21 April 2005 Edition

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Nine seats for Basque independent left

It came as a surprise. From the outset, the presence of the Communist Party of the Basque Lands (EHAK) in last weekend's Basque Parliament elections was unexpected, as was the result it obtained in the Sunday 17 April poll.

EHAK had received the support of the Basuq pro-independence left after Aukera Guztiak (All Options Open) was banned from standing by the Spanish Government because of that group's pro-independence stance. Aukera Guztiak had only been formed because of the banning of the Batasuna party. The new grouping secured 150,188 votes and nine seats in the Basque Parliament.

The main conservative Basque nationalist parties, PNV and EA, got 29 seats — down four and over 140,000 votes from the previous election. That means that even renewing their parliamentary agreement with United Left — which retained its three seats — and reaching out to newcomers Aralar (one seat), they are still be short of the majority they need to comfortably run the Basque Government.

As well as EHAK, the Spanish Socialist Party increased its votes and seats. EHAK obtained nine seats, an increase of two on the number previously held by Batasuna. The Socialists took an extra three seats, taking them to 18 in the new parliament. The right-wing Spanish Popular Party lost four seats.

Initial analysis of the results points to the failure of the criminalisation policy being implemented by the Spanish establishment against the Basque left. EHAK lacked an election programme and ran only in defence of the Basques' right to vote for the political party of their choice, including the pro-independence left.

EHAK's vote surge also shows the recovery of the Basque pro-independence movement after the collapse of the 1998 Lizarra-Garazi negotiation process. It also shows that Batasuna's latest initiatives aimed at building a peace process have won considerable support among the Basque electorate, despite the government's attempts to silence the party.

It will be interesting to see whether the conservative Basque parties will now decide to work with the Basque left or if, once again, they will choose to work with the Spanish parties and ignore the aspirations of the Basque nation.


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