Friday, September 29

Winds of change in the political cycle in Euskadi with the “tide” of EH Bildu eating ground at the PNV

In the informative special of ETB-2, the Spanish-language channel of the Basque public radio and television, the production has cut the intervention of the leader of the PNV, Andoni Ortuzar, to give way to the reflection of the scrutiny of Arnaldo Otegi, that of EH Bildu. The Basque Country comes out of the 2023 municipal and regional elections with the aroma of a change in the political cycle and although, in pure theory, the PNV has won with 322,000 votes (31%) against 297,000 of the sovereignist coalition (29%) the faces of the first they were of concern and those of the seconds of celebration and satisfaction. EH Bildu, whom the right has made the protagonist of the campaign day in and day out and whom the PNV, being the first force, had identified and fattened as its only rival -if they win “the streets will be full of garbage again”- , has won more councilors (1,050 to 981), has achieved a historic victory in Vitoria and another comfortable lead in Gipuzkoa. But, in addition, it has tied in Donostia and has even allowed itself to gain ground against the indomitable PNV of Bilbao, the only capital in Spain in which the same party has always won in democracy.

The defeats in Hondarribia, Alonsotegi or Zambrana, three warnings to the management and corruption for the PNV


“Until Oyón”, an exultant Otegi has exclaimed in reference to the comfortable victory in the last corner of Euskadi, a town close to Logroño, where he was imprisoned until 2016. EH Bildu has obtained in the municipal and regional elections of Álava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Navarra, a historic result that even improves that of its arrival in 2011, both qualitatively and quantitatively (there were 276,000 ballots for what was simply called Bildu in the Basque Autonomous Community at the time). Added to the four constituencies in which it concurs, they are the first municipalist force, as they have highlighted.

The success has been such that in a central nightclub in Vitoria Rocío Vitero, representative of a new EH Bildu less linked to the traditional Abertzale left -she is the daughter of migrants from Zamora and her language is Spanish-, has not hesitated to dance although, in pure political logic, it will be very difficult to be the first female mayor in the history of Vitoria, since she has achieved 7 of 27 mayors, the current bipartisan PNV and PSE-EE has 12 and the PP, with 6, has already said for being active and Passively, he will not allow a nationalist errand in the Basque capital. Of course, Euskadi breaks a new glass ceiling and for the first time will have women elected at least in the councils of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, as well as in Vitoria. Until now there had only been one historical exception in the Franco regime, that of Pilar Careaga.

One year after the Basque autonomous communities, the PNV has suffered a notable wear and tear even in Bilbao and Bizkaia in a context of mobilizations for the state of Basque public health or the entry into prison for the largest case of corruption known in the Basque Country, the ‘Miguel case’. However, another phase will be that of governance. The PSE-EE, institutional partner of the peneuvistas in most institutions, still guarantees majorities -although no longer always absolute- in places like Álava or Gipuzkoa, as well as in Bizkaia, of course. In Vitoria, on the other hand, it will have to be the PNV that decides if it corresponds to the Socialists promoting Maider Etxebarria as an alternative to Vitero.

Seriously, Ortuzar has been clear in his first assessment of the results: “We have taken note.” The analysis made by the main Basque party is that low participation has conditioned the results. They understand that they have not lost votes towards other options, but that they have stayed at home. The summary in a few words could be synthesized with the phrase ‘others have not gone up, we have been the ones who have gone down’. However, in private some voices speak of “terrible host.” This is the case of Vitoria, where the party changed the person who gave it the first victory in the capital in 2019 since 1995, Gorka Urtaran, and has fallen with Beatriz Artolazabal to fourth place. The party has received notices for its management in Hondarribia, in Alonsotegi or even in the symbolic small town of Zambrana in Álava.

With all the “bittersweet” flavor, Ortuzar has asked to “celebrate” the victories in Álava -closer than expected for Ramiro González-, in Donostia -by just a few hundred votes- or in Bizkaia -less clear than desired-. In Gipuzkoa, the president of the territorial apparatus, Joseba Egibar, has made his own reading, has stated that the party has fought in worse places and has warned that it will not happen like in 2011. The PNV is going to seek support to unseat Parliament foral to the most voted force. Eider Mendoza -he has said- will begin to explore alternative majorities from this Monday that, by the numbers, would go through the PP of Mikel Lezama, the exponent of the improvement of the ‘popular’ in the whole of Euskadi.

The PNV, in general, has left 80,000 votes with respect to the call four years ago. Participation, in any case, has played an important factor. It has barely exceeded 60%. It has been the worst data since 1991, when it stayed at 59.2%. With low numbers, it is easier to exceed the minimum thresholds to enter the institutions, which are 5% in town halls and 3% in General Meetings. For this reason, another of the headlines on Basque electoral night is the irruption of Vox with a seat in the Alava provincial Parliament for the Vitoria constituency. He has already entered with a seat also for Álava in the 2020 regional elections, where voters barely represented 50% of the census. Otegi, in his reading of the numbers, has warned that his coalition is a “tide” that is rising little by little. Of course, he has not yet defined the figure that will stand up to Iñigo Urkullu -if he continues- since his benchmark, Maddalen Iriarte, was his great bet to achieve victory in Gipuzkoa.

In the PSE-EE, in a context of loss of territorial power for the PSOE, a positive reading is made. Eneko Andueza has been happy with the “step” of having maintained representation quota in general and having improved in some places. The Socialists retain their historical strongholds, such as Irún, Eibar, Ermua or Portugalete -now with an absolute majority- and dye Muskiz, Trapagaran or Zambrana, among others, red. Andueza assures in his first call as party leader in Euskadi that they are the “first force” among the “non-nationalist left”. He has also highlighted the result of Maider Etxebarria, about to win for the second time in Vitoria and with real options to govern if the pieces of the pacts fit together. In global figures, the PSE-EE continues to be the third force with around 16% and achieves 207 councilors. However, not all are good prospects: in Álava, for example, it has not obtained any seats in the regional councils outside of Vitoria.

In the PP they were already clear before the end of the count that the numbers were good. From a national perspective, because they have seen these elections as a first round of the general elections. And, locally, because the general context has been rising. In Vitoria they have gone to the PNV. Without Vox’s 4,000 votes, the PP would probably have won in the Basque capital. In Gipuzkoa, Mikel Lezama has tripled the already usual ground for the PP in the forales. His three seats will be decisive in the governability of the territory, with the act of Carlos García in Durango, where EH Bildu has governed with the support of the left, which has paid for his division. In general, the PP advances almost two points before the appointment that reports the best figures, the general ones. It has 71 councilors and has won in Alava towns in the Rioja Alavesa such as Laguardia or Labastida.

For Elkarrekin, a coalition of Podemos, IU, Berdeak Equo and Alianza Verde, it has not been a good night. The confluence goes down one more step and their victories of 2015 and 2016 in the generals are increasingly far away. A piece of information: in the democratic era, 59 electoral calls have been held -with those of this Sunday-. Until now, the PNV had won 52 times, the PSE-EE twice and Podemos twice, more than the Abertzale left or the PP, with one and no victory, respectively. Now, this space looks to the future with Sumar. The leader of the IU Íñigo Martínez has indicated that a pole of the left, republican, feminist and environmentalist is still necessary. From 7.49% in 2019 it falls to 5.74%, which translates into 46 councilors. The local map also leaves alternative victories, of independent candidacies. Also that Usansolo Herria has won two seats in the plenary session of Galdakao, which has yet to be presented because the segregation already agreed upon has not yet been completed and the elections could not be held in the new town, number 252 in Euskadi.