A Long Week for the San Antonio Coalition

Alcaraz attending court flanked by political colleagues

“A week is a long time in politics – this phrase is attributed to former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Due to the fast changing pace of the political landscape, the fortunes of a politician or political group can change drastically just in the course of a single week and this is very true when you look at the goings on at San Antonio town hall over the last 7 days.

For those who find Ibiza local politics confusing or unintelligible let me try and break it down in a simple and (hopefully) balanced way.

First let’s start with Aida Alcaraz from the socialist PSOE party who is the current councillor for town security, responsible for police and trying to tackle crime on the streets of San Antonio.

Upon assuming office in June 2015 Sra Alcaraz installed Angeles Gallardo as ‘head of security’ at the local police force to try and shake things up. Sra Gallardo took over the day to day running of the local police, using the police chiefs office to do so. Javier Verdugo, the chief of police then accused Sra Alcaraz of undermining him and took her to court claiming workplace harassment saying he was frozen out of important meetings and wasn’t invited to special events.

Sr Verdugo won the subsequent court case and now Aida Alcaraz has personally been charged with the crime under employment law with prosecutors seeking a year in prison, although even if she was found guilty she wouldn’t serve any time under Spain’s complicated legal system.

The current PSOE code of ethics states that if a councillor is charged with a crime then they must resign immediately and fight to clear their name.  Aida Alcaraz has refused to resign and has been strongly supported by her coalition council colleagues and her political party at Balearic level who argue that the resignation rule refers to corruption whereas this case is a straightforward power struggle between a police chief stuck in his ways and a councillor wanting to shake things up to achieve results. The court case continues and Sra Alcaraz has stated that she will not run for council in the next elections.

Cristina Ribas with Mayor Josep Tur

Now let’s turn to Cristiana Ribas who was elected as a councillor representing the ‘Propesta per las Illes’ (PI) party.

Spanish municipal elections use a proportional representational model, the electorate vote for a specific party who put forward a list of names, 21 names in the case of San Antonio. The votes are counted and then if you have enough votes you assume a seat on the council.

In 2015 (in which I ran as PP councillor) the right wing PP won 8 seats, the socialist PSOE won 6 seats and the left wing Reinicia party surprised a lot of people and won 4 seats. In San Antonio you require a majority of 11 seats to assume control of the council.

The centre right PI party won 3 seats in 2015 thus becoming the power broker and it was down to them to decide which coalition would run San Antonio town hall for the next 4 years. Their historic animosity with the PP party saw them choose to join forces with PSOE/Reinicia forming San Antonio’s first ever 3-way coalition government.

Last week the hard-working Cristina Ribas announced that after a lot of soul-searching she had decided to leave the PI party and become an independent councillor staying within the government team to complete the full term but because she was voted for as a PI party candidate this has caused a dilemma. The San Antonio coalition was a signed pact based on 13 unified councillors from 3 different unified parties.

The PI party has now given the Mayor until the end of January to resolve the impasse saying that as Sra Ribas isn’t a member of the party that was voted into office then she should resign so they can install another one of their members on to the council.

San Antonio Mayor Jose Tur Cires has hit back in the press saying “he doesn’t respond well to threats” and it doesn’t make sense to install a new councillor with only 4 months to go before elections.

Adding fuel to the fire is the pact that exists between all parties (which is delightfully called ‘anti-transfuguismo’) not allowing council members to join other parties whilst sitting on the council. Ribas insists that she will remain independent although it has been reported that she has been offered a place on the PSOE list for the May elections.

There are no winners in this story but it’s a good snapshot of what’s been happening over the last week and today’s monthly council meeting promises to be a tasty affair with the opposition poised to jump on all the negative headlines.

Press Headlines for all the wrong reasons

The Balearic Brexit Affect

In 2017 the Balearic Islands received nearly 20 million visitors through its airports of which 4.4 million were from the United Kingdom, its 2nd biggest market. When you break it down the numbers for the islands were as follows.

screenshot 2019-01-21 at 19.08.35

As you can see, almost 1 in 4 people who come to the Balearics are British so anything that affects the UK will, inevitably, have a knock on affect.

So it’s safe to say that the Spanish are more than a little perturbed about Brexit and the implications for the future and more specifically this coming summer. Like most things to do with Brexit nobody really knows what will happen so the continuing uncertainty only fuels the fear.

The Balearics are so concerned about Brexit that they have organised an emergency conference in Mallorca for the beginning of February to discuss all possibilities, they don’t want to leave anything to chance and this signifies how seriously they value the British market and it’s importance to their economy.

In the short term the major problem is the exchange rate fluctuations between the euro and pound. As the pound gets weaker, British tourists will have less money in their pockets so less money to spend. This is also why other destinations such as Turkey, Croatia and Egypt are increasingly more attractive to those on a specific budget. Ibiza isn’t the cheapest of destinations so these little things can have big ramifications.

Even with the continuing dithering the good news is that holidays are sacrosanct to the British nation, carved into an unwritten constitution under ‘thou shall travel’ and Brits are truly great travellers, forever plotting and planning their trips away. One difference that Brexit may bring is the amount of times they travel per year so that sneaky late September trip to the White Isle could be temporarily put on ice.

