I thought it would be good to look at how other stateless nations on the path to independence voted in the European Parliament elections yesterday.
The big news in Catalunya is that the ERC, the Catalan Republican Left, has topped the poll in Catalunya for the first time in the post-Franco era, pushing CiU into second place.
On the right of the political spectrum, the Catalan nationalist (although only recently pro-independence) CiU has always been comfortably ahead of the Spanish nationalist PP. But on the left of the political spectrum ERC has generally played second fiddle to the Spanish nationalist PSC. Although they narrowly beat the PSC in the last Catalan parliament election, they came second to CiU.
So things still look good for the independence referendum on 9 November.
This is a picture of what I would like to see happen in Wales. Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist left, is in a similar position to that which ERC used to hold: always playing second fiddle to Labour, the British nationalist left. Things have now swung the other way in Catalunya, and the same could happen in Wales with Plaid.
In the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community, the picture is similar, but with left and right reversed. The EAJ-PNV, the Basque nationalist right traditionally outperforms the Spanish nationalist right of the PP, and has done so again by 27% to 10%. It is only in the past few years that the pro-independence left has got its act together (under various names) but the current EH Bildu has comfortably outperformed the PSOE by 23% to 13%.
So things also look good for Basque independence, however I don't expect much to happen in the immediate future. It's probably best for the Basques not to make waves and wait to see what happens in Catalunya. But, besides that, it might well be counter-productive for the three provinces to make any move without first re-uniting with Nafarroa.
In Nafarroa, the fourth Basque province south of the Pyrenees, EH Bildu have done remarkably well with 20% of the vote. The Basque nationalist right in Nafarroa has never been particularly well-established, tending to be allied with the PP when not part of it, and preferring to paint itself as Nafarroan rather than Basque (the situation is similar in Galicia, Valencia and the Balearics). The EAJ-PNV did stand but only got 2% of the vote.
The Spanish State
In terms of these European elections, the Spanish State elects on the basis of a single list, therefore the situation is complicated by alliances that tend to change at each European election. But this is what happened this time round:
• The ERC stood with other pro-self-determination parties of the left in Catalunya as L'Esquerra pel Dret a Decidir, and won 2 seats.
• The Catalan and Basque nationalist parties of the right, CiU and EAJ-PNV stood as Coalición por Europa, and won 3 seats.
• EH Bildu turned to BNG, the Galician nationalist left, to stand as Los Pueblos Deciden, and won 1 seat.
6 nationalist seats out of 54 in total is actually a very good performance; perhaps 7 if Primavera Europea, which includes Compromís, the small and relatively new Valencian nationalist party, is counted. This is much better than Plaid Cymru and the SNP's combined total of 3 out of 70 ... or 4 out of 73 if we include Sinn Féin's win in the Six Counties.
There were federal, regional and European elections in Belgium yesterday. The Flemish nationalist party, N-VA, did exceptionally well in all three. They got 32.6% of the Federal Parliament vote (up 4.4%), 31.9% of the Flemish Parliament vote (up 18.8%) and 26.7% (up 16.8%) of the European Parliament vote.
After the last federal elections in 2010 there was an impasse lasting 541 days before a federal government could be formed ... something which only went to show that Belgium doesn't really need a federal government to function, because so much of the real power is already exercised at regional level.
In the end, the N-VA, even though it was the largest party in 2010, was squeezed out of power by a coalition of nearly all the other parties. The N-VA took the view that it was better not to compromise on the more substantial constitutional reform they wanted, and let the other parties implement a modest sixth round of reform. Bart de Wever's stance appears to have been vindicated, and their success now will inevitably lead to a stronger seventh round of constitutional reforms which will further increase Flemish autonomy and weaken Belgium as a political entity. The idea is that, "Slowly but surely, Belgium will very gently disappear."
Constitutional reform (the N-VA's bottom line in forming a federal government) should be quicker this time round, not so much because other parties will be any more willing to work with the N-VA, but because they probably only need to hammer out a package with a couple of other parties, rather than with half a dozen of them.
We should bear in mind that although the N-VA is a nationalist party which wants to see the break up of Belgium, it is unashamedly a party of the right. So I support the first aim, even though I don't support the policies they would implement if they were in government in an independent Flanders. But that's democracy.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the gulf is to watch the video below.
Pass the sick bucket, please. Bart de Wever is pretty chummy with David Cameron too.
I wonder if the Tories realize the inconsistency of supporting the party which wants independence for Flanders and the break up of Belgium, while at the very same time being against independence for Wales and Scotland and the break up of the UK?
Actually, I'm sure they do; but reckon on nobody in the mainstream media being willing to hold them to account for it.