Monday, April 20, 2015

On the upcoming elections in the Southern Basque Country

As municipal and regional Southern Basque elections loom (one month to go), I've grown somewhat curious about what do the opinion polls tell, what to expect?

The most interesting scenario is that of Navarre, where radical political change is very much anticipated after almost 40 years of Twin Party regime, in which UPN (Navarrese branch of the PP, conservatives) and PSOE (social-liberals) have supported each other against the Basque Nationalist Left, the only real opposition force (along with the much smaller United Left, now just The Left in Navarre). The corruption scandals particularly have taken a major toll for the pseudo-regionalist UPN, but also for the PSOE, who have supported them and rejected snap elections, extending the agony unnecessarily. 

We have two different polls both from March 2015. In one the Ancien Régime collapses, in the other the Ancien Régime miraculously survives albeit in a very fragmented form. What to believe?

A peculiarity of the Navarrese system is that, much as happens in municipal corporations, the party or list with the largest number of seats may form government unless another majority is formed by coalition, so it is still possible that UPN manages to form government if opposition forces can't agree to something better or if they don't reach the threshold of 26 seats. 

source: Electrograph

source: Electrograph

Legend or who-is-who:
  • UPN (Navarrese People's Union): reactionary unionist pseudo-regionalist party allied to all-Spain PP, dramatically shattered by corruption scandals in the last years.
  • EH Bildu (Rally the Basque Nation): Basque Nationalist Left, coalition of four parties around Sortu (Create), which represents continuity with former incarnations of the Basque Nationalist Left.
  • Podemos (We Can): new Spanish radical-reformist party, whose performance in European elections and opinion polls threatens the establishment.
  • PSOE (Spanish Worker Socialist Party): unionist social-liberals who rally the working class for the benefit the banksters. In clear decline for that very reason.
  • Geroa Bai (Yes to the Future): residual leftover of the Nafarroa Bai coalition, which still retains some backing because of its independent leader Uxue Barkos, in spite of most component parties migrating to EH Bildu.
  • PP (People's Party): reactionary unionist all-Spain party, currently in power in Madrid, also shattered by many corruption scandals.
  • n (Izquierda-Ezkerra: The Left): Navarrese branch of all-Spain United Left, a federalist, eco-communist coalition around the Communist Party of Spain.
  • C's (Ciudadanos: Citizens): Le Pen with a shallow make-up. A xenophobic Spanish nationalist conservative party that is dangerously climbing in the opinion polls in the last months.

So which scenario will take place in Navarre after the May elections? Truth is that I do not know but I do hope for something like the first one, where a coalition of EH Bildu, Podemos, Geroa Bai and Izquierda-Ezkerra can save the battered Old Kingdom and revitalize it. 

If something like the second scenario is the final result, we can only expect more of the same. That would be very sad.

In the Western Basque Country instead change will most likely be minor. The January poll gave a very strong performance to Podemos but the March poll shows a quite weaker implementation of this new party, something that is in agreement with opinion polls from Spain in general. 

Here in Biscay, we will continue stuck with the tiresome hegemony by the petty-bourgeois Basque Nationalist Party, being the only Basque region where they retain a clear dominance. They do suffer some erosion but not enough to challenge their dominant position. So more of the same, although no doubt there will be a stronger opposition with the irruption of Podemos as third force, at the expense mostly of the Spanish unionist Twin Party. 

In Gipuzkoa, where EH Bildu has ruled the last four years, everybody seems to keep their positions but all them eroded to greater or lesser extent by the irruption of Podemos. It's safe to think that EH Bildu will continue governing from an even stronger position and with the same general line, which can well be labeled as classical social-democrat, thanks to a predictable coalition with the maverick Spanish party. 

In Araba the only predictable thing is that there will be a hung parliament with five forces (used to be four) each getting a sizable fraction of it. Most likely the Basque Nationalist Party, occupying the de facto center position (which in the Basque case is not just about right-left but also about unionism-independentism) will be the one holding the scales and grabbing the seat of Deputy General therefore. But we better wait for the results anyhow. 

The iron hand of the Aranist sect

The Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV), in spite of belonging to the Ancien Régime as much as any of the other parties being shattered by the political storm spearheaded by Podemos, has somehow managed to remain relatively untouched by corruption scandals. It is not that the scandals do not exist but rather that the raison-d'état of the state- or bourgeois-held media and the NATOist coalition of political muppets hides them systematically. 

The Basque Nationalist Party is the last line of Spanish unionism in the Basque Country (or rather its Western and most populated third) and the Spaniards know it so they won't even dare to expose the many dirty affairs in which the Aranist force is sunk deep to the eyebrows.

But part of the blame must also fall on the Basque Nationalist Left, which hopelessly hopes for a day in which the Aranists wake up and decide to join them in a push for the independence of the Basque Country. The overall drift of the Basque Nationalist Left has been for much more moderate positions, still very radical for the Ancien Régime but not at all radical enough for a growing sector of its bases, who feel alienated by the new course.

Its continuous vacuous pleas to EAJ-PNV to join forces for independence, its rather pathetic attempts to compete with them for the center of the Basque nationalist political spectrum instead of properly rallying the multicultural Basque worker class and the weakness of its participative structures are taking a serious toll. Toll that may not yet be too apparent in electoral results but is clear in the street and online talk.

The failures of Podemos

Podemos arose with the pretense of being a radical participative new party but has since then drifted dramatically to personalism and centralism. The main exceptions are a handful of regional formations, including Navarre, Aragon, etc., where the officialist lists have not been able to rally the bases in clear but not yet admitted defeat of the Iglesias clique. 

This centralization of the party has obviously disenfranchised many potential voters. The extremely challenging declarations of their leaders against the independence of Catalonia have necessarily also alienated many possible voters, not just in Catalonia but also in the Basque Country, Galicia, etc. 

Disappointment is growing inside and outside the party even before they can rule for all these reasons that exclude key potential supports: anticapitalists and independentists, as well as those focused on true participative democracy. In the end it's not too clear what Podemos stands for or how is it different from other parties.

They still manage to rally many of the discontents but they seem to have touched their ceiling of growth. Additionally the regime has very actively promoted a xenophobic reactionary party (Ciudadanos), which masks itself under a pretense of renovation and an anti-corruption populist discourse, eroding various parties but also Podemos. Of course the media attacks against Podemos have been systematic, using lesser accountancy errors of one of their leaders as if it'd be a clear example of corruption within the new party and accusing them of being pro-Venezuela, which the media systematically characterizes as a dictatorship in spite of being a very respectful and inclusive democracy. 

Probably the weakness of the stand of Syriza before the EU (less weak than it may seem but not radical enough quite clearly) and internally has also affected Podemos somewhat because both parties are seen as similar (although Syriza has no doubt a much more solid team and militancy than its Spanish counterpart).

But in my understanding the greatest weakness of Podemos is it relative low level of internal democracy in spite of the discourse, something that in the end makes it similar to other parties and is a major systematic weakness of the real Left parties, affecting, as I mentioned above, also EH Bildu or its core party Sortu, what alienates much of its grassroots support sooner than later.

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