On the flip side the ex-pat community in Spain are stuck in a bit of limbo until Brexit has been fully resolved. Healthcare, pensions and workers rights are all important issues but these can only be confirmed after Brexit and a no-deal would mean that they are left hanging in the air for an extended period which creates a short term vacuum that many aren’t prepared to risk. Many Brits have already upped sticks from Spain and returned home where their rights are more ring-fenced.

Whether you are a brexiteer or a remainer the continuing political impasse isn’t good but the most important thing to remember is that with over 17,000,000 Brits visiting Spain every year there is plenty of goodwill on both sides to continue the special relationship. This was clearly shown yesterday /21/01/2019) when the 2 countries announced a reciprocal voting agreement which means that Brits living in Spain will definitely have the right to vote in the forthcoming municipal elections on 26 May 2019. This is the first of many agreements that will be made in the coming months and years.

Simon Manley, the British Ambassador to Spain, has been working tirelessly on a big PR exercise popping up up all over Spain and on Spanish TV with words of reassurance stressing that although the UK will be leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019 it still very much values it’s geographical place in the heart of the Europe.

As ever with the Anglo-Spanish relationship there is always a sizeable elephant in the corner of the room in the shape of Gibraltar which could still become a major stumbling block even though the Gibraltarians have consistently voted for their independence under the union flag. Brexit gives Spain a chance to renegotiate their position which has strengthened since the UK referendum.

Amongst all the doomsday predictions and the brexiteer over confidence lies the way forward but come 29 March you can be sure that life will go on with possibly a few disruptions but planes will definitely not be falling out of the skies (remember the millennium bug?).

It’s business as usual for Ibiza and the Balearics safe in the knowledge that we have a desirable product but we can use Brexit as a reminder that we have to work harder to attract all nationalities and not over rely on any one market. Even though Brexit creates uncertainty the British tourist will always be an important player in the Ibiza and Balearic game.

2019 – a BIG Year for the White Isle

Happy New Year! Now that the extended Christmas holidays are over it’s time to get back to work and focus on the year ahead. We’ve said goodbye to 2018 and it’s now time to embrace 2019.

Every year is a big year for Ibiza but 2019 has an extra edge to it. Local elections that will define the next 4 years, the continuing Brexit debacle, a local residents uprising, a lurch towards polarising politics, a new right wing Spanish party, increased competition from other tourist destinations, an unpopular hotel ecotax. I could name a few more but I’m not here to focus on the negatives, not today anyway.

The Island runs in cycles and there’s no doubting that Ibiza has got itself into a bit of a pickle. A catch 22 situation that requires a long term plan but the local political parties prefer to play petty games with each other, agreeing on nothing and accomplishing very little (but more about that in a forthcoming post).

More importantly, what can be lost in the fog of all the hyperbole and the local political point scoring is just how fantastic Ibiza is as a tourist destination. I’ve just spent 3 weeks travelling around south east Asia and it feels so good to get back, One of the bonuses of getting away is the appreciation of what you have back at home and I can safely say there’s simply no other place on the planet like Ibiza.

We sometimes forget exactly what we have here on the island and more importantly the basic requirements for tourists to come and enjoy the islands in the best way possible. Eating fine foods, taking in the incredible nature, immersing in local traditions, hedonistic pursuits if that’s your pleasure, the best nightlife in the world, swimming in clear blue water or simply lying on a white sandy beach with a takeaway sandwich and a good book. The beauty of Ibiza is and has always been that there’s something for everyone.

Some, of course, will tell you that Ibiza is now only for millionaires and that you have to win the lottery to be able to enjoy the island. There’s no doubting that Ibiza is constantly evolving but thats one of the beauties of the place. I still find the ‘rich only’ notion amusing as I tuck into my sumptuous 9 euro menu of the day then take a long walk on the Cala Conta coastal path to work off the 3 courses and a bottle of wine, stopping for a 1 euro caña on the way back. The best things in life don’t have to cost the earth in this neck of the woods (and I’m not talking about a magnum of grey goose and a pretentious beach club).

Those that know the island also know that you can live like a prince on a paupers wage but you have to be clever and do some homework and I mean real homework, not just follow the Daily Mail or Guardian sponsored travel sections. Look at online forums, ask direct questions, get busy on social media and forge your own path around the island without becoming a sheep with deep pockets. Leave that to the August glory hunters (whose wallets are always welcome by the way).

If you have the notion in your head that you ‘love Ibiza’ and I mean really love Ibiza then in 2019 I challenge you to come over in the low season and discover the real island. Get a cheap flight, stay in a local hotel, go out and meet people, eat inexpensive delicious food, take a walk around the old town or on an empty beach and absorb that special Ibiza vibe that dissipates substantially for a few months over peak summer when everything gets lost in a haze of frenetic greed. Forget what you think you know or what you read in the tabloid, 2019 is the year to see Ibiza in a different light.

I guarantee that the Ibiza you will find is a special place unrivalled in the world and everything you want it to be. It’s there right in front of you, you just have to scratch the surface a little.

You can thank me later!