Odón Elorza (Donostia, 1955) regularly appears in the headlines. Most of the time, for being a discordant voice that gives headaches to the PSOE leadership. It was a loose verse, even when he himself was part of the Pedro Sánchez Executive after having been one of his main defenders in the battle against the 'apparatus' in the 2017 primaries. He quickly faded into the background and was left out of the leadership at the 40th Congress, which the Socialists held four years later. He is now back on the front pages, especially in the Basque press, by announcing his intention to fight for the mayor's office in the Gipuzkoan capital, but he himself is aware that it is difficult for him. He will have to fight first in the primaries with the current second deputy mayor, Marisol Garmendiawho had his first approach to politics precisely as his adviser in the Consistory.
“My goal is to open debate. This city is very sleepy and we can die of tourist success. I have recently met with technicians and collaborators and I have come to the conclusion that we are not doing well. That encouraged me to at least be able to talk, ”he says in a telephone conversation with elDiario.es from his terrace. Once the retirement age has been reached, one of his commitments is to give up the mayor's salary if, first, he wins the internal battle and, later, the people of San Sebastian once again give him the baton of command that he held for two decades until he lost the elections in 2011. That hindrance is what sources from the party in Euskadi point out, still surprised by the deputy's movement.
Elorza had little chance of repeating in the next generals. Since he took office in 2011, the Basque has become one of the PSOE's most unruly parliamentarians. The last notorious rupture of the voting discipline occurred in the vote of the magistrates to the Constitutional Court agreed by Sánchez and Pablo Casado. Elorza voted 'no' to the suitability of the controversial Enrique Arnaldo, proposed by the PP, after having been very critical of him during his appearance in the commission.
That decision, which cost him 600 euros, came shortly after leaving the socialist leadership. Since then, he has felt even freer to distance himself from Sánchez's line on issues such as the official secrets law that the Government has proposed or the Moroccan police's brutal repression of immigrants at the Melilla border. The deputy has used his personal blog to question the changes that the president has brought to the party and the government and criticizes him for having definitively turned the page on the early sanchismo of which he was a part. In tandem with Zaida Cantera, Elorza was one of the representatives of the “no es no” that carried out the most acts for Spain, supporting the then unhorsed secretary general. After the victory in the primaries against Susana Díaz and Patxi López, Sánchez appointed Elorza Secretary of Transparency and Participatory Democracy of a broad Executive in which the nucleus of power was quickly reduced to a handful of leaders, among whom the Basque was not .
Until that moment, they had hardly had a relationship beyond sharing a bench, but the current Prime Minister surrounded himself mainly with the 15 socialist parliamentarians who broke discipline and voted against the investiture of Mariano Rajoy in 2016. It was not the first time the Basque did. He abstained, for example, in the king's abdication process negotiated by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba with the PP government. The approximation to the monarchy is one of the issues on which he most disagrees with the leadership of the PSOE.
Elorza led the candidacy for Congress for Gipuzkoa in 2011, after losing the mayoralty of Donostia, which he acceded to in 1991 upon receiving the support of the PP and PNV, despite having been in third position (behind Eusko Alkartasuna and Herri Batasuna). . Since 1984 he had been a deputy in the Basque Parliament. He was the first and only socialist mayor of Donostia for five legislatures, but Juan Carlos Izagirre, a candidate of an EH Bildu then just born, snatched the post.
Throughout his 20 years as mayor, he managed to modernize the attractiveness of a city that had been considered for decades as one of the most important tourist destinations for the Spanish and European bourgeoisie. One of his big bets for this was culture, with the renovation of the Kursaal Palace, designed by Rafael Moneo; the expansion of the San Telmo Museum; the reform of the Victoria Eugenia Theater; and the regeneration of Tabakalera. It also made the city the European Capital of Culture in 2016, by considering the role of culture in regenerating coexistence and solving social problems derived from terrorism, something for which the San Sebastian Film Festival played a role a very important role.
On the terrorism that the city experienced under his mandate, Elorza recalled in a text written by himself after leaving the City Council the "asphyxiation" and the lack of freedom that he himself perceived. "During those 20 years I was escorted and my life lacked freedom, with very restricted movements. I felt the suffocation of not being able to breathe freely, something that I also felt in the final years of the Franco dictatorship. I thought that it would never end (. ..) My life is dotted with scars from the attacks against citizens and friends such as Enrique Casas, General Garrido, Jose Antonio Santamaria, Gregorio Ordoñez, Ernest Lluch, Fernando Múgica, Froilán Elespe, Juan Mari Jauregui, Alfonso Morcillo, José Ramón Recalde, José Luis López de Lacalle, among many others," he maintained.
In that letter, published in 2016, he stressed that from that stage he has learned that "only from the deepest democratic convictions and from the passion for freedom can fear be subdued", since "it is the convictions that They won't let you run away." Elorza acknowledged in those phrases that he had not risen to the occasion or, on occasion, "up to what was expected of a Democratic mayor committed to the defense of human rights." "I also had silences and absences. And I let myself be carried away by prudence and a lack of civic courage," he lamented.
One of the images that remains from that stage is his confrontation with a group of pro-ETA members who set fire to a bus in 1992 shouting “Cowards, you have no shame”. It was precisely his speech on the end of ETA that has left one of his most notorious moments in Parliament: "That's enough, stop using the victims of terrorism, who belong to everyone, to attack the leftist government, to denigrate a budget [le dijo a las bancadas de la derecha durante un debate]. Don't be so miserable, leave ETA's terrorism alone. ETA disappeared, ETA is not here, there are no terrorists here. Now it is OK. Here what there is is Franco supporters and some right-wingers with a coup vocation”.
It has been with another letter, far from the shadow of terrorism, with which he has announced his desire to take back the reins of a city that he has not stopped watching from a distance. A capital haunted by major housing problems, with unaffordable rents and rising mass tourism that worsens the situation every year in the face of citizen discontent. "San Sebastián needs leadership and a clear idea of a city to face, without further delay, the challenges in public housing for young people and families, social cohesion in neighbourhoods, sustainability and climate emergency policies, the naturalization of the city, the cultural innovation and city identity, a non-improvised mobility, the regulation of the tourist tide from a comprehensive response and the planning of land policies against particular interests; as well as a defense of the quality of the public services offered by the administrations", he stressed to shake a board in which he has not caught the current socialist 'number one' in the City Council by surprise. Garmendia has claimed to have seen him "lately" as a spectator at a plenary session on the Consistory's housing policy.
Despite this, and the fact that the fight for the mayoral candidacy will not be confirmed until the primary process begins on September 14, the also deputy mayor has started her personal campaign highlighting that she wants to become the first female mayor of Donostia and criticizing that it is not the time for "vintage politics". "Each one has their place and their time and now it's my turn", she has concluded.