Tomorrow will see the first major elections in Europe since the onset of the global economic crisis. Up to four million voters in Spain will head to the polls to elect governments in the Basque and Galicia regions.
Spanish politics is fairly diverse, particularly at the regional level, where conservatives, social democrats, communists, and separatists all achieve representation. This election will be complicated by the economic crisis (Spain fell into recession last year), infighting within the main conservative Popular Party, corruption allegations and terrorist attacks by Basque separatists.
Since the restoration of democracy in Basque, in 1980, the Lehendakaris (President elected from parliament) has always come from the relatively moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV). The more radical left-wing nationalist parties include the Communist Party, Basque Nationalist Action, Democracia 3 Millone and Askatasuna, all of who have been banned by the Supreme Court due to their connections to the terrorist organisation ETA.
The PNV looks like it will lose its grip on power in Basque with voters flocking to the non-separatist Socialist Party, the regional party allied with Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party who is in government federally. The recession is playing against both the centrist PNV and the Popular Party as it appears the voters trust the centre-left Socialist Party to manage the economy. Another factor in the rising support for the Socialists is their attempt at negotiating with ETA, a critical issue in a campaign that has recently been marred by bombings.
The Basque Parliament consists of 75 members elected using the D’Hondt method of proportional representation which, with a threshold of 3%, favours larger parties. The Socialists are running neck and neck with the PNV in opinion polls but it looks unlikely either party will win an outright majority. The PNV will be hampered by the banning of other separatist parties who have in the past supporting them over anti-independence parties. Polls show that most voters would support a coalition between the Socialists and the PNV but this appears unlikely given the party’s opposing policies regarding Basque autonomy. The most likely outcome is a coalition between the Socialists and the Popular Party which could provide a majority of 40 seats, according to the latest opinion polls. This would be a remarkable result as both parties are historical foes and it would be the first time in thirty years a party firmly against Basque independence would be in power.
Galicia is the other region to go to the polls tomorrow. It looks like a relatively straightforward affair, especially compared to the mess that is Basque politics. The major issues have been the economy and corruption scandals involving the Socialists and the Popular Party. The Socialists, in a coalition with the Galician National Bloc, currently have a very slim majority of 38 seats against the Popular Party’s 37. The Popular Party is hoping that the economic crisis and rising unemployment will create a backlash against the government but recent opinion polls indicate the Socialists will increase their majority by at least one seat. A Socialist victory would reflect voter trust in the government to ride out the economic problems and jeopardise the national leadership of the Popular Party who have historically governed Galicia.
Update: With almost all the votes counted in Galicia, the Popular Party have secured a majority of 39 seats – wresting control back from the Socialist and Galician National Bloc coalition who won 24 seats and 12 seats respectively.
In Basque the Socialists made expected gains, picking up 6 news seats giving them 24 overall against the PNV’s 30. The other nationalist parties won 7 seats collectively. This means that the potential nationalist coalition will be one seat short of a majority. The Popular Party won 13 seats and a new, non-separatist party, the Progress and Democracy Union (UPD) won 1 seat. This could see a potential non-nationalist Socialist-PP-UPD coalition for the first time in Basque history. Negotiations are expecting to begin soon and given the nature of the parties involved (social democrats, conservatives and liberals) they could be a very bumpy ride.
Interesting trivia for today – After the leftist Basque parties were banned, their supporters were told to cast a vote for Demokrazia Hiru Milioi (D3M) even though the ballot would be void. More than a 100,000 voters did so and if you treat their votes as real votes, they would have potentially picked up 7 seats – giving the nationalist coalition a majority.