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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Separatists and apologists of terrorism gain majority in Spain

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On July 12, 2020, the first polls since the pandemic started devastating Spain in mid-March strengthened regionalist and openly separatist forces in the northern regions of Galicia and the Basque Country, reflecting strong discontent with the coalition government in Madrid as well.

Galician Premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo, of the center-right Partido Popular (PP), secured his fourth absolute majority with a support of 48%, but he represents a regional exception. If Spain is different, then Galicia is even more so. Núñez Feijóo also managed to keep conservative party Vox out of parliament for a second time in a role. Center-left Ciudadanos (C’s) failed again at wining any seats, securing less than 1% of the vote.

Though the biggest loser was the junior partner of the Socialists (PSOE), at national level the openly communist Podemos, as they simply vanished. Meanwhile, the representatives of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez obtained just one extra seat. They were even surpassed by the separatist Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), which has held ties with both national and foreign extremist groups. Under Ana Pontón it became the second biggest fraction and will head the opposition.

In the Basque Country the long-ruling Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), led by incumbent Premier Iñigo Urukullo, and the political arm of former terrorist group ETA, EH Bildu, picked up around 40% and 27% of the vote, respectively. This means that on the 23rd anniversary of a notorious ETA killing, two thirds of all Basques supported formations that want to abolish the current constitutional monarchy and break up Spain.

In contrast, the first attempt at a coalition between the PP and C’s ended in disaster, with the former passing from nine deputies in 2016 to five for the two parties together. Vox managed to pick up a seat for the first time thanks to a deputy for the province of Álava, where its president Santiago Abascal’s family received death threats by ETA for years. While here the PSOE gained one seat as well, the local branch of Podemos bade farewell to more than half its representation.

The precautions taken to avoid the spreading of the coronavirus consisted of the obligatory use of hand gel and surgical masks in the polling booths, which had tables spaced out. Participation did fall, but not under 50% like recently in France. Around 300 people across the two regions with active infections were prohibited from casting their ballot, a highly controversial measure opposed by law experts which was ultimately backed by the local electoral commissions.

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