HomeWorldBasque separatists make historic gains but fail to win election outright

Basque separatists make historic gains but fail to win election outright


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A leftwing coalition of Basque separatists partly descended from the political wing of the defunct terrorist group Eta has made historic election gains in the northern Spanish region, but was pipped to first place by the ruling, centrist Basque Nationalist party (PNV).

Although polls had suggested EH Bildu’s transformation into a “catch-all party” through its focus on issues such as housing and healthcare would allow it to leapfrog the PNV, the predicted sharp rise failed to materialise.

The PNV won 27 seats and 35.2% of the vote, while Bildu won 27 seats and 32.5% of the vote. The regional branch of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE), took 12 seats and 14.2% of the vote, while the conservative People’s party (PP) finished fourth with seven seats and 9.2% of the vote.

The leftwing Sumar platform – the junior partner in the national, PSOE-led coalition – won one seat, as did the far-right Vox party. The leftwing Podemos party suffered another electoral disaster, losing all of the six seats it won four years ago.

The most likely outcome is a repeat of the PNV-socialist coalition that has governed the Basque Country for the past eight years. The parties’ combined seats would give the coalition a majority of 39 seats in the 75-seat regional parliament.

The PNV, which has ruled the Basque Country almost continuously since 1980, hailed its latest victory, pointing out that it had won almost 30,000 more votes than its leftwing rivals.

Bildu, meanwhile, claimed the result was a turning point and proof of its broadening appeal to Basque voters. “EH Bildu has obtained the best results in its history: 350,000 votes and 27 seats,” Pello Otxandiano, its candidate for regional president said. “The political map has changed. The change is under way and it is unstoppable.”

Spain’s socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, congratulated the PNV, adding: “The socialist will once again be decisive in the Basque Country.”

Sánchez’s opponents, however, accused him and his party of “whitewashing” Bildu, on whose support the socialists rely in congress. Although Eta abandoned its armed campaign in 2011 and dissolved itself seven years later, many still view Bildu as the heirs of the group’s political wing. Otxandiano was criticised during a campaign debate last week for referring to Eta as an “armed group” rather than a terrorist group.

“No one can ignore the fact that the chief novelty of this election in the victory of the PSOE’s whitewashing of Bildu, which is something no democrat can celebrate,” said the PP leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

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