Spain: Socialists take Basque Country amid widespread abtentionism

With a boycott of the March 9 election called by parties barred from participation because of their presumed links to the armed separatist group ETA, abstentionism in Spain’s Basque Country was at 35%—ten points higher than the national average. Elections in the three provinces that make up the semi-autonomous Basque region (Álava, Biscay and Guipúzcoa), the Socialist Party for the first time won power, ousting the long-ruling Basque Nationalist Party (PNV)—a “moderate” party which was not among those barred. The March 7 slaying of Isaias Carrasco, a former Socialist town councilor in Mondragón (known in Basque as Arrasate) was widely attributed to ETA.

Thousands marched to condemn the attack in Arrasate/Mondragón and other towns in the Basque Country. Carrasco’s widow and daughters led the march in Mondragón, carrying a banner reading “For freedom, no ETA.” Basque regional premier Juan José Ibarretxe also took part in the march, which was supported by most local political parties—but not the those recently outlawed.

Nationally, the elections returned Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to power. The Socialists also took Catalonia, another semi-autonomous region where separatist sentiment is strong. (AFP, El Universal, Mexico, EiTB24, Bilbao, March 10)

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