PNV and EH Bildu seek their own profile in the face of the municipal and foral ones with the ‘gag law’ involved

The date of May 28 is approaching and the parties put one more march in that sort of electoral race. 2023 is loaded with appointments with the polls. Within the framework of this struggle, PNV and EH Bildutwo relevant forces on the stage of state politics as they are partners of the coalition government in Congress, accentuate their differences in the face of the upcoming municipal and regional elections.

It should be noted that both parties are the great protagonists of the still photo of Basque politics, forming part of an “imperfect two-party system”, as defined by asier blas, Professor of Political Science at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). And it is that, although they need the alliance of other less strong forces in this territory to govern, the PSE-EE and the Podemos-IU coalition, respectively, “the struggle of the mayoralties is between these two, removing some historical fiefs of the socialists”, as defined by this political scientist.

In the last local elections on May 26, 2019, the GNP obtained 36.24% of the votes (1,057 councilors), followed by EH Bildu, with 24.79% of the votes (930 councillors). The rest of the formations were far behind: PSE-EE (16.1%), Podemos, Ezker Anitza-IU, Equo Berdeak (7.32%) and PP (5.87%). This result was also not far from the 2015 municipal elections.

In addition, said distribution is not very different in the General Meetings of Gipuzkoa, Araba and Bizkaia (the elections for the regional councils coincide with the municipal ones). In this sense, despite the hegemony of the jeltzales in the three general meetings, the forecasts for 28M give EH Bildu serious chances of disputing the position of the PNV in at least two of them: Gipuzkoa and Araba.

The new role of EH Bildu

Within the framework of this distribution, and with a view to the new appointment with the polls, there is another factor to take into account, such as the current role of EH Bildu in Madrid, becoming a stable interlocutor of the Government. This new role, although it was inaugurated with support for the motion of no confidence that ousted Rajoy de la Moncloa (Arnaldo Otegi justified this support not as “support for the PSOE”, but as “rejection of the PP”), has deepened to throughout this legislature, with support for the three General State Budgets (2021, 2022 and 2023) and most government measures.

“In Congress, there is a competition to show themselves to be more useful in Euskadi, each one with their sensibility. EH Bildu has done relatively well with this change in policy, despite the fact that participation has dropped dramatically in recent years. And it is that, by showing itself to be a pragmatic formation, it can also win votes from the more moderate electorate, that is, it opens up the target of voters”, says Asier Blas.

Therefore, this loss of the “monopoly of the negotiating role” makes the PNV “nervous”, something that is “normal”, as added by the philosopher and writer Jule Goikoetxea. “He has always had the hegemonic voice in Madrid and not now, that’s why they are out of place,” she adds.

Both specialists coincide in pointing out that the pragmatic role of the coalition abertzaleadded to the “wear and tear” of the PNV due to the “long cycle” in power (also autonomous) and the eventual crisis due to the future replacement of Lendakari Iñigo Urkullu, throw up a “very even struggle in many municipalities”, in which “for few votes and few percentage, you can lose power”.

With these forecasts under their belt, the two Basque formations face the coming months in Congress as a race in which to delve even deeper into the differences between their models. The first debate of the year in the Lower House was proof of this, in which its spokespersons emphasized their demands and claims during their interventions against Pedro Sánchez.

Aitor Esteban reminded the Prime Minister of a pending task agreed with the PNV, such as the Basque and Catalan national lacewhile Mertxe Aizpurua focused on other subjects that are also pending, but marked social characterhow are the gag lawthe housing law and the pension reform.

The UPV/EHU professor maintains that the PNV “brings up the issue of territorial reserve from time to time”, something that it normally does “when it begins to lose prominence, which is what has happened in the State”, she adds. Likewise, she understands that EH Bildu, despite being a pro-independence party, waves this flag less because “the sovereignist axis is more deactivated at a general level” given the presence of the current progressive government. Although, the philosopher warns that it can be reactivated if PP and Vox arrive at Moncloa after the elections to the Cortes Generales scheduled for the end of this year. “You have to be very aware of the generals because if they arrive, that axis dynamic could be changed,” she blames.

Regarding this question, sources from the Basque group deny that they have lost weight with the presence of EH Bildu. “The PNV has been working in Congress for more than 100 years in defense of the interests of Basque citizens, and it has never done so conditioned by what others do. The Basque people know and know how to distinguish between the trajectories of one group and the other”, ditch this medium.

Meanwhile, the reform of the ‘gag law’

In the midst of this struggle, the reform of the citizen security law symbolizes the divergences of both models. On the one hand, the PNV is the promoter of the proposal on which the groups in favor of the reform have been working for a year. On the other hand, EH Bildu leads the rejection of the current text, which will soon be examined by the Interior Commission without guaranteed support, considering it “watered down”.

PP, Vox and Cs also reject the reform, but for very different reasons (they propose not only maintaining it, but hardening it). And it is that both the coalition abertzale as ERC (these did support the new standard in its presentation phase) advocate for “disable the most harmful articles” of the law promoted by the Government of Mariano Rajoy in 2015.

However, within the framework of this struggle for the content of the reform, both the PNV like the PSOE have asked EH Bildu to park their “electoral interests” and support the rule. “The parties that position themselves against a reform such as the one proposed for the gag law“, which supposes” substantial improvements with respect to the current law, with around 90% of agreements reached, which modify 60% of the precepts of the norm and 60% of its sanctioning regime, they will have to explain why they prioritize their partisan positions over the general interest and the demand gives a social majority”, they question from the formation jeltzale.

However, the political scientist Asier Blas situates this battle in the “more than understandable” differences of both parties rather than in electoral interest. Likewise, Professor Jule Goikoetxea rules out that the gag law be an electoral battle for EH Bildu, since it maintains the No to the reform for the same four points that he raised from the beginning and that “has nothing to do” with the proposals of the PNV registered in this matter together with the PSOE and United We Can. “Although they put other points of confrontation in the election campaign, EH Bildu does not follow that strategy of using this law and less in Madrid,” says the philosopher in a statement to this medium.

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