case you have been wondering, why so much seeming repetitive literature has been dropping through your letterbox, each party providing you with the voting envelope with their own list of candidates already conveniently enclosed. It is easy enough for those of us who thankfully are only eligible to vote for the town council, but a bit confusing for those facing five, yes five, separate elections, that’s 5 lists of candidates for each party and 5 different coloured envelopes.
So what are the five? Firstly the town council (Ayunta-miento), the lowest ranking authority, though you wouldn’t think it so to listen to some of the local councillors. Next the Tenerife government (Cabildo) who are the most important authority for Puerto de la Cruz as they are the source of most of the funding for capital projects in the town. Then the government of the Western Canary Islands (Gobierno) based in Las Palmas, Grand Canaria and in Santa Cruz. Finally there is the government of all the Canary Islands (Parlamento) based in Santa Cruz. What a lot of salaries, no wonder there is so much red tape whenever they want to do anything. four different tiers of administration and then don’t forget everybody answers to the national government in Madrid, whose elections were last month. Still, I’m missing one, oh yes, of course, the European Elections, easily forgotten, polling in Spain is on the same day as the other elections.
As I said I am writing pre-election, so I have to say I assume I did my bit for local democracy by casting my vote, baring an accident it is safe to say I have. Not that my vote will make the slightest bit of difference, but I will feel that I have contributed and at least it gives me the right to moan about the result, which I’m sure I will at some point regardless of the outcome. There are 21 council seats that make up Puerto’s Ayuntamiento; therefore the magic number to gain control is 11. So by the time this paper hits the shelves we will know the names and parties of the fortunate 21 but I very much doubt we will know who will be in power, unless one party achieves the almost unimaginable and gets an outright majority. No, most probably the wheeling and dealing to form a coalition will have begun behind closed doors, a process that can take weeks if 2015 is anything to go by.
Proportional representation is in principle the fairest voting system. A voting system completely alien to we Brits (and Americans obviously), we vote for a person rather than a party, (apart from the European elections, where turnout is traditionally low). So seats here are allocated on an individual party’s percentage of the vote, which invariably means in Puerto de la Cruz’s case that there is no outright winner. This creates what used to be called a ‘hung parliament’ in the UK, an unusual term , but one that appeals to my sense of humour , when I hear it used I automatically think that some most probably should be.
Because at this point I don’t know the result I will use the last election in 2015 as an example. Seats won were as follows, (PSOE) 7, (PP) 7, (CC) 4, (ACP) 3. PSOE polled the most votes and narrowly missed out on what probably would have proved a decisive 8th seat, however, the real negotiating power belonged to (CC) and boy did they use it, going against their own party’s national agreement they sold out to the highest bidder, (PP) in this case, and the rest as they say is history.
In this election (2019) Ciudadanos (C’s) enter the fray so the 21 seats could quite easily be divided across more parties. You could even get the scenario where neither of the 2 front runners gains power, with a coalition of the remaining smaller parties forming a majority. There are strong signs that the populists are gaining ground in Europe with voters turning their back on traditional parties, so it will be interesting to see if any on these feelings have filtered down to Puerto de la Cruz. There were certainly signs they might be with over 1000 residents in Puerto voting for ultra right party VOX in Spain’s National Election last month, which seems amazing to me.
So at the end of the day I will have made my choice, but I can’t honestly say it will make a dramatic difference to the town whoever is in power. Perhaps, a bit more transparency, some more realistic targets, honesty about what is achievable, but I am sure the town will be just as cash strapped in the next four years as it has been in the last, and dependent on outside funding for the ever growing list of capital improvement projects.
After more than three years of relative inactivity we’ve had months of frenzy, white paint has been splashed over all the road edges, the new gardeners have valiantly tried to put right three years of neglect, the new street lights have been rolled out across the town and are getting dimmer, efforts to keep the town cleaner aren’t really working, some tarmac has gone down on roads, but probably not where it was most needed, and small vote earning projects have taken place in some of the outlying areas, but is it enough?
What capital projects have been completed in the last term? San Telmo, but that was nearly finished before they came to power, calle Quintana, the bus station which is not quite complete, the same goes for the ‘coastal path’. Phase one, a minor part of the San Francisco building is complete, and the children’s park in La Paz where work is still ongoing long after it should have been completed. But what else? This list is not as long as the one promised. The new swimming complex was to be open by the end of 2018. The regeneration of Playa Martiánez has been promised every year, a desperately need-ed car park was to be built under Plaza de Constitution, Phase 2 of Parque San Francisco was due to start immediately after phase one .
So what of the next four years, more of the same as far as promises go it appears, with one party even claiming that if you vote for them again Puerto will see its new port built, and not the watered down version, the whole package with room for cruise liners. I can’t quite see that happening somehow, especially as it would take 8 to 10 years to build. Perhaps that claim is a vote winner, tell them what they want hear, you can also renege on it at a later date and blame outside interference in the project again. Personally I think the whole project is a white elephant and the years of disruption it would cause would outweigh any eventual benefit. Just look at Garachico; has their port brought much prosperity to the town?
Perhaps though I have got it all wrong, the port may well be part of the master plan now that Taoro is to be restored to all its splendour and reopen as a ‘luxury’ hotel. All those billionaire visitors will need somewhere to park their floating palaces. Excuse me if I am unable to conquer up the right images, but to support a ‘luxury’ hotel you need a town in the same image. Puerto doesn’t quite come up to scratch, it’s more 3 star than luxury, not that there is anything wrong with that, the town is what it is and they should be content with that and start sorting out the necessities and realities before dreaming of grandeur.
At least the view in Puerto will have changed; the rogue’s gallery looking down on us from every lamppost should hopefully have gone if they are as diligent at removing them as they were at putting them up. I would like to think they will be disposed of responsibly, but I have my doubts, landfill here we come, quite a fitting epitaph for the vast majority of them.