Friday, April 17, 2009

Catching up with the Basque elections

I've been meaning to write about the outcome of the latest elections to the parliament in Euskadi*. Since I last checked the news the political parties in the Basque Parliament have gone ahead and formed their new government, and the result is historic but alarming for those who wish to see the advancement of progressive politics and self-determination in Euskal Herria.

A significant development is that the first non-nationalist government for three decades has been formed, despite the elections seeing 8 seats gained for the ruling PNV.

On the face of things, it would seem that the mainstream PNV had a good election, increasing its representation to 30 seats. However, it's coalition partners Eusko Alkartasuna (Plaid Cymru's political equivalent) and Esker Batua (left nationalists who ran alongside pro-nationalist Greens) lost ground, leaving the nationalist bloc without enough seats to govern. EA had a devastating election, losing six seats, and Esker Batua were down two seats. Of the other Basque parties, Aralar (a far-left nationalist party formed as a split from the banned Batasuna) picked up a total of 4 seats (up 3). The end result of this was that even if Aralar decided to join a grand Basque nationalist coalition, the Basque parties could only count 36 seats between them.

The Spanish parties had differing fortunes. The PSOE, Spain's governing party (centre-left), gained 8 percentage points and increased its seats by 6, taking them up to 25. The Popular Party (ex-fascists) continued their ongoing decline, down another 2 seats to 13 and shedding more than 60,000 votes.

Nonetheless, PSOE leader Patxi Lopez looks set to be invested as the next Lehendakari (President) by forming a coalition with the PP. Not quite the equivalent of Labour and the Tories working together in Wales, but still remarkable. Disappointingly, the BBC report suggests that the new coalition will deal with "supposed discrimination to non-Basque speakers". The paramilitary aspect to these elections results and their aftermath is also interesting, as some political parties linked to violence were banned from the elections, and the coalition is pledging to deal with Eta once and for all. The non-nationalist government also means that Aralar, the radicals who reject violence, are left out in the cold, have had their argument with the paramilitary movement weakened.

There are now signifcant concerns that a resurgence in violence might take place. Moderate and peaceful Basque nationalism has been rejected undemocratically twice now when Plan Ibarretxe (a plan for a constitutional referendum) was blocked by the Spanish courts, and with the exclusion of the largest party from the government. Eta have issued a statement claiming that the elections were 'anti-democratic', with the Spanish state deliberately excluding the radical parites that had traditionally held the balance of power. The recession might have an even worse dimension in Euskadi.


  1. Not quite the equivalent of Labour and the Tories working together in Wales, but still remarkable.Are you kidding? The PP and the Socialists hate eachother on a level beyond any UK comparison.

    All the PP are doing is supporting Lopez's investiture. They're not forming a coalition government with PSE-EE as far as I can tell.

  2. An interesting analysis, PC, but the most important issue is perhaps the banning of Basque political parties and the lack of democratic voice given to the approximately 100,000 who deliberately voted for a banned party, D3M (Democracia por los 3 Milliones), who appeared on the ballot paper.

    Although not as large a show of support as usual for the extremist nationalist party(ies) (a third down on the number of votes that EHAK had in the previous election), this still would have entitled them to between 6 and 7 seats and perhaps significantly changed the complexion of the parliament, depending on who lost out.