Spain: 100,000 vote for banned slate in Basque Country

Voters in Spain’s northern Basque country March 1 ended 29 years of rule by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), leaving the way open for prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s socialists to lead a new government in the region. But supporters of outlawed Basque parties say that without the banning of their slate, the nationalist forces would be the majority in the regional parliament. They assert that more than 100,000 people voted for the banned candidates as a symbolic protest.

Although no single party won an overall majority, the defeat of the PNV, led by currrent regional prime minister Juan José Ibarretxe, marked an historic first. Nationalist parties have governed the Basque Country since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. The PNV has ruled since 1980, when autonomous regional institutions were re-established for the first time since the establishment of the Franco dictatorship in 1939. The Basque Country’s Socialist leader, Patxi Lòpez, who saw his party increase its representation in the 75-seat Basque parliament from 18 to 24 MPs, is best placed to become the regional prime minister. (Irish Times, March 3; Euskal Herria News, BBC News, The Guardian, March 2)

See our last post on the Basque struggle.

  1. Basque activists charged for political work
    Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon officially charged 44 Basque pro-independence activists with “membership of terrorist organization” March 21. All have been accused of being members of banned political parties. The “offenses” include holding press conferences and public meetings. Such attacks on political activism and freedom of speech and association have been recently denounced by the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur. (Euskal Herria News, March 22)