Mayor Emilio Bascuñana and Damaso Aparicio

Although he had the support of Ciudadanos on Thursday, for the second time in just three days, Orihuela mayor Emilio Bascuñana was forced to conduct a Council Plenary without members of his government team.

Whilst that meeting was notable only for an outburst by the Deputy Mayor Rafael Almagro who lost his temper with Cambiemos Councillor Marta Guillén shouting “Leave me alone. I’ll do what I want!” it was Tuesday’s Emergency Council Meeting that was rather more significant, as five of the eleven PP councillors failed to attend, despite it being especially called

Damaso Aparicio, Sofía Álvarez and Noelia Grao, all pulled a ‘sickie’ while Begoña Cuartero was away on a sanctioned trip. Miguel Angel Fernandez, meanwhile, who was appointed as the Councillor for Planning less than two weeks ago, informed the mayor that he would not be attending due to his vested interest in the subject to be discussed.  It just so happens that his wife is the lawyer for Urbanizadora Villamartín SL, one of the largest developers on the coast.

So what was the subject causing all the fuss? If I said that it all revolved around ‘property’ and ‘finance’ I’m sure there would be no surprise.

When initially obtaining the agreement to build 2600 homes in PAU 7, close to Campoamor Golf on the Orihuela Costa, it was agreed that the developer, Urbanizadora Villamartín SL, (where have I heard that name before), would construct 650 houses that would be categorised as Official and Protected (VPO). The cost of their construction would be met by central government and on completion they would be handed over to the Orihuela Council via the Generalitat to be disposed of as Social Housing. As a result of the agreement the price of the building licence was significantly reduced.

Mayor Emilio Bascuñana argued, however, that social housing was not needed on the Orihuela Costa and he called last Tuesday’s Emergency Plenary, on the very final day that the agreement could be modified, in order to approve the motion that their usage be changed back to the original purpose, their sale on the open market at full price, thereby benefitting the builder who, as a result, would realise far larger profits.

It is understood that all of the absent councillors, with the exception of Fernandez, whose wife we have mentioned earlier, objected to the motion, insisting that if it were adopted there should be some manner of compensatory agreement with the taxpayers of the Orihuela Costa, perhaps the building of a library, a theatre or whatever.  

But as a result, the councillors Damaso Aparicio, Sofía Álvarez and Noelia Grao, all failed to attend the meeting while Begoña Cuartero went off on her upcountry trip. So with the three Ciudadanos councillors stating that they would abstain, and with the PSOE intending to vote against the motion, the Session was eventually declared void.

Juan Ignacio Lopez-Bas, the spokesman for Ciudadanos, was extremely angry saying that the internal struggle within the PP is damaging the running of the city while Carolina Gracia, the PSOE spokesperson, claimed that the four missing councillors no longer trust the mayor.  She also questioned the wisdom of the mayor in his recent appointment of Miguel Angel Fernandez as Councillor responsible for Planning, whilst his wife represented one of the largest developers in the area. No conflict there then, Mr Bascuñana!

So with the Presidency of the party due to be decided today (Monday), many say that the divisions within the Partido Popular are much wider and the engine is suddenly beginning to splutter.

It is well documented that the likely winner of today’s vote, Damaso Aparicio, is not a favourite son of Emilio Bascuñana, thus, if Aparicio is successful in his Presidency bid, it will be interesting to see on which side of the fence the struggle for power eventually comes down, especially with increasing sounds of discord in the ranks over the mayor’s failure to deal effectively with his councillors.

The crisis of Mayor Bascuñana’s credibility within the PP seems, once again, to be coming to a head.