PNV loses votes as Communists gain
Juan Jose Ibarretxe's Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) lost 140,000 votes in the Basque elections, which he had turned into a type of national referendum on sovereignty. The answer was a clear No! with the population denying him an absolute majority.
Given that he will be asked to form a government as the national leader, or Lehendakari, as leader of the largest party, Ibarretxe will have to count on the Communists (PCTV) if he wants to have a majority over the other parties. The Partido Comunista de las Tierras Vascas (Communist Party of the Basque Lands) absorbed the votes of the outlawed Herri Batasuna/Euskal Herritarrok, the political mouthpieces of ETA, gaining 9 seats in the national assembly.
Ibarretxe's PNV-EA continues to be the largest party, with 29 seats out of a total of 75, four less than in 2001 and with 140,000 less votes. The second formation is the Socialist Party, (PSE - EE) with 18 seats (five more than in 2001 and with 19,000 more votes). Third is the PP, with 15 seats (four less than in 2001 and with 118,000 less votes), ahead of the PCTV (9 seats), the IU - EB, which maintained its three seats and Aralar, one seat, a splinter from Euskal Herritarrok.
Patxi Lopez, leader of the PSE - EE, declared that these elections signal a "failure of the Ibarretxe Plan" and are a clear victory for the left.
The Ibarretxe Plan
With slightly over 38% of the vote (voter turnout was 69%, ten per cent less than in 2001), the leader of the Basque Nationalist Party cannot claim the popular support he needs to hold influence over Madrid to gain more autonomy for the Basque Country. These hopes, let alone any dreams about independence, have gone up in smoke.
Thus the people of the Basque country have given their support to a decision taken by the Spanish Parliament earlier this year not to endorse a system which introduces Basque citizenship, an independent judiciary/penal system, and presence as an independent state at European Union meetings.
Ibarretxe has always presented himself as a candidate in favour of greater autonomy, but against the political violence which has marked the history of ETA. Ironically, Ibarretxe may now have to turn to those who follow more extremist ideals (PCTV) if he wants to rescue his plan.