Current Affairs Politics

Basque And Catalan Nationalists The Real Victors In The Spanish General Election

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?

3 comments on “Basque And Catalan Nationalists The Real Victors In The Spanish General Election

  1. This has been the case with lasting ethno-nationalist terrorist organizations such as the ETA in the Basque Country, and the IRA in Northern Ireland, contrary to, for instance, the FLQ in Quebec or Terra Lliure in Catalonia with a few taking up a hobby of violence. I wouldn’t get too excited. So what is your take on the United States declaring some of them Terrorist? If we are going to call a spade a spade? In addition you are right, there will be no nationhood for Catalonia. Spanish law prohibits it. They have the power for now and the forseable future to back it up. The problem is always going to be money.

    Does this eqation spell more terror in Ireland and Spain now for E.U. countries without any money? Perhaps. Which brings me to the history of the ‘Hammer of Scotland’ and your closing remark about Scotland and a vote in 4 years…Scotland is not going to lose financially for independence. Oh, They want to be free and independent of the U.K. but so did William Wallace. It is called “Learned Helplessness.” Also, the situation in N.E. as I see it. Hundred of years of helplessness, now a learned reflex. How much are they both willing to suffer for it? Because they will.


  2. One last thought,
    It has been tiny gains, of what maybe 7 seats? I wouldn’t call that a flood gate. Oh I wish everyone could feel free, but this is not very realistic in these times. I am not sure I would call them victors.


    • Thanks for the Comments, Christine, very interesting (and sorry for the late replies – work and life interrupts when it shouldn’t).

      Well, of the 18 seats from the Basque Autonomous Community 12 have gone to Basque nationalist parties, an unprecedented majority. Perhaps another 2 are held by individuals with strong “regionalist” leanings, willing to work with Basque nationalist groups. Additionally for Amaiur, on its first election, 7 seats is an incredible result (despite very strong opposition from establishment forces in the region, including conservative Basque and Spanish nationalist ones). There are now strong moves to force early local elections in the Basque Country and very much a realignment of political and social movements in the territory. The departure of ETA, as a military force, seems to have strengthened Basque nationalism, not weakened it.

      Catalonia, more than any other historic nation within Spain, seems set on the road to some form of loose federal arrangement with the Spanish state (probably very loose). The numbers, the will and the money is there. As it is, politically and linguistically, both nations are increasingly growing poles apart. Certainly young Catalans are the most enthusiastic separatists I’ve ever talked to. Federalism is merely a stepping stone to many of them.

      The SNP project, despite the barrage of British government and nationalist criticism, remains on course. Nothing seems to deviate it (and believe me, the establishment in Britain has pulled out all the stops on this one in the last year). A sort of slow federalism within the nations of Europe seems to be taking root while Europe itself is in meltdown. Strange. As the EU projects falters the clamour for recognition by sub-national groups grows.

      ETA and terrorism. Hmmm. When Franco was in charge ETA were regarded as freedom fighters by everyone except the governments of Europe who happily dealt with that monstrous old man. When democracy came to Spain it was very slow to come to the Basque Country and was continuously blocked and manipulated by the Spanish state. 20% of Basques and rising vote for a political party that backs ETA? Solution? Ban the political party. Those who support Basque freedom through democracy, not violence, are gaining in popularity? Send in the GAL death squads (thus ensuring, ironically, that the peace advocates turn back to the militants).

      Its a complex history.


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