Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
With the results from the Spanish general election now in it seems that the opposition centre-right Partido Popular (PP) has achieved the substantial gains predicted by the polls, taking an overall majority in the Spanish parliament. The governing centre-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) of Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has seen its vote drop dramatically as the Spanish electorate punished Rubalcaba for the percieved failures of his government in the face of the global financial crisis. However the most interesting results have come from the autonomous regions of Spain where nationalist and regionalist parties have made significant gains.
In the Basque Country the conservative nationalist party, Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea (EAJ), seems to be continuing the loss of support to more progressive nationalist forces that began with the surprise local election victories of the Bildu coalition of centre and left-wing parties earlier this year. This time the challenger is another new alliance, Amaiur, which has stunned the local political scene by taking seven seats in the Spanish parliament compared to the EAJ’s five (a loss of one). Despite this excellent result for Amaiur, some have pointed to the lack of a single, unified party as a possible sign of future weakness for the progressive nationalist movement in its contest with its older, establishment rival (the draconian banning in 2002 by the Spanish state of Batasuna, the electorally popular Basque nationalist party claimed to be the political wing of ETA, left separatist voters without a party of their own, a void filled by the smaller groupings who now make up the new alliances of Bildu and Amaiur). There is already widespread expectations of an early regional election in the Basque Autonomous Community (which was governed by the PNV until recently) which will probably see genuine separatist organisations like Amaiur gaining even greater ground.
In Catalonia, where nationalist and regionalist parties have dominated politics and local government for the last decade, the gains were even more marked. In contrast to the Basque Country though, here it was the established nationalist party, Convergència i Unió (CiU), that gained the most, increasing its seats from ten to sixteen. Mixing nationalism and regionalism, it’s soft stance on Catalan independence coupled with a much harder position on demands for far greater autonomy (but not full separation) from Madrid has appealed to a broad – and increasing – swath of Catalan voters. On the other hand the local challenger for the nationalist vote, the progressive left-wing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), made little headway with its separatist message keeping its three existing seats with a largely unchanged vote.
Meanwhile in Galicia, another autonomous region, the nationalist collation grouping, Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG), kept its two previous seats, continuing the pressure from one of the smaller national groups of Spain for greater recognition and local self-governance (albeit within the Spanish state).
As Scotland faces a vote on independence in the next four years it is interesting, and instructive, to see what is happening elsewhere in the European Union. From the SNP to Amaiur to CiU, are we seeing a new movement amongst the “subject peoples” of Europe?