Basque political scenario

The Basque Government, in charge of the legislative authority, chooses the “Lehendakari” (the Basque Government President/Prime Minister), approves the budget for the autonomous community of the Basque Counry, and imposes and controls the actions of the Basque Autonomous Executive. It represents the Basque citizens and has its central office in Vitoria, capital of Euskadi (Basque Country). At  present, and since the autonomous elections of 2012, the PNV  (Basque Nationalist Party), is the party which governs in the Basque  Country. In the Basque Parliament they have 27 members of parliament. The second political force with 21 seats is Euskal Herria Bildu (Bildu). Then comes the Basque Socialist Party (PSE-EE)with 16 seats, the People’s Party (PP)with 10 seats, and the Progressive and Democratic Union (UP&D) with 1 seat.

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) was founded by Sabino Arana Goiri in 1895. The party, with a christian and independent inspired basis, extended throughout the Basque Country, and presently has some 30,000 active members, being the largest party in the Basque Country. The PNV has always governed the Basque Country, with the exception of Patxi Lopez (Socialist Party) from 2009-2012. Throughout history this party has defended the right to autodetermination and the union of the seven provinces, or counties – Navarra, Iparralde (French Basque Country) and Euskadi (Basque Country). The Statute of Gernika, firstly as the way to reinstate the Basque “Fueros” (system of laws) and its historical singularity and identity for the Basque Country, paved the way for subsequent future attempts at autodetermination. At present, the PNV is defined as a non-denominational and humanist party. The origin of ETA is linked to the youth movement of PNV, EGI, from where came those who later founded the terrorist. They considered the nationalist party was acting without the necessary forcefulness against Franco in defence of Basque identity. The initial  comprehension of the PNV towards ETA was  to distance itself . This distance was maintained during several decades until they finally condemned the actions of the ETA organisation which had become more and more extreme. Traditionally, the PNV has been blamed for its lack of conclusiveness in their condemnation of ETA and their supporters as a problem for their political aspirations, even though the PNV has always defended the democratic process and respect for human rights to achieve them. It was not until the end of the 90′s when the PNV made their first acts of recognition and remembrance towards the victims of ETA. In the last few years the party, under the leadership of Iñigo Urkuillo who has led them from 2007 to 2012, has brought about a great deal of the movements to ease not only the legalisation of the radical left wing but with that, contributing to the groundwork to facilitate the dismantling of ETA.

EH Bildu (Euskal Herria Bildu) is a coalition which emerged in 2012 and is formed from Eusko Alkartasuna, Aralar, Alterniba and Independents. The coalition emerged from the necessity of the radical left wing to integrate itself into the democratic process. It uses the symbols of traditional democratic parties like EA, Aralar and Alterniba. For the make-up of their electoral roll, the groups that form the coalition negotiated the percentage of representatives that each one of them would have within it. It was agreed that the radical left wing would decide 60% of the names on the roll. Eusko Alkartasuna 20%, Aralar 13%, and Alterniba 7%. These three groups would yield the leadership and the main role to the Independents, the left wing leaders who sympathise with the plans of Herri Batasuna, the political arm of ETA. Among those who declared the setting-up of the coalition were to be found ex-members of Batasuna who demanded the vote for Bildu. One of these ex-members, Rufino Etxeberria was the sponsor in 1993 of the Oldartzen report, or “the socialisation of suffering”. One of the MPs is Hasier Arraiz, President of Sortu, a political party twinned with EH Bildu, whose general secretary, Arnaldo Otegi, is a terrorist prisoner condemned for belonging to ETA. Euskal Herria Bildu opposes the arrest of ETA members who have search and capture warrants. The heavyweights of the coalition, who set the tendency, refuse to condemn the history of bloodshed caused by ETA and defend that more than 800 assassinations by the terrorist group were committed in a noble cause.

