Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Ordinary Week, Only Two Political Parties Banned

This week saw a long awaited, but more or less predictable, decision by the Supreme Court to ban two Basque political parties. Acción Nacionalista Vasca (ANV) and the Partido Comunista de las Tierras Vascas (PCTV-EHAK) were both illegalised under the Ley de Partidos. This is the law introduced under Aznar's administration with the particular aim of prohibiting ETA's political wing, Batasuna. Both ANV and the PCTV have been banned on the grounds that they are regarded as successor parties to Batasuna, both parties having effectively lent themselves to the task of representing Batasuna's voters in regional and municipal elections in the Basque Country.

The decision is particularly paradoxical in the case of ANV because this party was created some 50-60 years before Batasuna was even thought of, so the idea that it is a successor to the latter is odd to say the least. ANV currently control around 40 municipalities split between the Basque Country and Navarra, and although the party may be illegal their councillors in these municipalities will continue to hold their position unless a legal pretext is found to remove them from office; something that can't be ruled out. It could be argued that there is more consistency now than the previous situation where half of ANV's municipal candidates were ruled to be illegal and the other half not. The PCTV only stood in the last regional elections in the Basque Country although their elected members do hold the balance of power in the Basque parliament. However, with the Basque elections due in a few months time their seats will not be occupied for much longer.

Whatever the feelings may be towards the parties concerned, the law is still a bad one. Despite the judicial show that is put on, once a process is set in motion to ban a party under this law it only ever has one result. Also, it's application seems to depend entirely on which way the political wind is blowing. The criteria permitting a party to be banned become ever broader, as the cat and mouse game to try and enforce it becomes more complicated. In the meantime, the distinction between the terrorist who places the bomb and those who sympathise with ETA has almost completely disappeared allowing for all sorts of people to be classified as "terrorists" in an arbitrary way. Still to look forward to are the ridiculous attempts to prosecute nationalist and socialist leaders in the Basque Country for having talked to Batasuna representatives in an attempt to bring an end to terrorism in the region. In the end the strongest argument for ETA abandoning violence is that they can pursue the objectives of Basque independence by legal and peaceful means. Laws like this make that argument harder to sustain.

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