Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sortu....Testing The Law That Bans Political Parties

A few people went to Spain's interior ministry today to register their new political party. The new party is called Sortu, and the reason why it is creating headlines is because it is seen as being a successor platform to Batasuna, ETA's political wing. The new organisation is an attempt to recover the political space that was occupied by Batasuna until its illegalisation under the controversial Ley de Partidos.

There is a difference this time, one which has to be seen in the context of ETA's ceasefire announcement. The new party has copied much of its constitution from other legal political parties, like the PSOE or the Basque PNV. In addition, Sortu's representatives have also explicitly rejected the use of violence to achieve their political aims, and have included a specific reference to ETA as part of this rejection.

All of this creates an interesting situation. The Ley de Partidos allows parties to be banned if they support violence or terrorism. On the basis of the constitution presented by Sortu there is no justification for illegalisation of the new party. Despite this it seems fairly likely that state prosecutors will call for Sortu to be banned, and therefore prevented from participating in the municipal elections in May.

The Partido Popular is openly in favour of illegalising the new party, regardless of what the law says. As far as they are concerned any movement that may lead towards an end to ETA's activities is a trick and the looney right were marching on the streets of Madrid again last Saturday; notionally in opposition to ETA although there was far more chanting against Zapatero and Rubalcaba. Zapatero has already commented ironically on how different the reaction would have been had the PP been in power.

In the end, if Sortu is not allowed to exist it will be a political decision rather than a legal one. The judges may say that the new party has failed to condemn ETA's past attacks, or to call for its immediate dissolution. All of which is true, but is not legal grounds for illegalising a party. This is the sort of situation where we could see just what a bad law the Ley de Partidos is, it was created to specifically prohibit Batasuna and permits a formal legal cover for decisions that have a purely political background.

I registered for an invitation for a new web site called Storify some time ago and had forgotten all about it until I got the invitation the other day. This site allows you to aggregate information from different sources about a topic and one of the issues I have decided to use to test it is the ETA ceasefire. It also allows you to embed the resulting story in another web page. I will continue to add new reports as I see them, what is shown here are a few that I collected yesterday and today.


Lavengro said...

You are entitled to your view of the Ley de Partidos but it is worth pointing out that it is not shared by the European Court of Human Rights, which approved the law resoundingly.

Graeme said...

The European Court is also entitled to its opinion, the fact that it chose not to strike the law down on human rights grounds doesn't mean that its a good law. In a given situation it could become a terrible and unnecessary obstacle to sorting out the issue of terrorism in the Basque Country.

santcugat said...

By that standard the PP should be banned for being insufficently critical of Franco's violence.

Graeme said...

I'm glad you've made that point. Not a lot of people know this, but the preamble to the law states that it also applies to justification of xenophobia and racism. Add together the PP's apologists for Franco's crimes, their support for massive bombing campaigns (Baghdad) and their disgraceful recent anti-immigrant campaign in Cataluña and the case becomes almost overwhelming. Imagine a political party being banned under a law they had introduced themselves...

Lenox said...

The Ley de Partidos is anti-democratic. The only way to beat an argument is with a better argument - not by banning a party you don't approve of (remember the Basque election when Batasuna was declared illegal following which, 10% of the votes were 'en blanco').
Then, there's the issue in Spain of the boy/girl boy/girl obligation for all parties. Even in the smallest pueblos. Just like in Kindergarten.