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The co-presidents of the council meeting on 3 January, Bob Houliston (C.L.A.R.O.) and Carolina Gracia (Socialist Party) plus the Secretary General – photo courtesy of La Verdad

The motion of censure which would have brought about the departure of the present government and the arrival of a Popular Party – Centro Liberal Renovador (CLR) government was NOT put to the vote at the special plenary meeting of the Council on 3 January. It was blocked by the co-presidency, comprising the most senior and most junior councillors, who considered that the two CLR councillors, Pedro Mancebo and Juan Ignacio Lopez Bas, whose votes were necessary to provide a majority for the motion, were not authorised to sign because of their expulsion by the Coalition CLR-CLARO on 26 December. Like the two councillors, Bob Houliston and Asuncion Mayoral , expelled from the CLR-CLARO group by Pedro Mancebo in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the two councillors expelled from the Coalition on 26 December no longer belong to the political formation they were elected on and as such they cannot vote in a motion of censure to bring down the government. A taste of their own medicine!

The co-presidents of the council meeting on 3 January justified their decision to block the vote on the motion on strictly legal grounds. They were supported in this decision by the opinion of a Professor in Administrative Law and the majority of elements in the report of the Secretary General who recognised that his opinion was not binding and that the final decision was the responsibility of the co-presidency. In his report, the Secretary General gave the benefit of the doubt to the two CLR councillors in relation to the validity of their signatures of the motion, arguing that the proceedings of the main CLR-CLARO Coalition committee of which they are members but whose meetings they did not to attend, were communicated by e-mail. Although proof had been provided of the-mails in question having been sent and that they had not been returned, he could not prove that they had been received. Although claiming that they had not received the e-mails and were not notified of the delays allowed for appealing the decision, nonetheless within an hour of the formal submission of the notice of expulsion to the Town Hall, the two CLR councillors produced and formally submitted to the Town Hall a 20 something page report disputing the expulsions.

The Popular Party and CLR have already stated that they will take the two co-presidents of the meeting on 3 January to court and it is almost certain that a judge will be the person who finally decides if the decision to block the motion of censure was legal or not.

C.L.A.R.O. President Bob Houliston has stated that although the decision to block the motion of censure was correct and legal (and these will be the grounds on which a judge will finally decide) it was also politically in the interests of Orihuela and Orihuela Costa. The agreement between the Popular Party and CLR on 19 December constituted a unilateral and cynical ditching of the agreement signed between the Popular Party and C.L.A.R.O. in summer 2012 which C.L.A.R.O. had loyally respected. The now defunct PP-C.L.A.R.O. agreement contained some important policies of interest to Orihuela Costa such as investments in a proper civic centre and social services for the elderly, de-centralisation of services from Orihuela to the Playa Flamenca office of the Town Hall and respect for the territorial unity of Orihuela Costa. None of these important issues have been retained in the PP-CLR agreement. It is a bad agreement for Orihuela Costa. Another major difference between the two agreement is that PP-CLR have committed themselves to privatize the street cleaning and rubbish removal service, a contract worth probably €100 million to the lucky winner. C.L.A.R.O., in its agreement with the Popular Party, had insisted on this service remaining public and non-profit managed by the Town Hall since it has historically been at the root of the most serious corruption issues involving Orihuela and PP councillors. PP-CLR have opted to open this Pandora’s box of interests which have so much damaged political reputations in Orihuela in the past.

There may be other reasons which explain the haste of PP and CLR to reach their agreement of 19 December and the disproportionate concessions given by the PP to the junior partner CLR in the agreement. It is generally rumoured in Orihuela that Pepa Ferranda, the PP-CLR candidate for the job of Mayor in the event of a PP-CLR government, will soon face charges of manipulation of contracts or corruption during her time in the government of Monica Lorente between 2007-2011. According to this rumour, to avoid crossing the red lines of the Popular Party, which claims that it will not present candidates for public office who face charges of corruption (imputados), the policy which was applied in the case of Monica Lorente, it was urgent to bring down the present government and install a PP-CLR government under Pepa Ferranda before any such charges are adopted. We shall see.

The political situation in Orihuela is destined to remain volatile for some time yet. C.L.A.R.O. denies that the decision of Bob Houliston in the plenary meeting of 3 January was motivated by his intention to accept an offer to join the present government. There is no such offer and no such intention. No matter how difficult the circumstances, however, C.L.A.R.O. will continue to play an active role in the politics of Orihuela always trying to defend and promote the interests of Orihuela Costa.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/42123/

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