Monday, March 02, 2009

Behind The Numbers

Time for another post on the outcome of yesterday's elections in the Basque Country before I turn my attention to the pressing matter of rubbish collection in the Spanish capital. It seems that only a handful of votes are needed for the Basque socialists of the PSE to add another seat to their total, and that these could easily come from the still to be counted overseas vote. The importance of this is not that it will make the PSE the largest party, but it would mean that the combined representation of the PSE and the Partido Popular would have a majority in the regional parliament. This could at least free the PSE's candidate, Patxi Lopez, from the deadly embrace of UPyD (who have one seat), if not from that of the PP.

We have already had the first round of declarations from interested parties as the consequences of the new electoral arithmetic sink in. The PP has declared, unconvincingly, that it will provide "unconditional" support for Lopez to become Basque premier, or lehendakari. UPyD, on the other hand, has made it clear that it would use the leverage of having a deciding vote to impose the party's agenda on the new administration; despite only getting 2% of the total vote. It's interesting to reflect in these circumstances on whatever happened to the PP's insistence that the party with most votes should always be allowed to form the government, they were even promising to legislate on this. The nationalist PNV, on this interpretation, would be in pole position.

It's easily forgotten with all the talk of change that the ruling nationalist/Izquierda Unida alliance didn't have a majority in the last parliament either, to win crucial votes they depended on the support of the now illegalised Partido Comunista de las Tierras Vascas. It turns out that this time they have a more or less similar total of seats but the votes that went to the PCTV last time have ended up as spoiled ballots. There have been significant shifts of votes between parties, but the change in the overall balance is not as great as it appears. Food for thought for those who think that this election marks some kind of watershed for Basque politics.

The entry of UPyD into the Basque parliament has attracted much attention, but in reality their meagre total of 22,000 votes vindicates the decision last year of their leader, Rosa Diez, to abandon the Basque Country and make Madrid her political base. She would never have got near to her seat in the national parliament had she stood in the Basque Country. In the end the foot soldiers of the campaign to roll back regional autonomy in Spain tend to parade in front of the Prado rather than the Guggenheim. Largely because most of them (not to mention their generals) live within a few blocks of this location.

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