10 May 2007 Edition

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International : Pro-independence candidates banned from Basque elections

Attack on democracy

BY SALLY GALLAGHER

In most Western democracies, citizens are supposed to be able to vote for the party that most closely represents their views or their interests, and if that party does not exist, they are entitled to form their own political party and to put forward candidates in the elections. However, if that democracy is Spain, and your interest is the Basques’ right to independence, things are a little different.
Fourteen months ago, the armed Basque organisation, ETA announced a ceasefire to facilitate peace negotiations and a solution to the conflict between the Spanish state and Basques. Since then, little has happened in the way of conflict resolution. The Spanish Socialist government seems to play to the rules of the old conservative administration despite promises of a new beginning. ETA planted a bomb in Madrid’s Barajas airport last December, and since then, despite numerous initiatives and new strategies for dialogue presented by banned political party Batasuna, the impasse in the process has seemingly deteriorated as old, repressive policies are used against the pro-independence left.
The latest move by the Spanish establishment has been to ban pro-independence candidates from taking part in Basque local elections this month. The Supreme Court also decided to suspend 133 local lists of another left-wing nationalist organisation, ANV. The situation is such that in some municipalities, the right-wing Popular Party is the only party allowed to put forward candidates, which will result in the PP controlling the council even if they do not have real mandate from the voters. ANV has decided to take the Supreme Court decision to the Constitutional Court.
Santi Lorente and Ainhoa Irigibel, candidates for the devolved institutions in Nafarroa, pointed out that in 1936, the ANV and PSOE formed a coalition as part of the legally elected Popular Front government and that both parties were banned under Franco’s fascist government. This is why it is “unacceptable that a party that was a victim of fascism becomes now the fascist that bans our political party”.
ANV has called for a national demonstration in Bilbo on Saturday, 12 May to denounce the injustice of the banning of particular lists and the violation of the civil right of citizens to put themselves forward for elections and to vote for the party of their choice.
The Basque pro-independence movement has pointed out that the banning of candidates is effectively “killing the process”. Karmele Aierbe, candidate for one of the lists presented by left wing nationalist movement Abertxale Socialistak – which will not be allowed to put forward any candidates to the elections  – denounced the Socialist Party which it said “has done everything it could to keep the left-wing Basque nationalist movement out of the elections, using judicial and state tools according to their own interests”.
Aierbe also criticised the attitude of the conservative nationalist party PNV, which seems only too happy to be able to run the Basque devolved government for the provinces of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba on its own “to fatten their own business and to introduce a neo-liberal model while taking decisions further removed from the citizens”.


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