Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Garzón Hits The Nail On The Head

"We cannot have a never-ending chain of suspensions and illegalisations if there is no unanswerable evidence". With these words the judge Baltasar Garzón has responded to the pressures to ban the tiny Basque party Acción Nacionalista Vasca (ANV). The party, which has been in existence since 1930, has become the focus of attention because it has presented a comprehensive list of candidates in the Basque provinces for the municipal elections on May 27th. Given that the organisation has a very small membership, the suspicion is that it has lent its name as a cover to ETA's political wing Batasuna, whose attempts to present themselves at the election under a new name are almost certainly going to be rejected by the courts.

The problem, as I have pointed out before, is with the law that was used to make Batasuna illegal. Any other organisation that opposes that law, as they are entitled to do, also risks being made illegal if they present candidates for election to try and offer representation to that section of the electorate that supported Batasuna. The Partido Popular (PP) has, predictably, called for the ANV to be banned by the courts. The final decision does not rest with Garzón, although the failure of the police to find a direct link between ANV and ETA coupled with Garzón´s recommendation makes it difficult to see the party being banned.

Now it is fairly clear that ANV shares similar ideological principles with Batasuna, but that is not the same as saying the two organisations are identical. ANV's statutes explicitly rule out support for violence, and the fact that the party has existed as an independent entity during many years means that it cannot simply be regarded as a creation of ETA. The PP's attempts to portray any radical nationalist organisation as being an extension of ETA would lead to a situation where no legal expression of these political positions would be possible; something which would give ETA hardliners the excuse they barely need to continue using violent methods.

What seems likely to happen now is that a percentage of ANV's candidates will be challenged in the courts, those that have had some past connection to Batasuna. This in itself is an interpretation open to question as it seems to say that once someone has been a Batasuna candidate then they cannot stand for another party. The law and the interpretations made of it end up being almost entirely political. One thing is almost certain, if ANV is allowed to present candidates for the elections we will get a demonstration in Madrid called by one of the PP's satellite organisations, and immediately backed by the PP itself who are desperate to try and introduce the issue into the election campaign as another example of the supposed "surrender" to ETA. After all, it's been over a month since the last one.

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