Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists are competing for a historic victory in Basque regional elections, as polls show they are running neck-in-neck with the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), in power since 1980.
Juan Jose Ibarretxe, the current president of the Basque region, is relaxed but only on the surface. Undermined by his own allies inside the PNV, the nationalist candidate is being reeled in the polls by Socialist candidate Patxi Lopez.
Lopez wants to put an end to the 29-year rule of the moderate nationalists. The socialists believe that this year may be the year.
“I’m confident that this is the last day before the great change in the Basque country,” says Lopez.
Patxi Lopez’ results will be a test for the Spanish Socialist Party, especially for Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, whose government is in the middle of the storm caused by the economic crisis. It’s also a test for the conservatives of the Popular Party, who’ve been hit at a national level by internal spying and corruption scandals.
“In the Basque country, people vote with the idea that they want to live in freedom, to bring an end to terrorism and the values of the PP have nothing to do with four or five people who may have used our name to get rich,” Antonio Basagoiti, PP candidate for the presidency of the Basque region.
The Spanish judiciary has banned all radical separatist parties that refused to condemn ETA’s violence. Now, the pressure is building. This is the first time since the return to democracy that the “abertzale” have not been allowed to run in a campaign.
“I’m number two on a list whose number one is not here in front of you because she was jailed two weeks ago just for being head of the list,” says Inaki URribarri, a former candidate for the Democracy 3 Million party. “The notion that we’re going to disappear is absurd. We have our work and our life here. And we’re not going to go away.”
ETA made an announcement on Friday in the separatist newspaper Gara, calling the elections anti-democratic and appealing for Basques to void their votes.
Date created : 2009-02-28