31 May 2007 Edition

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International : Democracy Spanish style

Basque parties beat the ban


If the calculation made by Herri Batasuna’s spokesperson Pernando Barrena is correct and the future of the Basque peace process was actually dependent on the number of votes that the Basque pro-independence movement could win in local government elections, then a resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country is close at hand.
On Sunday 27 May, the political party EAE-ANV – the only pro-independence group ‘allowed’ to stand candidates for the Basque local elections  – became the third political force in the Basque Country. The results have been hailed as ‘extraordinary’ by Barrena and Joseba Permach, given that they have been achieved despite the four year ban on Batasuna and after Spanish courts declared some 400 pro-independence candidate lists illegal. In the recent local elections, Batasuna called on their supporters to vote for ANV.
The banning of the candidate lists meant that in many villages and towns, citizens saw their votes voided during the count. In total, including those void votes, the Basque pro-independence movement may have obtained as many as 187,000 votes in the four Basque Provinces currently under Spanish rule.
This represents approximately 15 percent of the total vote and, in any normal democratic system, should have been translated into the election of 719 councillors. However, due to the banning of many lists, only 437 of the candidates will be ‘allowed’ to take their seats in the local governments.
The best results were achieved in Gipuzkoa, where ANV has seen over three hundred councillors elected – although just 193 were permitted to take their seats, by the Spanish courts. Because of the high support for the party, the pro-independent left will be holding the lord mayoralty in a number of towns and villages.
Of course the real question is what would have happened if the elections had actually been democratic. ANV decided to present their own candidates after the Spanish government called on the courts to ban local lists presented by political activists, as they included former members of banned political party Batasuna. ANV has also suffered the banning of some of their candidates’ lists by Spanish courts.
Despise the banning and the political repression suffered by those who support the right to self-determination of the Basque people, ANV obtained 73,000 votes, while 114,000 were declared void because they included the banned lists of candidates. Furthermore, ANV now holds the majority of local government seats in 31 out of the 97 councils where their candidates were allowed to run for election in the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community – Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba. The party also has councillors elected in another 62 councils in this autonomous territory.
In Gipuzkoa, ANV managed to regain some of the councils that were lost following the banning of Batasuna by Spanish courts. Out of the twenty-two councils controlled by Batasuna, ANV regained nineteen. ANV has become the leading political force in a total of 23 of the 44 councils where it was allowed to put forward candidates. In Bizkaia, ANV is now in third place and fifth in Araba.
So much for modern democracy.  


 News in Brief


On Monday May 28, on the eve of the inauguration of the new president Umaru Yar’Adua, Nigerian trade unions began a two-day general strike in protest at the outcome of last month’s fraudulent elections. The two main opposition candidates have challenged the results in court.


Five women and a married man, all Roman Catholics, have been ordained as priests and deacons by a female Catholic bishop in Toronto, Canada. However, the Vatican says it will not recognise either the ordinations or the group carrying them out. The ordination ceremony was held at a Protestant church on the outskirts of Toronto known for its liberal views.


apan’s Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka has died in hospital on Monday 28 May after apparently committing suicide. The 62-year-old was found hanged in his Tokyo apartment hours before he was to face questions in parliament over his links to a political funding scandal. Opposition MPs had been calling for his resignation over ‘unexplained expenses’ and other financial irregularities.


British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell and singer Richard Fairbrass were attacked by anti-homosexual protesters in Moscow during a gay rights march on Sunday May 27, as they attempted to deliver a petition to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, demanding the right to stage public marches. Tatchell, Fairbrass and two European Parliament deputies were among 31 people detained by Russian police. Tatchell described how he was “knocked to the ground, kicked and beaten”, and the police then arrested him while letting his attackers walk free. Richard Fairbrass, explained that he actually felt sorry for his attacker. “How threatened can he be, how insecure is he to be threatened by a bisexual pop singer who’s most famous for singing I’m too sexy?”, he mused. Italian MEP Marco Cappato was kicked by an anti-gay rights protester and then arrested when he demanded police protection. Another MEP, Volker Beck from Germany, was also detained, along with the leader of GayRussia, Nikolai Alexeye v.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone deplored the violence, as did the mayors of Paris and Rome. Livingstone wrote to Moscow’s Mayor Luzhkov voicing “deep concern” and urged him to get all charges against Tatchell and fellow demonstrators lifted. He also urged Luzhkov to lift the ban on the Gay Pride parade in Moscow. Luzhkov has called homosexuality “satanic” and says he will never allow gay rights parades in the Russian capital.

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