Yesterday's elections in Euskadi

Elections to the Basque Autonomous Community were held yesterday. In many ways, not much changed. The EAJ-PNV were the largest party before, and will remain in power as the largest party now. However I think it's worth looking at the result in a little more detail to see what light it sheds on the constitutional relationship between Euskadi and Spain.

October 2012

EAJ-PNV ... 27 seats ... 34.2%
EH Bildu ... 21 seats ... 24.7%
PSE-EE ... 16 seats ... 18.9%
PP ... 10 seats ... 11.6%
UPyD ... 1 seats ... 1.9%

September 2016

EAJ-PNV ... 29 seats (+2) ... 37.7% (+ 3.5%)
EH Bildu ... 17 seats (-4) ... 21.2% (-3.5%)
Elkarrekin Podemos ... 11 seats (+11) ... 14.8% (+14.8%)
PSE-EE ... 9 seats (-7) ... 11.9% (-7.0%)
PP ... 9 seats (-1) ... 11.6% (-1.4%)
Cs ... 0 seats (n/c) ... 2% (+ 2%)

Basque Parliamentary Election Results

It's worth noting that each of the three provinces of the BAC have 25 seats each, even though Araba with a population of 322,500 is much smaller than Bizkaia with 1.16m and Gipuzkoa with 715,000. This means that there isn't an exact correlation between seats and the percentage of the vote won. There is also a 3% threshold in each province.

I think it's probably best to look at this from the perspective of the left and right sides of the political spectrum.


There are two main parties on the right: the Basque nationalist EAJ-PNV, and the Spanish nationalist PP. Additionally, I would consider the centrist Cs to lean more right than the left, and they are also fierce Spanish nationalists, but they failed to win any seats in this election.

Overall the right-leaning vote has gone up a little, but not much. The EAJ-PNV's increase is offset by the PP's decrease, continuing the trend of the Basques preferring their own nationalist parties over the Spanish nationalist parties.


On the left, things have been changed quite dramatically by the entry of Podemos, fighting as Elkarrekin Podemos. They have risen from nowhere to gain 11 seats with 14.8% of the vote. This has come at the expense of the other two left-leaning parties, the Basque nationalist EH Bildu and the Spanish nationalist PSE-EE, but not equally. The PSE-EE's losses have been much greater than those of EH Bildu.

To understand what this might mean in terms of Euskadi's relationship with Spain, we need to look at Elkarrekin Podemos' policy platform, which is here. With apologies for the rough translation this includes:

• We support the Basque Country as a nation, which does not imply any contradiction with our commitment to Spain as a multinational, multilingual state.

• We advocate the holding of a referendum in which citizens can ... choose between alternatives, including separation from the rest of the state.

In a nutshell, this echoes the position of Podemos with regard to Catalunya: namely that they are in favour of referendums which include the option of independence, even though they would prefer to see Spain change to become a federation of nations.


So across the political spectrum, there are now three parties which support the people of Euskadi having the right to decide their future in a referendum which includes independence as an option. Together, these parties won nearly three-quarters of the vote. That is too great a percentage for even Madrid to ignore.

It's harder to say what proportion would vote for independence in such a referendum. First, because it would depend on whether a federal option is on the table and what form it takes. And second, because even though nearly all the EH Bildu vote would be for independence, it is less clear how supporters of the EAJ-PNV would vote. Some definitely want independence, the others would want more autonomy, but might not want to go all the way.

Personally, I find it quite hard to see how the Basques could have more autonomy within Spain. Unlike Catalunya, the three provinces of the BAC and Nafarroa already have almost complete fiscal autonomy. I also find it hard to see Spain agreeing to any form of federalism. They would see it as a slippery slope to independence.

Yet Spain is in a state of political paralysis at present, with parties still unable to form a government in Madrid after a second general election; and one way in which that impasse could be resolved is if one of the two big parties in Spain, the PP and PSOE (through the PSOE is more likely to do so), agreed to a vote on constitutional change in Euskadi and Catalunya in return for support from Podemos and the various Basque and Catalan nationalists. The problem is that they cannot put only the option of federalism to a vote (as the PSOE would probably like) but that independence must be an option too. Yet once that precedent has been allowed, Spain then stands to lose not only Euskadi and Catalunya, but the Balearics as well, perhaps followed in due course by Galicia and Valencia.

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Anonymous said...

Such a shame that it now seems the only way an independent Scotland will come to be is if the English decide to kick the country out of the Union.

As for Wales, there never has been much of a desire for independence but unless the English do something about the Welsh language the country will most probably just continue to tear itself apart.

Plus ça change!

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