Irish Republican News · April 19, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Despite political ban, Basque voters back independence

Elections in the Basque Country, which took place without the participation of outlawed pro-independence party Batasuna, saw a surge in support for a smaller party which was endorsed by Batasuna leaders and which has refused to condemn the ETA armed group.

The election was a setback for Spanish forces which have implemented extreme repressive measures against Basque ‘independentists’ in recent months. Following the banning of Batasuna, a new group Aukera Guztiak (All Options) had collected the required 30,000 signatures to contest the election and were approved by the Electoral Commission. This party was also banned by the Spanish Government and prevented from contesting Sunday’s election.

Independentist journalists and community activists were also arrested and censorship tightened in a wave of repression which brought an end to a fragile peace process with close parallels to the North of Ireland.

However, the Madrid-backed ‘nationalist’ Basque president Juan Jose Ibarretxe, demanding only increased autonomy for the region, saw his grouping fall well short of a majority in the 75-seat Basque legislature and dropped from 33 to 29 seats.

The Communist Party of the Basque Lands, which virtually no one in Spain had heard of until last month, won nine seats after the banned party Batasuna endorsed it -- a significant increase in the independentist vote.

The party is seen as a key player in efforts to form another government.

“The ruling nationalists still depend on whatever votes Batasuna is prepared to give, whichever its disguise may be, in order to move forward,” the Spanish newspaper El Pais said in an editorial.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP expressed deep concern last week at the continued exclusion of parties including Batasuna and Aukera Guztiak from electoral politics.

Mr Adams said that following Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement, he had travelled to the Basque Country.

“The message that I brought was the need for a peace process to be established and that it was essential that it be on the basis of equality, not criminalisation and exclusion.

“I travelled to the Basque Country again in January 2005 and offered my support and assistance in building an inclusive process.

“Sinn Féin believes that all sections of Basque nationalism want to seriously engage in a peace process. Therefore we are deeply concerned that legislation remains in place to ban political parties such as Batasuna and Aukera Guztiak and a range of Basque cultural and youth organisations.

“Our experience of conflict resolution has shown that the only way that progress will occur is on the basis of inclusive dialogue based on equality and respect.

“Sinn Féin supports efforts within the Basque Country to establish such a process and believe that such moves should be responded to positively by the Spanish Government and supported by the International Community.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News