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An ‘historic’ change for Basques, says Spanish press

Text by Adeline PERCEPT

Latest update : 2009-05-05

For the first time in 30 years, Spain’s Basque regional parliament will put itself in the hands of a Socialist head of government who is not part of the nationalist movement. The Spanish press regards this as an “historic” moment.

May 5 has become an “historic day” for the Spanish Basque country. That expression was used by all the Spanish newspapers and, exceptionally, the Basque region’s ruling Socialist Party and the Popular Party are actually in agreement on this matter.

 

On Tuesday, Socialist Patxi Lopez, a close confidante of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist government, became the first ever “Lehendakari” – autonomous head of state of the Basque country – who does not have a nationalist platform.

 

Those who stand to lose from the new political configuration are the Basque National Party (PNV), the moderate separatist party of Juan José Ibarretxe, who led the region for more than 30 years. Though ahead in regional elections, with his party holding 30 seats in the parliament, Ibarretxe was still short of an absolute majority – a godsend for the Socialist Party, who gained control of this troubled but wealthy northeastern region bordering France.

 

Moreover, Patxi Lopez’s party also reached an agreement with both the conservative Popular Party and the centrist party UPyD, to obtain a total of 39 parliamentary seats. This alliance – a first in Spain – is particularly stunning in a nation where socialists and conservatives are always at odds.

 

How can this alliance stay intact? None of the papers posed this question Tuesday, instead focusing on Lopez’s fresh outlook and his spirit of “hope.” The centre-left newspaper El Pais and its centre-right competitor El Mundo explained that this alliance is a blow to Basque independence, and above all, to ETA. It is an alliance “to obtain peace,” say the two newspapers. Indeed, in Basque country, the socialists and conservatives in power share the same will to bring a stop to ETA.

 

Only the Basque publication Gara offers a dissenting voice. The daily described the change of power as a “usurpation.”

 

The radical separatist minority appears very divided on how to stand against the new government. Some put their hope with ETA, whilst others call for negotiation with the government. Whichever the case, the independent radical unions LAB and ELA have called for a general strike on May 13 in the Basque country. This will be the first hurdle for Patxi Lopez.

 

Date created : 2009-05-05

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