Saturday, September 22, 2012

A strange attractor in Basque politics?

Laura Mintegi (CC by Dabid Martínez)
No opinion polls out yet but almost 300,000 Basques watched yesterday night the electoral TV program in which 30 random citizens made questions to candidate for Lehendakari (Western Basque President) Laura Mintegi from the Leftist-Separatist coalition EH Bildu (a 6 min. synthesis can be watched here[es]).

I was one of those who watched (although admittedly only parts of it, and mostly because there was absolutely no alternative in all the TV range of channels we have at home). And I would like to share here some impressions and opinions:

To begin with, I did not wholly dislike the program format: the citizens had been selected by a specialist marketing company to represent the real range of Basque citizens (i.e. almost all were working class) and only the five "Internet questions", of unclear selection, looked like politically manipulated by the direction of the channel. In fact those were the only ones asking about ETA and such, which does not seem to be among the priorities of the real Basque citizens.

Actually most of the questions asked had to do with the economic and social crisis that we live, or rather survive, through, and that is by default ideal for a left wing candidate without previous government responsibility (thanks to the political persecution of the Spanish occupation regime). 

As result Mintegi almost invariably had the right answer and that was obvious in the faces of most of the public as she replied their questions, almost as if she was reading their mind. There were a couple of exceptions, notably one who posited a question or rather a demand for discrimination against immigrants, but in general she just managed to empathize with the public in a way that her main opponents, all career politicians with right wing ideology and/or de facto right wing policies, simply cannot do. 

And this is very interesting because, while the Basque Nationalist Left had always got a strong support, there are many people who, because of the armed struggle or because it were better times in the socio-economical aspect, when Capitalism seemed to work, would not have voted them ever. 

Actual vote in the Western Basque Country and Navarre (separately) in the last all-Spain elections
The equivalent of EH Bildu was then Amaiur: same components, different name
But now they may well do and it is quite possible that the media coverage in the electoral campaign, and specially such a "popular" program format as the one of yesterday, may help EH Bildu and Mintegi, until recently a not-well-known writer and university professor, cater to such a neutral electorate, who are demanding clearly with their questions leadership against the worst of the dictatorship of the bourgeois class that we are suffering now in particularly awful and destructive ways.


There is a but of course: while I liked some of the answers of Mintegi and her ability to connect with the people, I totally missed a degree or two of greater radicalism (from Lat. radix = root, to address the problems by the root instead of just being shallow). 

For example, I think I recall her once mentioning Iceland and their bankruptcy-for-the-win model but she could have used the Nordic example a dozen times or more and she did not.

She did not mention Cuba or any of many other the true-Left models in Latin America even once. And in our context those are very valid cultural and political references. She stayed all the time in the socialdemocratic safety zone, asking maybe for greater taxation for the rich and big companies, declaring the high speed rail wasteful and useless... but not even mentioning the possibility of nationalization of the electric service nor anything like that. 

Maybe it was the imprecision of the format because I recall her emphasizing in other that the public sector, the state, must be big, bigger than the private sector and speaking against privatization... so maybe is just me or maybe I'm being too tough with her, who after all is a regular flesh-and-bones person with the challenge of her life in her hands but I would have wished for a more clearly radical discourse.

Another point I disliked a lot was when, asked who she would pact with after elections, assumed no absolute majority is reached, she said: "everyone". Se excused her statement on the extremely difficult socio-economical situation but I was like, really Laura, everyone, even Basagoiti the ultra-fascist? 

That kind of imprecision has me worried because, if I finally vote for her, I may be like the useful fools who voted for Obama so enthusiastically four years ago in the USA. And I'd really hate that. 

On the other hand, she's clearly to the left of Obama but enough or just a question of detail and electoral catering? 

And, if I finally decide that she is not radical enough for me, do I have an option even a wasted vote option to vote at all?

It's not just me, of course, there's surely a lot of Basques who would have voted for the Nationalist Left years ago without a second thought that now are pondering if they might be feeding a socialdemocratic (read: center-right liberal with a vague "socialist" pretext) monster with their votes. 

On the other hand, she will probably attract many many people who would have never voted for anything of the like just a few years or even months ago. 

The true question can EH Bildu be at the same time the radical socialist patriotic front from which it was born and the Obama-like decaffeinated social-liberal ambiguous thingy that Mintegi hinted to with many of her answers and silences? I believe that the answer is "no" but I have been wrong before.

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