The Socialist Party of Euskadi (PSE-EE), the Basque branch of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) – the Spanish Workers’ Socialist Party, is the most important non-nationalist social-democratic force in the Basque Country and was the first party to spring up in the autonomous community. Defenders of the Statute of Autonomy and the pluralarity of the Basque society, their ministers and leaders have been brutally assassinated, and threatened, by ETA. Between 1985 and 2012, they backed the PNV in the Basque Government until the Pact of Lizarra- Estella between nationalism and ETA, which gave rise to the Executives of Juan Jose Ibarretxe and his proposal for the autodetermination of the Basque people. Between 2009 and 2012, the socialists were in charge, the first non-nationalist Government of Euskadi, with Patxi Lopez at the head and the parliamentary support of the People’s Party – PP (non-nationalist right wing party). They managed to impose certain important changes, such as, “zero tolerance” against posters and graffiti in favour of ETA in the streets, and the moving of terrorist victims’ testimonies to the school classrooms (a project aimed at 14-18year olds). With respect to ETA and the left wing, there are two sides within the PSE-EE. The one of maximum severity, personified by Nicolas Redondo Terreros (1997-2002) PP member, and the other of negociating possibilities, headed by his successor, Lopez (general secretary from then until the present), and, above all the president of the PSE, Jesus Eguiguren, in the Loiola talks (2006-2007)- the last attempt to negotiate the end of the terrorist group. Today, Eguiguren is the main exponent of the party’s Guipuzcoan sensitivesness, the most hit by terrorism, but at the same time, the most inclined to give way to the radical left wing, which defends the political project of ETA that is, peace through impunity.

The PP – People’s Party – of the Basque Country is a section of the People’s Party of Spain, nationally formed in 1989 and is the successor to the People’s Alliance, a party which emerged in the Spanish Transition period after Franco died in 1975. It was mainly formed by ex-ministers of the dictator, Francisco Franco. It defines itself as conservative and “centre reformist” and is the non-nationalist right wing party in Euskadi. In the whole of Spain, the PP has over 700,000 active members, being the party with the most members in Spain. In Euskadi, since the autonomous elections in 2012, it has been the fourth force in the Basque Parliament behind the PSE-EE, EH Bildu and PNV. The history of the Basque PP, since its inaugurataion in Euskadi, has been one of fear and threats from the terrorist organisation, ETA. The terrorist group has always had, on its main hit-list, the leaders and active members of the Basque PP party, This has converted it, along with the PSE, in the political party which has suffered the most from the bestiality of ETA, The member of parliament and the San Sebastián town councillor, Gregorio Ordoñez was the first political assassination by ETA since 1984when the group had killed the socialist senator, Enrique Casa Vila. They shot Gregorio Ordoñez in 1995 which caused a real social upheaval in the Basque Country. From that moment, Basque politicians threatened by ETA started to employ private bodyguards to avoid attacks. The Basque PP condemns ETA terrorism and opposes the plans of the radical left wing. In 2009 the PP decided to offer a historic support to the PSE-EE after the autonomous elections, thus ensuring the socialists could lead the Basque Government. Both parties signed a political agreement named “Basis for democratic change to the service of  Basque Society”. Between 2009 and 2012, this pact gave rise to the policy “zero tolerance” towards the legitimisation of street terrorism.

The Progressive and Democratic Union Party (UP&D) in the Basque Country is a section  of the Spanish UP&D party, a national political party that arose in 2007 with the objective of constituting an alternative to the national bi-partyism of the PP and PSOE. It defines itself as liberally “progressive and transversal” and, as a political party whose symbols of identity are constitutionalism, laicity and “non-nationalism”. Its commencement is linked to the citizens’ fight against ETA terrorism and its followers. The UP&D started on 19 May 2007 in the Guipuzcoan city of San Sebastián (Basque Country), when half a hundred people, many of whom were Basques, decided on the necessity to form a new political party. After its conclave they agreed to put into action “Plataforma Pro” (UP&D) an entity in charge of convoking and reunioning those who considered it necessary to establish the bases for a new political party. From then on, Plataforma Pro (UP&D) considered that this new political party had to deal with the most important  problems in Spanish society. Among them, to take a relevant role in the necessity to fight against ETA and the importance of opposing exclusive and radical nationalism. UP&D emerged from this thought, supported by and, including founded by distinguished members of Basta Ya – a citizens’ initiative – that since its founding, has opposed terrorism in whatever form, supporting the victims and defending the Statute of Law, the Spanish Constitution and the Statute of the Autonomy of the Basque Country.  In the autonomous elections of 2009, UP&D obtained a seat in the Basque Parliament thanks to the support of 5900 citizens. In the elections of 2012 they maintained their seat but lost half a thousand votes.