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Blow to the main political support of the Polisario Front in the Canaries

The Spanish Interior Ministry removes Nueva Canarias from the party register for not declaring its accounts since 2018
frente polisario cabildo de gran canaria

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The regionalist and identity-based party Nueva Canarias is facing possible extinction. Or at least under that name. The party is currently not listed in the Interior Ministry's register of parties. According to Grande-Marlaska's ministry, the party was "erased" from the register in the summer of 2021 as imposed in a ruling of 8 June of the same year by the Central Court for Contentious-Administrative Matters number 5. 

The reason why Nueva Canarias would no longer be a political party in the eyes of the law and the administration would lie in the failure to render the annual accounts of the political formation since 2018. Providing fiscal information for the annual financial years to the Court of Auditors is one of the sine qua non conditions for the legal existence of a political party in Spain and its inclusion in the official state register. Without being in the register, Nueva Canarias would no longer be a legal personality and it would be impossible for it to compete as such in any kind of elections in Spain. 

From within the party's ranks, the news was received with surprise. Both the leader of the party, the vice-president of the Canary Islands Government and Minister of Finance, Román Rodríguez, and its organisational secretary, Carmelo Ramírez, say that the party did not receive any notification from the Ministry of the Interior or the judiciary regarding the lack of documentation on its accounts for 2018, 2019, 2020 or 2021. 

The leaders of Nueva Canaria have stated that they are counting on appealing the ruling on the grounds of this lack of notifications. Román Rodríguez, founder of the party, wanted to defend in statements made to the Canary Islands public television that "This does not affect the functioning of the institutions and the representations in town halls and councils of the Canary Islands at all. It is an administrative matter for the party". However, as legal experts consulted by the island media explain, de jure, Nueva Canarias is no longer a political party in the full sense of the term. 

sentencia nueva canarias

In view of this anomalous situation, the Partido Popular asked the Senate to clarify the situation of Nueva Canarias. Although the appointments in institutions are nominal, and not partisan, it remains in suspense whether the members of the party will have to move to the mixed group or to the non-attached group. Public funding for the party is another concern. Earlier on Thursday afternoon, the Canary Islands parliamentary bureau urged the parliamentary group not to transfer funding to the "party". 

Nueva Canarias was founded in 2005 by its founder, the former president of the Canary Islands until 2003, Román Rodríguez. With a left-leaning debut, he claimed Canary Islands nationalism from the outset, as well as positioning himself as a staunch defender of the referendum process for Western Sahara. Without engaging in a nationalist ideological experience such as that of the 1970s, and thus a deliberate closeness to Algeria, the party does maintain close ties with the Polisario Front, especially through the current led by the organisation's secretary general, Carmelo Ramírez. According to Rafael Esparza, a lecturer at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, this current is in the majority in the party. The party has always taken positions in favour of the Polisario and its positions on Western Sahara, which this year has led to clashes with the PSOE in the Canary Islands, with which it governs in coalition. Its only national deputy, Pedro Quevedo, registered a motion in Congress in May 2022 for the chamber to reaffirm its rejection of the Spanish government's change of position. Handi Mansour, the Polisario Front's representative in the Canary Islands, also took part in the events of the party's 5th Congress in April 2022, during which Román Rodríguez was re-elected. "This is one of the main features of the party", summarises Professor Esparza. 

In 2018, the Canary Islands Popular Party already denounced some of these gestures by Nueva Canarias representatives, carried out institutionally from the positions they hold in municipalities or other government bodies. 

In the Canary Islands, the institutions in which Nueva Canarias is represented in the executive bodies provide substantial aid to Sahrawi associations that support the theses of the Polisario Front. In addition to the Treasury Department, which Rodríguez manages, the party has up to 105 councillorships in the Canary Islands and presides over the Cabildo of Gran Canaria, where Carmelo Ramírez is in charge of Institutional Cooperation and International Solidarity. 

Through this department of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, the institution allocates in its expenditure budget up to 310,000 € in subsidies to Saharawi organisations, according to the transparency portal of the island's governing body. Although it has not been proven that this funding is transferred to the Polisario Front, some voices such as Rafael Esparza have publicly stated in the media that the money from the Cabildo's coffers ends up in the hands of the Polisario's military environment.