Bertie bows out as elections held today.

A regional election is being held on the island(s) today to determine the composition of the Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region of Madeira. The election will be the first in which the President of the Region since 1978, Alberto João Jardim (above), will not have his name on the ballot paper, as he had already stated that he would step down as President and leader of PSD-Madeira in January this year. PSD-M subsequently elected Miguel Albuquerque (below) as the new president of the party. After winning that vote, Albuquerque stated that he would not assume the Presidency of the Government without an election – thus today’s vote.

PSD-M currently hold 25 of the 47 seats, giving them an outright majority since the last elections in 2011. More than 256,000 residents are registered to vote for one of eight different parties and three coalitions, with campaigning stopping on Friday and yesterday being officially a day of rest – which the PSD-M were accused of not observing after a fresh poster appeared on their headquarters. PSD-M have a clear lead in the opinion polls (one is detailed in a previous blog), but there remains some doubt whether they will hang on to their outright majority.
Whatever happens today it will mark the end of the remarkable career of the “King” of Madeira, who has overseen seismic change on the islands. Whatever your opinion on his political methods it cannot be disputed that he has consistently attracted huge amounts of investment to Madeira (and Porto Santo to a lesser extent), firstly from mainland Portugal, and subsequently from European funds. Whether all of this money has ended up being invested honestly and wisely is another matter, and he stands down at a time when the island is deeply in debt and a lot of the later infrastructure projects remain incomplete.

30.3.15: Results

Photo Joana Sousa / ASPRESS

Miguel Albuquerque  has become President of Madeira after retaining the narrowest of overall majorities – 24 of the 47 seats. He was Mayor of Funchal from 1994 – 2013 when he stood down after disagreements with Alberto João Jardim over financial transfers between the regional government and the city council. Formerly a lawyer, he is a lover of jazz music and apparently passionate about his roses.

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TAP fares down? Ryanair Azores hub. Regency hotels debt deal.

TAP fuel surcharge ends

The Portuguese national airline has said that the end of the fuel surcharge for travel between the mainland and Madeira and the Azores (from this coming Sunday) does not automatically mean a lowering of fares by the same amount. The surcharge has been €15 per trip, so a return ticket could drop by up to €30 – however the company says that it operates in a “competitive market” and cannot guarantee to pass on the cost reduction (TAP also recorded losses of €108 million in 2014 and remains up for sale!). It is thought that the surcharge has been dropped to give TAP an advantage in competing with easyJet and Ryanair, who are looking to expand operations to the Azores…………..

Transatlantic flights via Azores?

Ryanair recently hit reverse in its plans to become the first “low cost” operator to offer direct transatlantic flights from Europe to the States, mostly because of the different planes required. However, last December, the Irish airline announced plans to open a new route from Europe to Ponta Delgada in the Azores during 2015, and said that talks were underway with the Government of the Azores regarding flights to São Miguel and Terceira islands within the Azores, and also onward transatlantic flights to North America. The Azores will become Ryanair’s 72nd base, and fourth in Portugal with new routes to include Porto and Lisbon. Ryanair’s operations were made possible after the recent decision by the Portuguese civil aviation authority (Instituto Nacional de Aviação Civil – INAC) to lift restrictions on flights between mainland Portugal and the Azores. easyJet has also expressed an interest in developing its own hub on the islands. Previously transatlantic flights between the United States and the Azores have been served exclusively by SATA Airlines, the state-owned company run by the Government of the Azores in partnership with TAP. Based in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel island, SATA Airlines connects the nine islands of the Azores with mainland Portugal, Europe and North America – a lot of visitors to Madeira from the States and Canada arrive after making a connection in Ponta Delgada.

Regency hotels guarantee state debts

Image result for regency palace hotel

The Diario reports today that some progress has been made in securing the outstanding social security contributions accumulated over the last fourteen years by the companies controlling the Regency Club and the Regency Palace hotels. In August 2014 the debt to the Social Security Institute of Madeira (ISSM) was €16.3 million, but today the total is reported to have been reduced to €15.4 million. At least part of theses debts have been secured by the provision of collateral in the form of mortgages and other guarantees to "safeguard the reimbursement of debt by the ISSM” – specifically that the ISSM will assume ownership of 27 properties should the outstanding amount not be settled. “Cunha Santos & Camachos” (Regency Palace) are the believed to be the ISSM’s largest single debtor.

Flower Festival hotel strike

The hotel employees union, Sindicato da Hotelaria da Madeira, yesterday approved a two-day strike to coincide with the Flower Festival on 18 and 19 April. At the same time they decided against any strike action over the Easter period. Don’t really know why I am reporting this because these strikes tend to be very half-hearted and ineffectual.

easyJet flights released

easyJet have released their flights for the period 25th October 2015 – 28th February 2016

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Golf cancelled. Machico port repairs. Doca do Cavacas tunnel reopens.

Image result for madeira islands open cancelledThe Madeira Islands Open has become just the third European Tour event in history to be cancelled after Sunday’s play was washed out at Santo da Serra. The tournament had been reduced to 36 holes for the second year running after the first day was abandoned due to strong winds which also caused further delays on day two. Play is automatically stopped when as ball moves of its own accord on the putting greens.
The Madeira Islands Open was abandoned after a week of bad weather at Santo da SerraTorrential rain then moved in to end play early on Friday and disrupt the tournament over the weekend, and no play was possible in Sunday’s second and final round due to the course being waterlogged. Rules state that at least 36 holes must be completed. Attempts are being made to reschedule the event for another week in the 2015 Race to Dubai schedule as the European Tour remains committed to both the event and its main  sponsors – BPI

Work to start on the Port of Machico

Work starts tomorrow on the port in Machico, where the local authority is spending €120,000 repairing the storm damage of 2013 – it is hoped that the infrastructure will become operational again within three months. Among the various works planned is the repair of the seven pontoons together with the installation of walkways  from the embankment to connect to these “fingers”, dredging the marina area, and the removal of remaining abandoned vessels and other debris on the seabed.

Doca do Cavacas – tunnel re-opens

Shall be open at 9 and close to 18 hours.The Diario reports that the tunnel at Doca do Cavacas reopened on Saturday, once again connecting the “Centromar” area below Ajuda to the eastern end of the beach at Praia Formosa. Apparently full access has not been restored to the Regency Yacht Bar as the pathway was too badly damaged in last months high tides and will take longer to repair – instead access is being arranged through the gates between the two Pestana hotel units, to bring pedestrians out to the rear of the old Shell complex. The duckboard walkway is perfect between the tunnel and the hotels. The tunnel resumes its normal opening hours, from 9.00 to 18.00.

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