SPAIN : ELECTIONS IN BASQUE COUNTRY HERALD A SOLUTION OR MORE OF THE SAME?

The Lehendakari (Head) of the Autonomous Basque Government, dissolved the Basque Parliament this week in preparation for the coming elections for the Autonomous Parliaments of Spain, on 13th May. The Basque country shows serious internal divisions, not only between Basques and non-Basques but also within the Basque factions themselves, the PNV, EH and PSV. According to opinion polls, there is a strong possibility that an unlikely coalition between Spain’s two main political parties, PP (Partido Popular – Conservative, in government) and PSOE (Socialist Party, in opposition) could obtain a majority of seats in the Basque Parliament - unlikely because these two parties are historic opponents in Spain’s political framework. The largest of the Basque parties is the PNV (Partido Nacional Vasco), pro-Basque but anti-ETA, the terrorist organisation. ETA’s political wing is EH – Euskal Herritarrok. This party is attracting more and more young radicals into its ranks, radicals who support ETA and claim total independence from Spain for the Basque Country. The Euskal Herritarrok electorate increased at the last election. The third Basque political force is the PSV - Partido Socialista Vasco. A coalition between these three parties is out of the question, since the PSV refuses to sign any agreements with Euskal Herritarrok. This political scenario is a mirror image of the divisions within the Basque Country. The population is divided between Basques and non-Basques, the Basques themselves are divided between integrationists (into Spain) and Secessionists (from Spain). Even the definition of the borders of the Basque Country are under discussion. Exact figures and percentages of those who support which faction will be provided by the next election. ETA, however, is ever-present and proves almost daily that it can strike where, when and how it wants, despite the fact that many of its more senior operators have been imprisoned in recent months. There is no shortage of young volunteers for operational exercises. Curiously, it is ETA which holds an important political influence over these elections. Whatever political grouping forms a new Autonomous Government, it will have to deal with ETA, a force which does not appear to be going away. TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON