Ibarretxe is re-elected Basque President

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Fri Jul 8 13:59:57 UTC 2005

Time to turn the tide for Euskara as Ibarretxe is re-elected Basque

Bilbao 6/24/2005 , by Edu Lartzanguren

Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV) candidate Juan Jose Ibarretxe won his
third term as Lehendakari (President) of the Basque Autonomous Community
yesterday (Thursday) by a narrow vote in the Parliament.

The pro-independence left group in the chamber gave him the two votes he
needed to have the simple majority required on the second round, but the
parliament members of EHAK (Communist Party of the Basque Lands) made
clear that their vote, just two out of their nine representatives, was not
to be taken as an endorsement for Ibarretxes candidacy. The vote reflected
what is to be expected for the new political period: a government
depending on EHAK votes, that is, the group that is seen as taking the
political place, and presumably many votes, of Batasuna - the party banned
by the Spanish Government.

We are ready to help this government, but we demand specific measures for
the Basque language, said Xabier Mendiguren, head of Kontseilua, to
Eurolang on Thursday.

Kontseilua is an umbrella organisation for groups working for the
advancement of the Basque language. Kontseilua is afraid that Ibarretxes
new government will just follow on the tracks of previous EAJ-PNV
governments, and fail to raise to the challenges faced by the language in
this very important time.

Ibarretxe got 34 votes, 32 from his own party, Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) and
Ezker Batua (EB). The three parties formed a coalition that held the
previous Basque Autonomous Community government. In addition, he got two
votes from EHAK, the votes that made the difference.

Ibarretxe failed to become Lehendakari in the first vote on Wednesday as
an absolute majority was needed. In the second vote, on Thursday, a simple
majority was required, and EHAKs two votes gave him the advantage over
Francisco (Patxi) Lopez, the pro-Spanish PSE-EE candidate. Lopez gained
the support of the Popular Party (PP) representatives.

Previous to the vote, EHAK had announced that no agreement had been made
with Ibarretxe and that they would wait to listen to the nationalist
candidates speech to decide whether to support him or not. Ibarretxe
promised the Parliament that he will be launching all-party talks at the
start of his legislative period, aiming to boost the peace process in the
Basque Country. If it reaches consensus he would hold a referendum in this
term. That was one of the main demands made by Batasuna and EHAK leaders.

The Ezker Abertzalea group (EHAK) in the parliament meanwhile applied a
tactic already used by Batasuna on December 30th: dividing their votes.
Two members of EHAK voted for Ibarretxe, and the other seven cast invalid
votes as they wrote demokrazia eta bakea (democracy and peace) on their
voting papers. We wanted to open up a new opportunity, said Nekane
Erauskin spokeswoman of EHAK. She made it clear that those two votes did
not mean that they were supporting Ibarretxe.

We were really disappointed by the speeches of both candidates, Mendiguren
told Eurolang. The head of Kontseilua was in the Parliament to witness the
vote. For Mendiguren, the speeches were far too vague and implied no
advancement in regard to the policies that are being implemented today.
Lopezs speech even suggested that he would take a step backwards in the
process of normalisation of the language. We saw that future prospects
were gloomy with both candidates, said Mendiguren.

Mendiguren was happy to see that in the afternoon EAJ-PNV, EHAK and Aralar
representatives backed the language explicitly. The EAJ-PNV spokesman,
Joseba Egibar, made his whole speech in Basque. EHAK even mentioned the
pact for the language that Kontseilua has been working on with parties and
trade unions. The pact is now on the Parliaments agenda, said Mendiguren.

The government coalition is dependent on EHAK votes, so observers think
that the legislative period will be short. Mendiguren is, anyway, willing
to help the new government, but demands specific measures to settle the
language in the professional world, and fill the gaps in university and
professional education. Up to now all the emphasis has been put on the
peace process and the language question has been somewhat neglected. It is
time to turn the tide.

Ibarretxe made no direct reference to the Plan bearing his name for
greater autonomy but he has hinted at two points. His plan consists of
some chief principles such as territoriality . This refers to the Basque
Countrys seven provinces, with Navarre and the provinces in Iparralde
deciding their degree of collaboration, the right of the Basques to self
determination, as well as a series of articles developing those

After the polls, in which he did not get the absolute majority he
expected, political commentators speculate that he may be ready to drop
the articles, but not the principles. There will be no discussion about
his text, so in that sense the Plan is dead. But the alternative will have
to be based in those principles, and in this sense the ideas that inspired
Ibarretxe's Plan are very much alive. (Eurolang  2005)

From: http://www.eurolang.net

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